Posted in: Entertainment History, News, Trivia Q & A | No Comments | December 7, 2021
Q. How many verses did Leonard Cohen write for his song “Hallelujah”?
A. Cohen started work on this song five years prior to recording it on his 1984 Various Positions album, by which time he had 80 verses to choose from - he picked the best four.
When Cohen performed the song in concert, he often included some of the other verses he wrote, which made their way into various renditions of the song.
John Cale, who founded The Velvet Underground, recorded this song for the 1991 Leonard Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan, and also included it on his 1992 solo album Fragments Of A Rainy Season. Jeff Buckley started covering the song after hearing Cale’s version.
Cale shaped his own interpretation after Cohen faxed him 15 pages of lyrics for the song, claiming that he “went through and just picked out the cheeky verses.” Cale’s version also appears in the 1996 movie Basquiat and on its soundtrack.
The song is about a love that has soured and gone stale. Cohen used a lot of religious imagery, including references to some of the more notorious women in the bible (all of whom are popular figures in songs). Here’s some lyric analysis:
“You saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you” - Bathsheba, whose husband was murdered by the king so he could have her.
“She tied you to her kitchen chair, she broke your throne and she cut your hair” - Delilah, who cut off Samson’s locks that held his superhuman strength.
“But remember when I moved in you and the holy dove was moving too” - This could be a reference to the divine conception and Mary.
The lines referring to the immaculate conception can also be interpreted as having a sexual connotation: “And every breath we drew was hallelujah.”
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