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Jan 30, 2024 - leonard cohen    168 Comments

Hallelujah By Leonard Cohen – Meanings And Thoughts

Have you ever tried to understand what is the meaning of this tremendous song – “Hallelujah“? Is it a love song? Is it a spiritual-religious song? Is Leonard Cohen trying to tell us there’s no hope for love? Or maybe there’s something else that Cohen aims to in his lyrics? Let’s go on and try to figure out some of these questions…

Hallelujah Meditation - Leonard Cohen

Hallelujah Meditation

I divided this post into several sections, and in each one, I’m referring to a certain issue regarding “Hallelujah”.


What is the meaning of the word “Hallelujah”?

This word consists of two biblical Hebrew words:

  •  “Hallelu” –  goes for “praise” in the plural, ‘all of you praise!’.
  •  “Jah”  -  is one of the biblical names of God (actually it is a short name of the tetragrammaton).


So those two words form the word  “Hallelujah”, which means – ‘All of you praise the lord!’.

In Latin, it is pronounced “Alleluia“.

Leonard Cohen refers to the meaning of the word as “Glory to the Lord”  or “Blessed is the name!”.

This word or phrase was used as a lead or an ending of a psalm – calling the present people to join the singer in praising the all mighty.

The singer began his singing in calling all surrounding people’s attention by calling a “Hallelujah”. Then he will proceed with the song itself and at the end, all the crowd together praises with him a “Hallelujah”.

This word occurs in the bible 25 times. All in the Book of Psalms which King  David wrote.

A good example of the usage of the word is the last chapter of Psalms – psalms 150:


Praise God in His sanctuary, praise him in the firmament of his power … Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.


(Cohen refers to that psalm in the song “Hallelujah”, saying: ‘and every breath we drew was hallelujah’.)

What is the song “Hallelujah” all about?

Leonard Cohen himself is trying over the years to understand, what made him write such a significant song.

Here are some quotes from Leonard Cohen that may shed some light on this question and give us some interesting perspectives about the meaning of this song:

“I wanted to get into this tradition of the composers who said “Hallelujah”, but with no precisely religious point of view.”

“It’s, as I say, a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way, but with enthusiasm, with emotion” (Leonard Cohen interview, 1985).

“I wanted to write something in the tradition of the hallelujah choruses but from a different point of view”(Leonard Cohen interview, 1995).

The traditional “Hallelujah” is an ancient word of prayer, used for expressing a person’s or a nation’s gratitude, love, and loyalty to their lord  – calling out:  “Let’s all praise the lord”.

Cohen wanted to be – in some way – a continuer of this tradition, although it would be independent of any religious framework. Cohen has a new way, a new meaning for the “Hallelujah”. He wants to call out his own “Hallelujah” to the Lord, to the world, and to life.

“There is a religious Hallelujah, but there are many other ones .When one looks at the world and his proper life there’s only one thing to say, it is ‘Hallelujah’ “.

“The Hallelujah, the David’s Hallelujah, was still a religious song. So I wanted to indicate that Hallelujah can come out of things that have nothing to do with religion”.

“And then I realize there is a Hallelujah more general that we speak to the world, to life”.

(Leonard Cohen interviews, 1985 – 1988)

This deep desire to speak our own life as a yearn coming up from in beneath our being and feeling – I think –  is what led Leonard Cohen in writing this song.

Hallelujah Yearn - Leonard Cohen

Hallelujah Yearn

Searching for the answer that can never be given – unless you “embrace it all”:

“The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say:  ‘Look, I don’t understand a fucking thing at all – Hallelujah!‘ That’s the only moment that we live here fully as human beings.”

Unless you :

“Open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say ‘Hallelujah!’ ,’Blessed is the name’ “

So how do we do that? How do we gain the ability to sing our own Hallelujah?

Let’s start simply by going over Hallelujah’s lyrics and trying to understand them:


 Hallelujah lyrics explanation

Here are the full lyrics of  “Hallelujah”. Click on any line of the lyrics to view its explanation:

Verse 1

I’ve heard there was a secret chord

That David played, and it pleased the Lord

But you don’t really care for music, do you?

It goes like this

The fourth, the fifth

The minor fall, the major lift

The baffled king composing Hallelujah

 Verse 2

 Your faith was strong but you needed proof

 You saw her bathing on the roof

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you


I’ve heard there was a secret chord

It is a “Secret Chord”, no one should know what was this chord, even though, in the further lines of this verse Cohen seems to specify the actual chords that David used for his Hallelujah, saying “It goes like that the fourth, the fifth…”, which may seem like an internal contradiction in Cohen’s words. But if we are aware of the context of this verse, we may find an explanation to this contradiction.
The poet is speaking to someone. Who is it? I suppose this is his female mate (as explained below). I believe he is trying find favor with her by saying something like that: “listen there’s something really special I can tell you… there’s a secret ancient chord I know… it was used by King David… “. But while saying that, he somehow falls into a kind of despair when he puts in mind that they do not share the same interest in music, and that his interest in music is disregarded by her.  But although this is the situation, the poet continues to tell the story about King David’s Hallelujah, maybe because he feels that, in a certain way, it is also his own story.

That David played, and it pleased the Lord

King David used to play music since he was a boy, while he was watching over his father’s herd, and later on when he became King Saul’s personal minstrel and musician, and throughout his reign.

David was a talented instrument player and he could help Saul deal with his bad moods, and make him feel better.

“Whenever the harmful spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul” (Samuel 1 16,23)

But beyond all of that, music had a very deep meaning in King David’s life, as one of the mediums of the search for the divine.

“In the night I shall call my song to remembrance, and with my heart I commune, my spirit inquires” (Psalms, 77, 6)

Leonard Cohen is trying to imagine those notes, which David used for getting to this inspirational state of mind and emotions.

But you don’t really care for music, do you?

To whom is Cohen addressing in this line? Who is “You”?

It seems to me like there’s a hidden argument along the song between Cohen and his female mate. Cohen feels she dose not really understand him and his desires.

You can call that the “Frame Story” of this song.

 (As I mentioned earlier this song could be considered as a sort of an anthem of Leonard Cohen’s life.)

It goes like this

The speaker now envisions the sound of the “Secret Chord” he spoke about, at the beginning of this verse.

“It”, refers to the “secret chord”, although it isn’t only one chord, rather than a sequence of chords (which can also be referred to, as a “chord”, in the context of the scale they are played in, meaning that a certain progression of chords or notes within a given scale could be considered a “chord”).
We could also say that a “chord” here, is in the meaning of “Harmony”, and would describe an harmonious combination between several notes played one after each other.

The fourth, the fifth

This sequence of chords begins with the fourth and fifth chords or notes.

What do we mean by giving a number to a musical note?
The number we give it, actually describes it’s “position” inside a given musical scale (what musicians call a scale step or a scale degree).

For example in the C Major scale there are 7 notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B. So the fourth and the fifth are the F and the G notes or chords.

What’s really interesting here, is that these are the actual chords that are played in this line of the song.

The minor fall, the major lift

This sequence continues with a “Minor fall”

Honestly, I really don’t know what is so special about this chord sequence…

The baffled king composing Hallelujah

This “baffled king” sits down to compose this powerful and invigorative hymn.

Why does Leonard Cohen refer to King David here as a “baffled king”?

I think that the reason is to make us or maybe even himself acknowledge, that King David was a human being, and that his life wasn’t perfect, he had a lot of mess in his life, nothing really went right along the way. And even though, he was the one to write the ‘Hallelujah’. That could be a very meaningful sign for Cohen himself, that he can also  get into this tradition of the composers who said ‘Hallelujah’ “.

Your faith was strong but you needed proof

In this verse, Cohen is actually speaking to King David himself.
King David’s faith and belief were indeed strong, but David wanted to be sure that God is “satisfied” by him, that God will “prove” him that he is a righteous man. This is called an ordeal, in which a man’s character is to be tested whether he is righteous or not.

As to ancient Hebrew commentary on the Bible, the story of Bathsheba was an ordeal from God, as explained here below.

You saw her bathing on the roof

In these lines, Cohen refers to the story about King David and Bathsheba…

It happened one late afternoon,  “that David arose off his bed, and was walking around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof, he saw a woman bathes, and the woman was very beautiful to look upon” (2 Samuel 11,2).

Why would such a beautiful woman bathe in a place where other people can gaze at her? Did she mean to attract King David and make him take her?

According to a Talmudic commentary, Bathsheba was bathing on the roof inside some kind of a canopy with curtains. But the devil who is responsible for challenging humans, appears on one of the curtains of the canopy in the form of a bird, David – according to the Talmudical commentary – launches an arrow at that bird, and the arrow hits the curtain and pulls it up, and reveals Bathsheba to King David.

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you

Here there is a resemblance between the beauty of a woman and the luminescence of the moon.
As cited in Song of Songs(6,10):”Who is this woman that looks like the dawn, who is beautiful like the full moon…” .
The beauty of the woman strikes him like the bright light of a full moon. And he is knocked down and defeated by it.

She tied you to a kitchen chair

She broke your throne, she cut your hair

And from your lips, she drew the Hallelujah


You say I took the name in vain

I don’t even know the name

But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?

There’s a blaze of light

In every word

It doesn’t matter which you heard

The holy or the broken Hallelujah


I did my best, it wasn’t much

I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch

I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you

And even though It all went wrong

I’ll stand before the Lord of Song

With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah


Religious and sexual meanings of the song “Hallelujah”

When you go over Hallelujah’s lyrics you get the impression that this is a very religious and biblical influenced song, referring to King David, his spiritual music, and his relationship with the lord.

It tells about the mystical power of king David’s music(“A secret chord that David played and it pleased the lord”), the illumination a person can have from the words David sang to the lord (“There’s a blaze of light in every word”)

It also refers to some biblical stories such as King David and Bathsheba (“You saw her bathing on the roof”), Samson and Delilah (“She broke your throne and she cut your hair”).

In an interview on the CBC Television Cohen explains the linkage between sex and religion:

You can listen to it here:


“When I read your work and listen to your music sex and religion keep coming up again and again?

Leonard Cohen:

Those are the healing activities that are available for us. That’s how we make relationship; you know we do it in that whole large range of activities we call sex. Which is not only the copulation, it is the whole understanding that we are irresistibly attracted to one another and we have to deal with this, we are irresistibly lonely for each other, and we have to deal with this, we have to deal with our bodies and our hearts and souls and minds… it is an urgent appetite and it embraces the whole world it embraces all of us. And it is what we are doing all of the time.

And the other side of that, and it’s really the same activity, it’s just separated by a tiny membrane is the same appetite for significance in the cosmos,  where each one of us understands his solitude in the cosmos and longs for some affirmation by the maker of the cosmos by the creator.

Leonard Cohen’s own reflections on “Hallelujah”

Thank you very much, friends. You know, since I’ve been here, many people have asked me what I have thought just about everything there is in this veil of tears. I don’t know the answers to anything.
I just come here to sing you these songs that have been inspired by something that I hope is deeper and bigger than myself. I have nothing to say about the way that Poland is governed. I have nothing to say about the resistance to the government. The relationship between a people and its government is an intimate thing. It is not for a stranger to comment.
I know that there’s an eye that watches all of us. There is a judgment that weighs everything we do.
And before this great force which is greater than any government, I stand in awe and I kneel in respect. And it is to this great judgment,
that I dedicate this next song: “Hallelujah”.
(1985 Concert in Warsaw, Poland)


You know, I wrote this song a couple of… it seems like yesterday but I guess it was
five or six years ago and it had a chorus called Hallelujah.
And it was a song that had references to the Bible in it, although these references
became more and more remote as the song went from beginning to the end.
And finally, I understood that it was not necessary to refer to the Bible anymore.
And I rewrote this song. This is the “Secular Hallelujah”.
(1988 Concert in Antwerp, Belgium)

The word Hallelujah of course is so rich, it’s so abundant in resonances… You know…
It is a wonderful word to sing and people have been singing that word for thousands of years.
It seems to call down some kind of beneficial energy just when you declare in the face of
the kind of catastrophes that are manifesting everywhere just to say: “Hallelujah”.
To praise the energy that manifests both as good and evil, just to affirm our little journey here.
It is very invigorating to sing that word.
(2014 Interview in London)

leonard cohen unified heart



  • There is no other song to match the beauty of
    Hallelujah. There is no other singer/songwriter to
    match the genius of Leonard Cohen.I have been
    blessed to hear his creations.

    • Haunting and moving. It stops me each and every time I hear it. Thank you for creating such beauty.

    • I had never heard of this song, or leonard Cohen before last week. The Hallelujah Song absolutely captured my heart. So deep! ( I absolutely love the performance by “Pentatonix”. Everyone should check it out )
      Who am I to say, but I think he struggled to expand on the brilliance of the first two verses. He lost me with his re-write of the last 2 verses. Although, more poetic than the original, ( And I get his desire to to make the song a little less religous ) It moves into the first person and never progresses past the concept of broken love/romance. For me, this song goes deeper speaking to his concept that ALL of your Hallelujahs, though they be lonely or broken should be expressed.
      So, this is my contribution for verse 3:

      -You justify what you’ve become,
      And you drug the pain until you’re numb,
      And marvel at how hard addiction drew ya.
      Your fallen angel will arise
      As you’re liftin’ up your sunken eyes
      And offering your “highest” Hallelujah!

      My verse 4 isn’t quite there yet. I’ll share it when it’s done.

      • I’ve read these comments and some of them are pretty profound. To me, this song showcases the inescapable fall into sin, regardless of who we are in relation to each other or in relation to God. To us, sex is no big deal, but the Bible clearly illustrates that sexual sin is a very big deal to God. This song magnifies the devastation caused by sexual sin and its implications on our own lives and the lives of those connected to us. That’s my take on it.

      • This spoke directly to me. Brilliant! Please go ahead with that verse 4.

        • So much poppycock from the religiously deficient. Since your beliefs cannot stand on their own merit, you have to butcher “meaning” from other sources.

          Hallelujah if just a word, not a religious passage.
          You just might as well take the word ‘the” as religious for its many uses in religious books.

      • Steve, I’m hoping that your 4th verse has something to do with the solution. Your 3rd verse is very powerful!

      • Keep going, Steve. Its always so relevant in our world of constant chaos. And helpful to us strugglers.

        • Nowhere have I read of child abuse, but that is what I thought about. A mother tying a child to a kitchen chair, other abuse from lovers, etc.. Many unhapinesses, but through it all, there was the beauty of the music–the music which calmed King Saul, that filled the writer with meaning. And at the end, life was to be praised and celebrated and worth it all.

          • That is a reference from the bible(being tied to a chair, breaking your throne, cutting your hair), concerning both King David and Sampson. Men who had “it all” but were befallen by lust. It does not reference abuse.

      • That is absolutly amazing. Having had family members experience this, it was so heart wrenching.

        • Dianece, so sorry, meant to click thumbs up and missed.
          It IS heart wrenching. I would like to see other truth seekers write their own hallelujah and post it. We could really get something said about the level of power and inspiration this song carries.

      • I have been writing my own verses for years. A great song is one which is never finished.

      • L. Cohen wrote over 100 verses for this song through the years. It wasn’t intended for drug addicts nor for them to write verses to fit their addictions.

        • Actually there were over 300 published verses. My understanding is that they found him in the floor in his underwear banging his head against the floor after writing them… I can relate. This is a powerful piece.

      • I believe Lenny Cohen meant for this song to be very Spiritual in nature. Genius and soulful. However, not always popular to align oneself with things of a “religious nature’ in popular music, at that time , considered controversial, ( now have genre of Contemporary Christian music) hence he wrote the “Secular Hallelujah” as well. The references to King David and Samson makes them seem more human. We are all subject to error, loss, broken hearts. We make mistakes, we fall.
        Yes there are many kinds of Hallelujah’s. But to me, it always means, Praise God, thank you,. Even in pain and despair, “He makes all things for the good”…
        I love, love, love that 3rd verse you wrote Steve. It is in those times of extreme brokenness I finally surrendered and sought the only one who could pull me out of that deep darkness. I call Him God, & He works miracles, I’m living proof and forever grateful.
        Thanks for sharing your gift
        Looking forward to that 4th verse!

      • If the music is new to you, I suggest you also listen to “Tower of Song”. The heart of Leonard Cohen has made it just a little easier to be a human.

  • Thanks for taking the time to give your thoughts on this song that I find intriguing but puzzling.

    • Thanks Kim! I’m still working on it…

  • I like Cohen’s original lyrics so much more than those that have come later.

  • This song reminds me of a favorite theologian, G. K. Chesterton, that said when a man looks for a prostitute he is really has a deep desire to know God and the prostitute is just a poor substitute. We have a deep desire to know and be known in a deep intimate way that only our creator can satisfy. All the drugs, alcohol and sex are what we fall into until we find the genuine, the Lord who made us from nothing created us to know him in a supernatural way.

    • Wow, Rita, how well said/quoted, thank you!
      This is in fact in a few sentences the essence of faith.

      • That is an amazing truth…sometimes this journey does not make sense but a simple hallelujah brings an overwhelming peace…

    • Rita, you know of course that Chesterton was anti-Semitic….Just saying

    • Your words are beautiful.Thank you Mr.Cohen has just passed. I think when we come into the world we are looking for something because of the void in us.This song along with my faith are a wonderful filler.

  • Beautiful music which words I can neither support nor sing.

    • Then you’re not understanding the premise behind Mr. Cohen’s synopsis of his words. Sorry for you.

  • To Rita Hefner’s profound comment – I say : Amen

  • If you listen to Zimerman play Schubert Impromptu Op. 90 No. 4 (on youtube) about 5 minutes into the Schubert piano piece, you realize that it and this song mean the same thing…

  • My favorite version of Hallelujah is performed by Jeff Gutt.

    • Besides Leonard Cohen himself, the best version of this song, in my opinion, is by k.d.lang. She has the voice of an angel.

      • yes, absolutely, I have listened to all the versions of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, and definitely k.d. lang offers the most profound rendering of this deeply spirit filled song. By the way…..I grew up in Montreal and learned to sing almost all of Cohen’s songs way, way back in the early seventies. Time passes but good music and lyrics always stay fresh.

  • Bon Jovi killed it.

  • Yeah, keep rhyming with the names, shall we?

  • I travelled across Canada and down the west coast of U.S. this winter/spring, driving a beetle by myself. Then with my daughter I drove across U.S. diagonally to Ottawa. Leonard Cohen was with me every day! I was never tired of his voice,his lyrics – that say so much, his hallelujahs, every day he was making my journey joyful with his presence. What a talent!

    • Thank you Jade, for this touching comment.

  • It’s a beautiful mystery. It is the mystique that can occur when music is transformed into something you actually feel and not just hear. I think the most amazing, and I suspect, intended consequence is that it causes us to think, to remember and to dream. Thoughts of love, loss, death and life are woven into the fiber of the song in a way that inspires a candid look at reality. As a young boy when I first heard the song it gave me the desire to be a musician. Over many years I’ve learned that that desire is really just wanting to be heard. And if heard I would simply say “love”. Love everyday and every way. Put aside those things that tear us apart.
    This song is a gift to all of us. And I am thankful for it

    • “Love everyday and every way. Put aside those things that tear us apart.”


  • These are scattered verses, not all included. I believe the Hallelujah was the ecstasy David and Samson had in knowing God personally, esp David who sang to the Lord. Reference to Bathsheba and Delilah the ecstasy of their sexual relations. God created intercourse for mankind and the ecstasy of the foreplay and climax. Cohen in part of song related to both on a spiritual level. There is nothing greater than a loving personal relationship with God, His love for mankind is beyond understanding. And also the pure passion a man feels for a woman who has taken his soul! I would love to see all verses to amass the meanings of other verses.

    • Hey Pat!

      Wonderful comment!

      You’re right , i’m in the middle of writing the post…

      Coming soon…

  • Most have commented on the first two verses with their biblical undertones. I wish to talk about how the last two verses which speak more of a broken love. The words “Couldn’t feel so I tried to touch,” and “Even though it all went wrong, stand before the Lord of Song, with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah” I think when Cohen above spoke of how in this life we live, we experience highs and lows, loneliness, pain, joy, love, he is saying with these lines that even though you can be experiencing horrible pain, to the point of numbness where you reach out to another for healing, when the end comes and you face the creator “Lord of Song” you will only be able to say: “Blessed be” to God. Because think of how grey life would be, without the beauty of intense emotion. Really this whole song to me speaks of the intensity of love (first two verses), and the equal intensity of loss (last two verses), and thanks be to God that we have the capacity to feel these things in life. This song grabs us because it holds the perfect harmony of lyrics that speaks to our minds while merging hauntingly beautiful music that envelops our hearts and in the process this merging touches our souls.

  • Leonard Cohen is a genius songwriter. His lyrics are akin to an abstract painting that can be interpreted in many different ways by the listener. If you’re religious, you can find meaning, solace and comfort in it, if you’re an atheist you can wallow in the “broken Hallelujah”, loss of passion, loss of love and completely disregard the religious fervour. It offends no one, but major lifts everyone. It’s a perfect piece of songwriting that will be played for a very long time to come.

    • The second part of the song that no one is talking about us actually eluding to the fact that King David sent Bathsheba’s husband to the frontline of war to be killed because David got her pregnant and he didn’t want anyone to know that it wasn’t her husband’s. Bathsheba’s husband was one of David’s best friends. “All he ever learned from love was how to shoot someone that out drew ya” and also “the cry at night isn’t from someone that has seen the light”: Bathsheba’s husband did die “saw the light”. They cry he hears is a broken hallelujah (David effed up and now his faith has been compromised because he doesn’t think he’s a righteous man anymore-self damnation). This entire song from beginning to end (other than eluding to Sampson and Delilah) is from Bathsheba’s husband’s point of view and his pain due to David’s betrayal.

      • Jes, that was a good one!

  • The lyrics, for me, are beyond conceptual understanding, but tied to the music in the way only L. C. and a few other artists have been able to accomplish (Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, Joni Mitchell, Righteous Brothers, Nina Simone to name a few) it resonates so deep within that it lifts to a higher place, especially when in the midst of disintegration and despair. This is what great works of Art do – and the artist who is able to convey that Mystery to others is – well, Hallelujah!

  • Amos. Thanks you for this. It is very complete and a wonderful rational journey of embrace of a song that is ultimatley outside of reason. Bravo! I feel deeply moved by your efforts…they enahnce and do not throw cold water on the song for me.

    • Eve.Thank you for your wonderful words.

  • This is a thoughtful appraisal of a fascinating song which is really a poem. When a poet is at his best, he writes, in part, from his unconscious. He has to learn to trust that the words that arise are the right words and if he thinks too much on them or tries to steer them to a place other than where they want to go, the poem will fail. But here is the startling part. Often, the poet doe snot know the exact meaning of what has been written. That is why you get sketchy answers from poets about the meaning of their poems and their opinion does not matter. What does matter is what the reader thinks, what they feel, what insight they gain, what they find to be familiar and enlightening. That will be different to every reader of a particular poem. Often, the poet is enlightened about his own work by hearing what other people have found in it. Therein is the magic.

    • It is interesting how your observation in regards to poems matches up on how I feel about the Bible itself. The word of God, in my opinion, is like that. It speaks to humanity at many levels, it can be all things to many people. It raises, it falls, it floats, it is like water, like ice, or like steel. And above all it inspires and transforms the soul. Of course not everyone agrees, but for those of us who believe the word of God comes alive and resonates, not only in the conscious level, but deep into the incomprehensible spiritual realm.

      • Thank you Lucy.

  • It disappoints me to find out that such a beautiful song was taken away from the meaning of Hallelujah. To me, the only One that this word is worthy, is the Lord. It reminds me how someone could take a song like My Adorable One, and turn it to a secular meaning. The only Adorable One is the Lord. When David danced, his wife thought it was foolish, but the Lord thought it was beautiful…

  • Someone I love gave me a box full of darkness.
    It took me years to understand that, this too, was a gift.
    ~ Mary Oliver

    ♪ (^‿^) ♪♫

  • It’s my belief that this song was derived from a sexual encounter that deeply disturbed and yet like any unconditional love elevated Cohen to the heights of ecstasy. The rest of it developed from there. The Hallelujah is a proclamation of pure joy precisely what we were born for. I love Cohen’s humility in the song ” I didn’t even know the name anyway etc” he’s very differential to women which makes him appear vulnerable.This was an older woman . his own beautiful images enhance and express what happened to HIM at the encounter. It IS a holy and profane song as it should be the pure ecstasy of love. The “chord” even though clearly explained as “the fourth the fifth” etc. to me comes out in the depths and re-vibrations of the last two words “do you” like a singing bowl it goes on and on.

    • This version makes sense because of Cohen lyrics that he did not even know the name of the person he shared intimacy with A sign of the times

  • Maybe it isn’t religious, but it is very spiritual. It captures the essence of the love of God in our lives. David sang his Hallelujahs when he followed God but most passionately when he strayed. Every part of our lives, if lived in faith is a cry of Hallelujah to The One who loves us even in our mess.
    Cohen’s version makes my soul sing. Lovely.

  • The word Hallelujah is used for the highest form of praise. You have to remember that Lucifer was the choir director in heaven. HE had the most beautiful voice of all angels. Hallelujah is praise to God, and Cohen wrote something with a beautiful sound to the word, but he destorted the meaning and so the praise would go to satan. Satan always tried to steal everything from GOD. What a shame that Cohen could not have used such a talent to glorify the God who gave him the talent.

    • Paulne this is a terrible comment!! LC is blessing the Lord for giving him the ability to find him even in those broken no-hope situations. This is a very deep believe in God, a deep immanent attachment with the divine.

      • I agree with Amos Paulne. I’m wondering why you thought that thought. How does any of us know what’s inside another person mind when it comes to God? In the world we seem to hear and see a lot of lies and deception everywhere we turn but the mind is powerful indeed. Everyone on the planet is going through changes and I feel Leonard Cohen is no different than the rest of us. We go through things that make no sense what-so-ever at times. I’ve found when I allowed those things to just flow through me, they do indeed pass and the ‘truth’ about God comes to our mind. I believe God is in control at all times and will never allow us to think, say or do anything that will ever keep our spirits from the Love He alone Created. I believe we’re all walking each other home, step by step, belief by belief and thought by thought. For me, it’s the thoughts that cause us disbelief. I have both kinds of thoughts in this experience. When I became aware of my thoughts, I choosing to have the thoughts of Love. That is when God opened my mind and showed to me the “truth”. Thank you for sharing and allowing me to share as well. I wish you happiness! Peace!

        • I feel the way Pauline does. Listen to LC’s own words in the above video. He starts out talking about writing a kind of religious song, then in Antwerp, Belgium in 1988 he talks of him originally writing a song with words from the Bible and more recently rewriting it as a secular hallelujah. Then in the London 2014 interview he’s talking about praising the energy that manifests as both good and evil as an affirmation of “our little journey here.”.

          So that seems to me that towards the end of his life he was looking at life more through the lenses of the Eastern mystics rather than through the teachings of the Bible. Of course, I can’t know that for certain and it’s not for me to pass judgement on him.

          While his chorus is hauntingly beautiful, I find the majority of the verses I’ve heard (though I’m sure I haven’t heard half of them since I heard him in some other interview state that he had written more than 80 verses over the years) to be too dark for my taste. I’ll continue to prefer the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

          • Thank you for your comment. Doug. Satan quoted Scripture and understands it better than any human. Hallelujah is praise directed at Yahweh, who has revealed himself to us in His Word. Using the word hallelujah without directing our praise to him is a misuse of that word even if its familiarity and inherent truth draws in a wider audience. btw, Hallelujah is prominent in the new testament book of Revelation.

        • Thank you Rosemarie for posting that. I too have been conflicted by this song. I choose to love it and believe part of the meaning is to come out of trials still intact in our beliefs. What struck me to the core was your saying “I believe we’re all walking each other home….”amazing! I have never heard that before. May your journey be safe and end in glory!!!

      • Don’t know about that, if you read LC’s comments from interviews, he claims he was trying to take any religious association out of the word Hallelujah. Well, try as any of us mortals might, we can’t separate God from this word, the meaning is “let us sing praise to God” and that’s just that. If he needed a rhyme LC might as well have used “poopy-do-yah”

    • Interesting way to look at this. Nothing can be farther from what I see. For me it is someone seeking understanding of a struggle and it has nothing to do with a god or satan.

  • Cohen describes his search. If you want to hear the answer, read Cloverton’s lyrics to the same song.

    • Just like many other songs that have been adapted to fit a religion, Cloverton changed the entire meaning of Cohen’s piece and attempts to explain the birth of christ. The music is the same but I see no connection to the great lyrics that Leonard wrote.

  • i hate how this piece explains everything EXCEPT the one question i had which was what is the meaning about “she tied you to a kitchen chair, she broke your throne and she cut your hair” that sounds violent and i would like to know what those lyrics mean.
    i need to know as my 11 year old is learning the song

    • I believe it is referring to Sampson and Delilah in the Bible of her taken his strength away by cutting his hair. He loved and trusted her and she deceived him. Like you love someone and they destroy your trust!!!

    • Although it seems violent Julie, in my mind it’s how we interpret it. When we are opened to different interpretations of it we can decide whether it’s violent or not. Another thing that comes to my mind is whether or not he allowed her to do that and why. Only he knew the reason. Just my two cents. :)

    • This song is not for an 11-year old. The references are strongly to sex and deception and (perhaps) the conflict holy men have felt in their passion for women and their passion for God. Remember David as King had Bathsheba’s husband killed in the wars so that David could “have” her, so the reference to seeing her on the roof was the beginning of being drawn away from God, not an innocent and beautiful love story. Similar conflict with the passion of Sampson and Delilah. He is relating the Hallelulah praise to God with the deep passion of sex. This is not a religious song. It is a sex song. A deeply compelling and beautiful song for having sex to, albeit with sad undertones. Not a song in praise of God.

      • Allan , yesterday i was listening to the original “Hallelujah” Cohen recorded.
        And I noticed deeply the phrase “I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
        With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”,
        which means for me , that after all Cohen’s deep longing was to stand before the Lord (when his soul exits his body) with this eternal word of prayer “Hallelujah”.
        May God receive his soul with his light and forgiveness.

      • Hallelujah is absolutely a sex song – not ethereal or romantic, but gritty and graphic. That’s why I don’t understand why people sing it at funerals and church events. Nobody’s ever hidden the fact that it was about sex.

      • I know cohen and his songs since 38 years ago . most of cohen songs are aboat the sex and his personal view about religon and spirituality .I see that cohen is honest with people who listen to his words . he actualy says his perception of the world , human , soul and god .
        I love this song ans I have listened this song more than hundred times although as a muslim not agreed with bible story about David. whe bleive David was a prophet and prophets donot commit sins at all . in our religious interpretation of David story .at David time. there was a law that when a man died or killed his widow was not allowed to marry again and marriage of David with that woman was the order of god to broke that law and her husband was killed before David was ordered to marry.

  • An amazing song .
    appreciate your work.

  • Renée Fleming’s delivery of Hallelujah is sublime. The sheer beauty of her ‘intimate’ voice transports the listener to their own exquisite bit of heaven. Blessed are those who have heard her sing it live.

  • DAVID was not…the “baffled king” composing Hallelujah.

    David played a secret chord that pleased the lord…

    The Babel King composing Hallelujah.

    • I believe it’s “the barefoot king”. It just sounds like “baffled” in some versions.

  • Delilah drew Samson with a kiss and cut his hair. He lost his strength kind of like his throne.

  • so are you christian? DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD? IS THIS A GOSPEL SONG

    • No, it’s not a gospel song. Leonard Cohen was Jewish, the grandson of a Talmudic scholar, and a deeply spiritual man who never stopped searching. He spent several years studying Zen. Cohen was one of many thoughtful artists who have recognized the tangled connections between sex, death, and spirituality.

    • No, No, absolutely not.

  • Unfortunately he didn’t write such a good song….Even he doesn’t really know the meaning of it….I wonder if he prayed before he wrote it. I don’t think so. He would be better to write children’s songs that are pure and Holy….leave the confusing ones behind. Like you say….licentiousness is fact at work in this society and sex before marriage is not something that God condones….unfortunately he has to live with it and still love us.

  • So many levels to this song! My take – The singer hints at his own broken romance, once exciting and strong, now crumbling in the dust. He uses David’s temptation then downfall as a thread, almost in parallel to what he is going through.

    There seem to be several types of Hallelujahs. First – as David loved music, it was praising God and the many Hallelujahs were to God whom he loved and knew well; gladness at God’s goodness, power, etc.

    Second – David sees the bathing beauty (good point about her bathing on the roof! Even if she wasn’t bathing naked she wasn’t very self-aware, or mindful of being watched.) When he gave in to his temptation and seduced her, she became his. A new kind of Hallelujah was height of their sexual illicit union. David reached his lustful goal.

    SUFFERING & LOSS – Third – the broken hallelujah as David suffers greatly once confronted by his selfish, terrible crime; stealing a wife from a man he then had MURDERED. Their child had to die as punishment. He understands.

    Cutting the hair refers to Samson losing his closeness to God also because of a woman. He dies violently but destroying the enemy.
    Both men lost something of themselves in their romances.

    We don’t know if the singer’s journey relates because he sinned or rebelled against God, or just made bad choices. (She didn’t like music and he’s a musician!) But we see how this changes people. Even in their sexual good times there was darkness. He made a bad choice, and he sees the pleasure and pain looking at David’s story.

    BUT good news is these men came back to do the right thing for God. Even though a MURDERER, David was forgiven. God loved David as before. He was truly humbled and changed forever.

    Fourth – Humbled Hallelujah. The singer’s broken relationship reflects a process where he realises that it’s part of life to lose, fail, to sin, to love, to regret. He knows this is common to many people. After the loss or brokenness he can finally see clearly. A little sadly he says Hallelujah.
    Ultimately he can survive, heal and move on. He can even thank God for it being over. No better way to learn than thru immense loss, sorrow and pain. This song expresses it so tenderly.

  • Just so you know in the beginning you said one of the names of God that is the only name of God Jehovah psalm 83:18 the rest are just titles lord god almighty alpha omega titles Jehovah is his name !! It’s praise Jehovah just like it’s supposed to not praise the lord

  • Thank you all for your contributions to my understanding and further appreciation of this most beautiful song. Blessings

    • Thank you Robin!

  • Love this song as much as MacArthur’s Park. Something mysterious in both of them and I must say I have heard many interpretations of both.

  • What draws me to the song is it’s incomparable , powerful melody.
    Then-the lyrics! Listening to it many times, I have found it sometimes to be about his relationship with a woman and other times I hear as a religious proclamation of sorts.It rather frees one of angst & pain when you proclaim the lyrics. It’s profoundly moving, I feel , whether you interpret it as religious or relating to a sexual relationship. The music just sort of cleanses the soul ! I know it involves loss and a hurt heart, But we all live with those things so screaming, hallelujiah, letting is sail out of you tenderly-no matter-it’s magical. The mystery of it’s meaning makes it even more appealing. Perfection.

  • K.D. Lang does the absolute ultimate version of this incredible song.

    I feel more that music that reaches into someone’s soul, or heart, or center (whatever works best for your personal belief system) and moves a person to a place where s/he would otherwise not be.

    Beautiful sensual sex between two people can also move them to that same profound place.

    It transcends religion. Religion is a means to describe profound touching of a person’s core. It’s an attempt to describe it, perhaps to control it.

    Cohen uses some language that has been incorporated into religion, but exists powerfully on its own. When combined with his beautiful work, it increases the power. And, when K.D. Lang sings it, it reaches the heights of power, and will make you physically ache with it’s beauty and sensuality.

  • Leonard Cohen, the Prince of poets, died 11/10/2016. He was 88.


    • May his soul be in Heaven with all of the righteous

  • Shalom,Leonard. Bless you for blessing us.

  • Amazing man…you will be missed…RIP

  • If the word Jah is short for the name Jehovah, then the translation of the word hallelujah is “praise Jehovah” not “praise the lord” since Jah doesn’t mean “the lord”.

  • Thank you for your understanding of this song, there have been parts that baffled me , Now I see the light a little clearer. How grateful I am for short poets.

  • Joesph Campbell comes to mind …. it is what his works are about

  • Agree with Kay re: K.D. Lang’s version .. however it has now been matched by the cover by Pentatonix. If you have not heard, view/listen on You Tube – they have included on their 2016 Christmas album. We listen and envelop in the sound of this and were wondering what Mr. Cohen thought of these young performers doing his work so much justice when we heard the sad news of his passing.

    • I can’t imagine a more beautiful versio that the Pentatonix. Their voices are like angels.

  • I wish I could say “I understand what life’s connections are all about.”, but I am still searching……..maybe one day.

  • I understand that there are many, many verses to this song, but I’m only familiar with the four that come up when I do a Google search for them, which I believe are the ones most commonly sung. So I have a question about verse #3, which hasn’t been addressed in this post, as far as I can see:

    “You say I took the name in vain, I don’t even know the name” – is he referring to the name of God, or someone else’s name?

    “But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?” – Is he asking God or the listener, or maybe the person who’s name he’s taking in vain? Because, if he’s referring to “the name” as God’s name and if he’s asking God “what’s it to you”, well, God already answered that in Exodus 20:7 – “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” (NKJV) (For those who aren’t aware, LORD in the Old Testament – all capitals – is for the Hebrew YHWH, aka Yahweh, God’s name; the Hebrew tradition held that saying or spelling His name out was irreverent, hence the use of LORD.)


    • Hi dear Arlene,
      Thank you for your comment!

      Referring to your questions:

      “You say I took the name in vain, I don’t even know the name” – is he referring to the name of God, or someone else’s name?

      In my opinion there’s kind of a pun here.

      Leonard is accused (by whom he speaks to along the song ) for using God’s name , or calling God’s name regarding to his broken life and feelings.

      “God is above all of that !” says this voice wich Cohen argues with.

      Also , the word “Hallelujah” contains one of God’s names as explained above

      Cohen answers that he dose not even know the name. Implying that the full pronouncing of the Hebrew name of God is unknown us.

      To take the name in vain has several meanings here :
      1. The opposite of being humble, to boast
      2. using or relating to the holy and divine non sacredly

  • Wit all due respect to the song and Leonard…

    “I’ve heard there was a secret chord

    That Leonard played, and it pleased the Lord”

    The reach of this song– The multitude of artists that have covered it is amazing and every time it brings attention back to God.

    • An absolute genius. Each person finds his own meaning in this song and it is the correct meaning!

  • The first time I heard this piece was Kate McKinnon’s version on Saturday Night Live. How could I have missed his version for so long?

    I would like to know more about the room and walking the floor.

  • This song makes me cry even as a grown man for the very reasons Leonard Cohen explains about the word Hallelujah. It’s roots are organized religion and human activities but it expands into the spiritual and natural realms of feeling and existence. Like looking up at the stars and Milky Way, especially now knowing the science behind it- still makes your heart skip a beat, your face flush, your eyes water and you just softly say where you can only hear it… “Hallelujah”…..

  • In this song/poem, Leonard Cohen is drawing a parallel between his spiritual
    experiences with those of King David.
    HALLELUJAH is a very interesting word with multi-dimensional meanings
    and can be interpreted in diverse ways, one of which I think is the following : -

    King David of Israel had been in the process for many years in perfecting the
    art of Meditation which was well received by the LORD ( Secret Chord, Music )
    and had almost reached the crescendo in his efforts ( Major Lift ) when unfortunately he was swept away which in the quicksand of earthly desires ( Beauty – Moonlight ) which overpowered him and he became domesticated ( Kitchen Chair ),
    lost his power ( Hair ) and the mental presence ( Throne ) to rule. All these
    accumulated weaknesses eventually deprived him of Nirvana ( Drew out the Hallelujah ).

    We need to keep in mind that LC had spent several years in a Monastery and from an early age was seeking for pathways to God. He also became familiar with the theory of Re-incarnation practised in many of the religious schools.
    (Maybe I’ve been here before ). In this song, he emphasises that this thorn-filled road is an extremely arduous one resulting in many bitter trials and disappointments. ( Lonely Hallelujah ). Yes, there were times when he to succeeded and had glimpses of this wonderful experience ( Now you never show it to me, do you ? ).

    He wants to correct the erroneous impression of many people that he has reached the Enlightened stage ( I couldn’t feel so I learned to touch – I didn’t come to London to fool you ).

    He ends his song with the promise that his journey towards achieving Hallelujah will continue ( Pray to the Lord of Song ) until he finally finds fulfilment .

  • I am not a religious person. This song is beautiful and warms me to my very core. I just listened to a rendition sung by a children’s choir and immediately sent a request to my sons to please play this at my celebration of life❤️

  • Yes, I only heard it first one month ago and have been listening to it daily.
    It is very inspiring and a Kaleidoscope of a Song !

    • Ruth, That is one of the beautiful things about poetry and music! You are allowed your own interpretation. This song clearly spoke to your heart and your resolution that life is to be celebrated and our struggles are not for naught. We can rise above the difficulties and sing hallelujah! Don’t let anyone belittle you or steal the blessing you received from this musical poem! Someone commented that the song is a like a kaleidoscope , which is such a great description. There are so many “colors”! There are as many interpretations and there are people who contemplate over it! Shalom.

  • Barefoot King?. Sounds like a reference to the Hobbit.

    I like it but I cannot find a single reference to that being used instead of baffled king..

  • I was explaining to my granddaughter that all songs are poems set to music, she heard this song and wanted me to explain it to her and for the first time I ( after doing research) understood that it was a very religious song.

    • Religious song? Well maybe in that “a broken Hallelujah” points to the failure of religion itself and that there is no recovery from it.

  • A very religious song? How is that? I find it religiously neutral, and strongly sexual.

    What do you make of “a broken hallelujah”?

  • ?? How do I escape an attempt to reply which I decided not to post?

  • The melody is enchanting. the only good word in the song is Hallelujah
    the rest is garbage. NOT a Christian song, but the music pulls you in.
    I love the song Imagine from John Lennon… also garbage the music is tremendous in both songs, it grabs you but the words and meanings are NOT and imagine there’s no Heaven would be terribly devastating for all peoples. How can something so wrong sound so good…

  • “What’s it to ya”, “Montezuma” the list goes on. However, I still see no association with hallelujah. and a god. The word is soothing to say not unlike other words that are pleasures of the flesh such as “jesus” and “please”. They make your body feel good when you say them or sing them.

    These words have no more religious binding any more than “Greensleeves” is to “What Child is this” and many other songs adopted to the season.

  • “To me, this song showcases the inescapable fall into sin, ”

    I guess a few people can see it that way but “inescapable”? I hardly think so.

  • The song clearly illustrates sin and temptation and separation from God as a result of that sin. However, at the end of the song, he came back to God and confessed his sin. The song has a deep meaning for me that our God forgives our sins if we truly seek from Him his forgiveness, God is loving and forgiving. I listen to this song at least once a day and each day it moves me spiritually.

  • I don’t think it is baffled but battle King.
    While David was king of Israel, he won many battles over the Philistines.

  • Hello, I love what you share here — thank you. I would like to feature this story in my website Out of Pocket Emotions — In memoriam of the late Leonard Cohen if you would give me this permission. The intent is “for the Late Leonard Cohen” and in the spirit of the season, to help others be inspired by the expression of “rejoicing…” Hope we can open up a discussion and love to hear your thoughts. say yes! Catherine

  • Can’t imagine not having this song in our lives. Gives me chills every time I hear it. I believe this song touches every person in different ways. I read it started out a sad song in a dark place, what a wonderful thing about music that we all can take from it.
    Thank you for your music

  • Your statement “Why would such a beautiful woman bathe in a place where other people can gaze at her? Did she mean to attract King David and make him take her?” shows an ignorance of Jewish customs of the time. Bathsheba was not on the rooftop, David was. Bathsheba was engaged in a required Jewish ritual bath in a mikveh. Bathsheba did not choose the location – the community mikveh was located according to classical religious regulations. The reason David had to send someone to discover her identity is that Bathsheba was not in her home.

    • Hi, according to the bible commentary (which i am familiar with…) she was indeed bathing on the roof.
      But maybe:

      1.She thought the top of the roof was a hidden place’,where people cannot see her. (Taking in mind that King David’s palace was higher than all other houses)

      2.She was having some kind of a Shade-maker above her, wich blew away(as mentioned in the Hebrew Talmud)

      Regarding to the mikveh , i saw one of the commentators who seems to say it was in the time she was having the mikveh bath, but other commentators say it means she was already after having the mikveh, and was purified.

  • Carol Copes comment about the end lyrics make sense by Cohen of ” didn’t even know…….name

  • V3
    You justify what you’ve become,
    And you drug the pain until you’re numb,
    And marvel at how hard addiction drew ya.
    Your fallen angel will arise
    As you’re liftin up your sunken eyes,
    And offering your “highest” Hallelujah!

    You try to walk the narrow way,
    But slip and stumble every day,
    Cause that is how he proves his power through ya.
    The things that you can’t change or hide
    Are better than a heart of pride.
    He always hears a broken Hallelujah!

    Merry Christmas!
    May your hearts be filled with peace and joy.

  • Interesting attempt, but no. You seem to be pushing the religious tilt when here is nothing religious about it.

  • This is such a beautiful song. Every time I listen to it, I want to cry for the beauty of the words. Thank you, Leonard Cohen.

    • It is interesting that so many sing this piece but miss the feeling of it. Just having a good voice just doesn’t do it.

      The Pentatonix are about half the way there but then the camera techniques are extremely distracting. What’s more, they try to do beatbox but it doesn’t carry without a microphone. The studio dubbing just doesn’t work. Then again, they seem to see this as a Christmas piece.

      Call me a sexist but I don’t see that women can sing this piece properly. It is definitely intended for the male voice.

  • Hey Gary,
    Leonard Cohen IS the “baffled king” in this song. He was still trying to figure out what it’s true significance was 10 years after writing it.
    He states in his own words “…each one of us understands his solitude in the cosmos and longs for some affirmation by the maker of the cosmos; by the creator.”
    In his first two verses, “…David played and it pleased The Lord” and …”your faith was strong, but you needed proof” he is telling Bible stories and acknowledging a creator.
    When, in his own words, ( read above: the CBC television interview transcript from this article ) “… Finally I understood that it was not necessary to refer to the Bible anymore and I re-wrote this song. This is the secular Hallelujah.” I believe that he moved away from the “religious” and towards the “spiritual”. Wouldn’t you agree?
    As far as your comments towards me, I just don’t get it.
    I “seem to be pushing the religious tilt, when there’s nothing religious about it”??? I think we established the fact that this started out a very religious song, but Mr. Cohen re-wrote it and moved it in a different direction. I Believe he left the first two verses as-is because they are just too perfect to change… Religious or not. They are truly the heart of the song.
    My expression of feeling unworthy to claim peace and joy due to life long addictions in verse 3, and in verse 4 I attempted to illustrate how failure builds character, strength, and humility. The resignation of one’s own will and ability is the only way to invite supernatural power to achieve the impossible.
    Your comment “interesting attempt, but no.” sounds pretty cocky. And then stating that I’m trying to push a totally non-religious song in an improper direction, when all evidence from the author states the opposite leads me to believe that you resent the concept of a greater power and refuse to consider it, thinking that your superior intellect is all you need for your spirit to thrive.
    If I’m off base with that call, I apologize. But when you blow off someone’s creativie expression without even one logical point, you really just sound like a hater. I am quite offended for myself and everyone else who’s got a soul deep enough to reflect on the deep meaning of this song. I consider it a great work of inspired wisdom.

    • It is still not a religious piece. His use of hallelujah is discussed in the Rolling Stone interview.

      “I wanted to push the Hallelujah deep into the secular world, into the ordinary world,” he once said. “The Hallelujah, the David’s Hallelujah, was still a religious song. So I wanted to indicate that Hallelujah can come out of things that have nothing to do with religion.”

      If you want to he so arrogant as to add to his excellent work then I expect that the sections will be identified as a foreign attachment and in a different font.

      Adding verses and trying to imply a higher power would be like adding a rosary to the Mona Lisa and claiming she was a saint. So far from the truth.

      I fail to understand why you would want to ruin such an excellent piece.

      • More so, it is like adding the rosary to the Mona Lisa and then claiming that Da Vinci really intended it to be there and the painting was supposed to be religious.

        These extras are an insult to the original masterpiece.

        • I totally disagree. I believe the creative additions/diversions to LC’s original lyrics can expand the profundity to include more of us, such as me, looking for a hallelujah moment of my own. The original creation stands; the creative sidebars appeal to some of us who appreciate even more Steve’s brilliant variation.
          Think of the many renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Some speak more to you, some to me. Same song, different ballgame…. it’s all good.

          • I have never heard a version of TSB that bastradizes the original

  • V3
    You justify what you’ve become,
    And you drug the pain until you’re numb,
    And marvel at how hard addiction drew ya.
    Your fallen angel will arise
    As you’re liftin up your sunken eyes,
    And offering your “highest” Hallelujah!

    You try to walk the narrow way,
    But slip and stumble every day,
    Cause that is how he proves his power through ya.
    The things that you can’t change or hide
    Are better than a heart of pride.
    He always hears a broken Hallelujah!

    Merry Christmas!
    May your hearts be filled with peace and joy.

  • For me, the song is singing the Hallelujah we all sing. We sing it in praises, we sing it when we’re broken. It speaks to the depths of our soul and the longing we have to cry Hallelujah. Religion isn’t required here, even though it is alluded to. Have you ever been in the darkest moments with no where to turn and you cry a broken Hallelujah, a crack in your voice and despair in your soul, you sing out the word that gives you hope, a cry for help from God? God doesn’t expect us to talk with Him in only the good moments. He is there for us to question, doubt, and cry out to Him in all our emotions and life circumstances. We sing Hallelujah when life is good, a word of praise, of expression of love and happiness. We sing it when we’re at the bottom of the pit as a cry for hope. We sing it all the time, in different tones and voices. I think Cohen was trying to show this point when he changed the verses to be more “secular” in his words. To show that we all cry Hallelujah, we all seek the divine, and Hallelujah is the all-encompassing universal voice from our soul.

    • Listened to many versions today and the deep emotional feeling was of Love and prayer and praise for something greater than myself. A recognition of a great Love and a pleading to express it-

    • Nicely said. Thank you for helping me get it.

  • Kat,
    Amen !

  • Hi, you can see here its exactly 25 ,

    you can also read my comment here where i suggest, several options of explaining whether and why she was bathing on her roof

  • Steve: Is there a hopeful (not ridiculously so) V5?
    While others seem to be looking for something that’s not there in LC’s lyrics, I believe you’re on a beautiful, possibly helpful thread he might have liked, or at least, condoned.
    V4 and 5 have enveloped me, and I’m hoping to come out of this with a “hallaluia” of my own…

  • I have always understood that calling/singing out Hallelujah was a praise to God. In acceptance of this it is also called out (as in this song) when one feels saddened by ones one failings, when bereft, in anguish. As the song continues we acknowledge this; sometimes in praise, at other times in the confusion of ones betrayal and sadness and the loss of love As mentioned earlier, in acknowledgement of David’s betrayal of a friend, Davids acknowledged his failings, the wrong done (sending Bathsheba’s husband away to certain death). Calling out Hallelujah in that way acknowledges ones failing and seeks forgiveness. Better a half hearted Hallelujah than none at all.

    This song was played at a friends funeral over a year ago and it felt very moving and although sad, very uplifting. I cannot recall any of the other songs.

  • “Think of the many renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

    I do not recall a single version of TSSB that was smeared towards religion.

  • Ruth-
    Wow, how deep and proffound to go down that path. That’s something to think about. I’ll bet that some sort of abuse has happened to most if not all of us. People rarely have the courage to bring it up.

  • WOW

  • ” I have been writing my own verses for years. A great song is one which is never finished.”

    It has been finished and it is still a great song.

    Cohen finished the piece and, even if you feel that he didn’t, it was finished when he died. I think it is rather arrogant to say anything different. After all, no one has “finished” Mahler’s 10th symphony. Orchestras play it right to his last written note then stop abruptly. No one dares to “finish” that one.

    The worst step is to pull religion into it. He specifically said that it was not religious.

    If you do add more, then you have to document the changes. Use a different font, for example, to separate your work from the original.

  • All who deny that this is a song about God…

    You think you know the world you see,
    But when it tests your loyalties
    You curse the God you don’t believe in, do ya?
    I really hope you listen well,
    Before you die and burn in hell
    For never having found your hallelujah!

  • “All who deny that this is a song about God…”

    Is this in the original work or you bastardizing a great piece of work with a religious agenda? This is like coloring the waters of Niagara Falls to make them look pretty.

  • A song that has inspired many to fill in the blanks in their own lives, writing their own hallelujah!
    You twant to walk the narrow way,
    You slip and stumble everyday,
    But that is how He proves His power through ya.
    The things that we can’t change or hide
    Are better than a heart of pride.
    He always hears a humble hallelujah.
    You drug the pain until you’re numb
    To justify what you’ve become
    And marvel at how hard addiction drew ya.
    Your fallen angel will arise
    As you’re liftin up your sunken eyes
    And offering your “highest” hallelujah.
    You think you know the world you see
    And when it tests your loyalty
    You’ll curse the God you don’t believe in, do ya?
    I really hope you listen well
    Before you die and burn in hell
    And never having found your hallelujah.

  • You’ve never seen them light Niagra Falls? I think you have! I have seen it, and it looks beautiful!!!

    You don’t know if it’s part of the original work? I think you know it’s not. Italics really needed? I mean, really? Not like I’m trying to make money or deceive anyone.

    I didn’t go to college, but I think you should know what words actually “mean” before using them and worry a little less about font.
    -If bringing religion into a song that is titled “praise God” in Hebrew is wrong, oops I think that removing it is a much greater error.
    -Isn’t bastardizing something to de-legitimize it’s father? ALL GREAT ART IS INSPIRED. Either by God or someone else. This song was without a doubt inspired by God.
    LC said it wasn’t a religious song after saying that it started as a religous song and he re wrote it in an attempt to make it not so.
    Have you ever seen the original verses? Your argument makes no sense. This song was absolutely written with God as the focus… Even if he was just a vessel.
    Does anyone have any idea what I’m saying here?

  • >>> “Does anyone have any idea what I’m saying here?”
    Personally, I doubt that you do.

    >>> “Isn’t bastardizing something to de-legitimize it’s father? ”
    Yes, you got that right and your point is?

    >>> “ALL GREAT ART IS INSPIRED. Either by God or someone else. This song was without a doubt inspired by God.”

    Without a doubt? I say NOT AT ALL. It is inspired ONLY by the human experience. Nothing to do with a god.

    >>> You’ve never seen them light Niagra [sic] Falls? I think you have! I have seen it, and it looks beautiful!!!

    You were taken. Niagara Falls is illuminated at night for commercial value otherwise you would not be able to see it and spend money to do so. When they turn off the lights under a full moon, it looks so much better but too many people complained. They needed the artificial effect.

    Would you be happy maybe if the comment was to paint the Grand Canyon instead? Adding the Rosary to the Mona Lisa, and claiming that Da Vinci intended it that way, is just as preposterous.

    Pushing this to a religious ilk is like adding gift-giving, tree decorations, and pleasures of the flesh such as song and dance, to the concept of the Christ Mass. These became associated with the event by stealing from other beliefs and practices to draft members into a flailing religion. Now you see Cohen’s great piece as another target. What you “add” to this piece says nothing to advance the original theme.

    Before you paint me as a pagan, you should know that I am a Christian. I disagree you’re your agenda and what you are doing especially since you refuse to separate it from the original. You are attempting to steal my emotions and claiming they are all praises of your god. My God doesn’t want that falsity. Leave onto Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

    Keith Richards was commenting about Rap VS Rock and Roll when he said “So many words, so little said”. You are only espousing godrap, nothing else. You are not making any point.

    Add what you want but you have to set it off from the original so that it not plagiarism (It does not matter if you are being paid for it or not) . Nor can you claim that this is anything the way Cohen intended it to be.

    Add subscripts/foot notes where ever you are changing the original, great and COMPLETED, work.

  • -I would consider it more like painting dark sunglasses and a cigarette on the Mona Lisa. Not a rosary. Inspired by the human experience for sure. But what makes us human except being created in the image of God.? Art and music come from the soul, don’t they? This song touches my soul and inspires what it inspires in ME. You really have no right to deny me that.

    Leonard Cohen:
    “….each one of us understands our solitude in the cosmos and longs for some affirmation by the maker of the cosmos, by the creator”

    If you want to argue that this song has no attachment to organized religion, ok, but it has everything to do with religion as a personal experience.

    Take anything I write as sunglasses on the Mona Lisa. If it offends you too greatly, just lighten up and let me have my own opinion, huh?

    As far as leveling a charge of plagiarism, when did I ever attach anything I wrote to anything in the original work?? I didn’t. Nor did I try to take credit for any words that someone else wrote. All of your other arguments are food for thought and pretty intelligent. But on this point, you’re just attacking me with a false charge. We can have a good debate and disagree in our opinions without sinking to false accusations. I really think you are smarter than that.

    So let’s pick up this discussion with the original 1981 verses in comparison to the 1984 -85 re-written verses, shall we? I think that LC’s thoughts were in a much different place when creating this song as opposed to where the contemporary music industry lead his justifications and reasoning. (Talk about commercializations !)

    Are you familiar with the 1981 verses?

    –I enjoy the challenge you offer. Steel sharpens Steel.

    • Adding a rosary to the Mona Llisa is adding religion to the painting, something that as not the original. You arew adding religion to an original and FINISHED piece

  • >> I would consider it more like painting dark sunglasses and a cigarette on the Mona Lisa.

    I guess I will agree with you on that. You are disguising and adding a vice to the original work.

    >> Not a rosary. Inspired by the human experience for sure.

    The rosary is exactly what you are adding since you are applying the god card to it.

    >> But what makes us human except being created in the image of God.?

    Experience makes us human, not any god.

    >> Art and music come from the soul, don’t they? This song touches my soul and inspires what it inspires in ME. You really have no right to deny me that.

    I deny you nothing, just don’t claim Cohen’s work along with your own.

    >>Leonard Cohen:….each one of us understands our solitude in the cosmos and longs for some affirmation by the maker of the cosmos, by the creator”
    And that is creator, not Creator. Everything has a creation even god.

    >> Take anything I write as sunglasses on the Mona Lisa. If it offends you too greatly, just lighten up and let me have my own opinion, huh?

    Do what you want, I object to your attaching religion as if it is the missing factor.

    >> As far as leveling a charge of plagiarism, when did I ever attach anything I wrote to anything in the original work?? I didn’t. Nor did I try to take credit for any words that someone else wrote. All of your other arguments are food for thought and pretty intelligent.

    You are taking the cadence and presuming the music onto your “work”. If you do not note what you added and what is original, it is plagiarism.

    >> So let’s pick up this discussion with the original 1981 verses in comparison to the 1984 -85 re-written verses, shall we?

    Are you referring to the 180 experimental versions before the original release? Every artist experiments with an opus. Well maybe not Mozart but over time many have sought to understand the changes made by the original artist before the final was released and no one worth any salt is going to pick the bones and claim that sections left out were supposed to be in the release. The only thing you can say here is how it affects you personally.

    When Cohen said that it was not a religious piece, that is it!
    It is not a religious piece.
    Have you no respect?

  • SO I STILL DONT UNDERSTAND: ‘she tied you to a “kitchen” chair’… there are no kitchen chairs in the bible?


    Check out the forum link above. Do you agree on the accuracy of the verses? The more religous verses weren’t just experimental works in progress. They were published as the actual song.
    Sounds like he actually did paint the rosary on the Mona Lisa, then he painted over it. Absolutely his right.
    Can we agree that this was originally a pretty religious song?
    What is your source for the “180 experimental verses before the original release?”
    The 1985 version WAS the original release. The verses that are currently the finished work seem to have been published in 1994. Unless you have a different resourcs.

    BELOW IS COPIED FROM THE ABOVE REFERENCED FORUM. 10 years after the first publication of the song, it’s still pretty religious. It seems like LC worked much harder trying to remove religion from this song than he did actually writing the first version. We can speculate all we want. He can’t tell us what he thinks now from the other side of the grave.

    • Thank you for transcribing. I think just about every song can reap a different interpretation from different listeners perceptions. LC seems to recognise this aspect from within himself, with the constant changes in the lines. Perhaps no more no less than that.

  • I have to agree that it is not a religious song nor is a religious experience. The reference that firsts it wasn’t then it was then it wasn’t fails. I wasn’t a bed wetter then I was when I was 5, then I was not. By your standard, I will always be a bed wetter.

    I particularly like the Mona Lisa / rosary scenario.

  • Hi according to a bbc documentary this song is accually about music and the art of composing music it brings you through the highs and lows of trying to reach a hallelujah (minor fall and the major lift is the piano arrangement)

  • How about this for thought? Halle is a light so bright that it blinds us, and jah is the total sum of who God is. So when we declare Hallelujah it is an explosion of light to the enemies camp

  • I am not a religious person, though I am a spiritual one. I believe there is a difference. I am inspired and moved by Cohen’s words and I too “stand in awe and kneel in respect ” to that that great power. Words that cannot really be explained on an intellectual level, but felt.

  • Funny the guy has to appeal to a transcendent word to saying anything meaningful. That ought to tell him something, especially if he is half the genius folks say he is!

  • It is a religious song for all those that need the religion crutch. Other than that, it is a simple lamentation from one man’s heart.. Just like an opinion, it is not up for debate, just interpretation. Your interpretation does not modify the original and for me, your version does not apply.

    There are two people who have done justice in singing it. Cohen himself and Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night live. No child has the foundation to sing it and the Pentatonix failed at it.

  • I find it fascinating, although not surprising, how many people here are ascribing, or seem to feel the need to add strictly Christian interpretations and meanings to Cohen’s words, in spite of his having specifically stated that he intended the song to be a secular take on the concept of the word.

    This shows a real misunderstanding of the difference between religion and spirituality, but isn’t uncommon among zealous Christians without a more broad, deep and more accommodating view of spirituality in general.

    It shouldn’t really need to be stated, but spirituality predates Christianity, and many ancient myths/ ideas/ stories were incorporated into the bible. Cohen had a deep understanding of religion and spirituality.

    This song. aside from being a pointed juxtaposition of the carnal and the spiritual, is a beautiful, ingeniously wrought, deeply moving, multi-layered, wryly self deprecating and darkly humorous look at several subjects simultaneously, not the least of which, in spite of the obvious biblical allusions, is the recognition of spirituality as being a larger ground upon which various religions stand.

    Like most great songs or poems, there is enough ambiguity that there are many valid readings, many of which have been explored here and elsewhere.

    The song is a recognition of the spirituality and holiness in such human or “profane” things as the writing of a song, sex, an orgasm, trying or even failing to love or be loved, and the joy inherent in the miracle of life and consciousness in spite of our pain or imperfection.

    The secular use of the word “hallelujah” equates to a “thank you” for or acknowledgement of the miracle of life and consciousness, and is not at all dependent on there being a “God” as such.

    Cohen often spent a lot of time on, and often returned repeatedly to a particular work to refine it before being ready to consider it “finished”. His son Adam said that There were eighty four verses written for this song over ten years.

    The verses we hear were partly chosen by John Cale when he was working on his version and Leonard faxed him fifteen pages of lyrics, from which he claimed to have picked the most “Cheeky”. Leonard himself mostly hewed to these in his subsequent versions as well. I’ve also read that melodically Jeff Buckley was influenced by the John Cale version, and that these versions then influenced subsequent versions by Cohen.

    I’ve heard that one of the themes he claimed to be writing about was songwriting itself. I find it amusing that the very first line is, “Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord, That David played, and it pleased the Lord” -Which secret he then cheekily proceeds to tell us in the very notes.
    It also seems to me that the line”The baffled king composing Hallelujah” perfectly encapsulates the feeling
    that songwriters frequently describe of a song feeling as if it came to them miraculously.

    Another thing that occurs to me that I’ve never seen anyone mention is regarding the lines
    “She tied you to a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah”
    These lines are often interpreted as indicating betrayal or violence, but once again, beyond the obvious biblical references, I tend to read them as more likely indicating the need to be vulnerable and surrender some of your power and control in order to properly share in a truly ecstatic sexual experience.

  • Very nicely stated. Thank you.
    I fail to see why people want to add to, or even rewrite, it.
    It stands on its own very nicely and belongs to no one except Leonard Cohen.

  • The word Hallel can mean madness or praise. Seems to me that in madness there is a disconect from ourselves that may be necessray inorder to acheive the connectedness that is necessary to truly worship Jah (God). I think He likes irony and paradox, and the word hallelujah certainly has an irony about it. The lyrics of this song are full of irony. Hallelujah is generally a word of triumph, but in this song it is something extracted through pain. The pilgrim doesn’t see the light but says hallelujah all the same. To answer a previous post, I think the “you” that doesn’t care for music is God. Not that He really doesn’t care for it, but his affection for it is not consuming like it for an artist. Doesn’t mean that God is a spoil sport, but He is mysterious. He is not to be figured out and put in a box. Anyone that believes he or she comoprehends the meaning of it all, is deluded. I love this song!

  • Leonard Cohen s career had reached a low point when he wrote Hallelujah . It was 1984, and he had been out of the spotlight for quite a long time. His 1977 LP, Death of a Ladies Man, a collaboration with Phil Spector, was a commercial and critical disappointment, and his next album didn’t hear Hallelujah, the opening song of Side Two, as anything special. They didn’t even want to release the album, though it eventually came out in Europe in 1984 and America the following year.

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