Friday, July 12, 2013

Poetry Friday: The Holy or the Broken

Now 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

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

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 a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You'll say I've took the name in vain,
But 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

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, 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

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah" Alan Light.

It’s the song that’s always playing in the background when a movie or TV show is sad. It’s the one that everyone always sings when auditioning for American idol. But when “Hallelujah” came out in the early 80s, it was a forgotten track on an album the label refused to release. As soon as it was recorded, Leonard Cohen started changing the words.

But then John Cale covered it on a Leonard Cohen tribute album (Cale’s version is the one at the end of Shrek) and then Jeff Buckley learned the Cale version and worked it into his set (his version is the one from West Wing.)

Cale and Buckley mashed together the original version and Cohen’s new version. The lyrics I quote above are the original version-- pay attention to the last two verses, as they're often not sung anymore. I think Cohen is the only one who does that last verse.

Everyone sings it. They sing different versions. They take different meanings. It’s holy and profane at the same time and, despite the fact it’s overdone, it’s still a damn good song.

Light does a great job of tracing the history of the song and how it suddenly exploded into this major thing, while at the same time examining how and why we respond to it and why it works so well in so many different contexts.

Bonus-- QR codes in the back take you to all the different versions discussed in the book-- VERY helpful.

Side Note-- I had forgotten the audio details of Cohen’s original version. I listen to a lot of Cohen, but mostly his earlier stuff. Oh my, I had forgotten the synthesizers in all of his stuff from the 80s. THE SYNTHESIZERS. Listening to the version on Various Positions (and then the entire Various Positions album) and I was immediately back in the backseat of my parents car. It was crazy.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is over at Today's Little Ditty.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.


Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Despite its overuse, I have always loved this song too. How interesting to examine the lyrics without the melody! And now I know it comes with an interesting history too. Thanks for sharing on Poetry Friday.

Mary Lee said...

I LOVE this song! It played in my mind the minute I started reading the lyrics. I agree about it being holy and profane at the same time. That's what I love about it.

Thanks for the history -- fascinating!!