“Hallelujah” is the Hebrew Word for “Glory To The Lord”
It took Leonard Cohen five years to write “Hallelujah”. Even though he released it on his own album in 1984, it was Jeff Buckley’s 1994 version that became popular.
Many artists have recorded this song, but Jeff Buckley’s story (and its storm) might be the most heartbreaking of all who did.
When Jeff was 8 years old, his father Tim Buckley (also a musician) died of a heroin overdose at 28.
Then Jeff’s life tragically ended when he decided to take a spontaneous evening swim – fully clothed – in the Mississippi River. It was May of 1997, and Jeff was only 30 years old. It’s almost haunting that “Hallelujah” would be his signature song, considering the sadness he had known in his life, and how his life would end so young.
Along with beautifully woven words of poetic perfection, Cohen used a lot of religious imagery including references to some of the more notorious women of the Bible.
“You saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya’” refers to Bathsheba, who tempted King David to kill her husband so they could be together.
“She tied you to a kitchen chair, she broke your throne and cut your hair” is about Delilah, who cut off Samson’s hair that held his super-human strength.
“Hallelujah” could easily qualify as one of the most beloved, most covered, yet most misunderstood compositions of all time. But it could have been a lot more confusing. There are reports that Cohen wrote almost 80 verses to this song before paring it down to what we know today. And, even all of those aren’t always used.
So why would I feel “Hallelujah” – known for its complexity – might be able to offer comfort?
I guess the easy answer is, I just love this song! Even if there weren’t any words, the music alone is soothing and very moving. One of the things I love about Wally Minko’s arrangement is the introduction is very unique. At first listen, you don’t really know what the song is. After a magical exchange between Wally on a grand piano and Ron Wikso on percussion, it eases into the familiar, heart-awakening melody we all know. There, “Hallelujah” is met with Kurt Griffey’s soulful guitar, and Matt Bissonette’s tender bass line. Throughout the song, Ron provides an inspired rhythm that rocks the band on a gentle wave of emotions.
“Hallelujah” is repeated over and over and over – like a calming mantra in BETWEEN these stories of well-known commotions. Maybe it’s because there’s something to be said about repeating (and focusing on) a familiar phrase when words escape us.
“Hallelujah” is like an umbrella of certainty when you are flooded with the confusion of a storm.
Maybe sometimes, all we need to say is “Hallelujah”.