“The moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment is when you embrace it all and say: Look, I don’t understand a “%#$%!#!*^%” thing at all – Hallelujah! That’s the only moment we live here fully as human beings.”[i] Leonard Cohen
Leonard traveled the world and had good instincts regarding political turmoil, civil unrest, government chaos, and people. Our best musicians can turn a phrase and a cord into an expression that defies definition yet ignites passion or feelings that otherwise may lay dormant. Think of your favorite musicians and the feelings they may evoke (spiritual peace, political outrage, sensual desire, compassionate love, melancholy despair, pure joy). How true is the above quote today?
The song Hallelujah is based on scripture translations of ancient Hebrew bible and has found a home in religious text of subsequent versions of the bible. The term in the respected King James Bible (rendered as “Praise ye the lord”) is present in ten psalms of praise and Rev. 19:1, 3,4,6.[ii]
The story lines jump off from the life of King David and other bible figures with their life struggles intertwined into the song.[iv] How many times the lyrics or the musical cords and not connected the scriptural references. Leonard might tell you that the scriptural references became less important over time – as the song is an emotive song that draws on your spirituality as opposed to your religiosity (or degree in divinity)?
I have heard from a few people about preferences for this song. My daughter prefers the Pentatonix group. A colleague (musician and friend) sent me Jeff Buckley Live in Chicago. Even Bob Dylan performed this piece (Cohen spoke to Bob in the early days about his struggle to write it). I did not include Dylan’s rendition below despite an affinity for his work. There is also an instrumental version only below.
I have never listened to peace with the intensity as I have the last few days. Every rendition at a different time has different meaning and impact on the cords of my heart.
Do you have a favorite version? Is it one of the artist below? Can you feel their transformation? Do you think they are carried away with the spirit of the song or are somehow reaching for heavens?
- Jeff Buckley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8c5Tk1RrYs 10:05
- Rob Landes/Aubry Pitcher Instrumental:
- Alexandra Burke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSgsW9GLerA 3:32
- Leonard Cohen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrLk4vdY28Q 7:20
The ancient songs of seeking God are alive and living in our world today. The stirrings of spirit and meaning of life and death remain an unraveling mystery that sometimes are made visible, ever so briefly, in moments of artistic excellence. Prayer takes many forms. Do you have enough time in your life for theological, spiritual, musical adventures?
Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah by G. F. Handel (1685–1759)[v]
[iii] “After this I heard what sounded like the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying: Alleluia! Salvation, glory and might belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments….. A voice coming from the throne said: “Praise our God, all you his servants, and you who revere him, small and great.” Then I heard something like the sound of a great multitude or the sound of rushing water or mighty peals of thunder, as they said: Alleluia! The Lord has established his reign, our God, the almighty. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory…”Rev. 19