Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The baffled king composing Hallelujah

So goes an incredible song written by Leonard Cohen and successfully covered by many, many others, but none so well as Jeff Buckley. This is a song that I feel very close to for some reason that I can't quite explain. The lyrics are beautiful, but I'm sure that it's Buckley's voice that continues to draw me in. His vocals have the ability to keep me hooked through all 7 minutes of the song, even when I've lost the ability to sing along. The lyrics are just esoteric and intellectual enough to make me feel smart for catching, and are grounded in enough real life heartbreak and uncertainty to keep me invested. The meaning of their words has been debated by many - some say Cohen was writing a tale of love from the Bible, others say it's an allegory of alienation. I will never know. I don't even care to venture a guess. This song makes me glad that it was written. It makes me glad that so many have stumbled upon it, and that I could be one of them. At different points in my life, I have identified with different sections. But I've always listened to the whole thing. It will always stand out to me as one of those perfect songs. They rarely come by, so I'll hold on to this one. As well as "Last Goodbye" by Jeff Buckley, also a great song.

Brief sidenote - as a testament to the far-reaching love of this song, it's been featured in at least three end of episode, important-reflective-things-happening-now montages on very good TV shows, most notably "House" and "West Wing." The WW usage actually had me in tears, big, blubbery (OK I also had the flu) tears. I don't know why it's the underground touchstone of a few generations, but I think there's more going on in this song than we hear on the surface.

I heard there was a secret chord
That david played and it pleased the lord
But you don't really care for music, do you
Well it goes like this the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah ....

Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to her kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah .... .

Baby i've been here before
I've seen this room and i've walked this floor
I used to live alone before i knew you
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
But love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah ....

Well there was a time when you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show that to me do you
But remember when i moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was hallelujah

Well, maybe there's a god above
But all i've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
It's not a cry that you hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah ....


Melissa said...

The West Wing usage made me cry, too. And I didn't even have the flu.

Blue Moon Mama said...

Oooh, I love this song, too.

The Cohen version is great, and the Buckley version is so...heartbreaking, almost.

The squeaker loves this song, too. He sings along. :)

Anonymous said...

The lyrics bring tears to my eyes almost EVERY time. I think the best version I've heard is the one by Rufus Wainwright. I sounds like he's in pain from the lyrics. For me, a life sufferer of depression, it's beautiful. Not for someone to be in pain, but to hear emotion thru lyrics and sound. It makes me feel not so alone.

mike said...

according to John Cale, Cohen wrote many more verses, of which Cale only selected a few. Does anyone know where to find all the verses Cohen wrote?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if it's all of the verses, but you can find a few more of them here: