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Getting Through : Music and Songs


from Jules - Saturday, August 27, 2005
accessed 4152 times

This is probably my all time favourite song. Cohen is a lyrical genius. I have read a number of analyses’s and reviews of this song and no one seems to actually get it.

I have quoted from this song in the past in my articles on here, but I am curious to hear critiques of the entire thing from participants, if you are interested in doing so. Just the biblical references alone are something I think most people don't get.

As an aside, my last serious boyfriend came from an orthodox Jewish family and he was the only one of the people I have dated who thought it was fun to quiz each other on bible trivia. :) (No I don't do that all the time, but Trivial Pursuit sucks--I know nothing before 1995. There is only so much one can catch up on and I am trying to do literature.)

Anyway all that to say, this Cohen song is one that resonates with me on many levels.


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, she cut your hair,
and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, 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!
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Baby I've been here before.
I know this room, 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

There was a time you let me know
what’s really going on below
but now you never show it to me, do you?
I remember when I moved in you
and the holy dove, she was moving too
and every breath we drew was Hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Now maybe there's a god above
but all I ever learned from love
is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
and it's no complaint you hear tonight
and it's not some pilgrim who's seen the light.
It's a cold and it's a lonely Hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best; it wasn't much.
I couldn't feel, so I learned to touch.
I've told the truth, I didn't come all this way 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

Reader's comments on this article

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from moon beam
Friday, April 20, 2007 - 13:18


Try this one--Jeff Buckley
(reply to this comment)
from valhalla
Friday, April 20, 2007 - 10:35

one of the best versions of this song that i have ever heard...
(reply to this comment)
from moon beam
Wednesday, September 07, 2005 - 13:42

One of my favorite songs! I first heard it sung by Jeff Buckley-amazing voice. He only completed one album due to his un-timely death in a drowning accident in the missisipi. He holds the last "Hallelujah" for a breathtaking 15 or so seconds. Another great song on his album is "Lilac wine".

They also played it on radio One after the mins silence for the victims of 9/11, it seems so appropiate now.
(reply to this comment)
From placebo
Friday, April 20, 2007, 10:45

Last Goodbye is amazing as well " kiss me out of desire, baby not consolation".(reply to this comment
From moon beam
Friday, April 20, 2007, 13:19

I love the whole album, it's one of those rare ones where every track is the bees.(reply to this comment
from placebo
Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - 09:18

I know that John Cale(Velvet Underground) also did a cover of it for a movie soundtrack.I can't remember the film's name but it was about a Creole artist in the 80's who was a protege of Warhol with David Bowie playing Warhol.
(reply to this comment)
From lucidchick
Tuesday, August 30, 2005, 09:58

Would you be referring to the film "Basquiat"?(reply to this comment
From placebo
Tuesday, August 30, 2005, 10:20

Yeh, believe that's what it was called.(reply to this comment
Wednesday, August 31, 2005, 04:51


nice to see someone else here with special needs, among others (sleeping with ghosts)(reply to this comment

From placebo
Wednesday, August 31, 2005, 08:05

Well that and black market music, but without you I'm nothing.(reply to this comment
from exister99
Monday, August 29, 2005 - 21:34

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

Yes Jules, Cohen is a fucking genius. Firstly because he shares a name with a vilain from the Heaven's Girl comics (no, I have sadly not purged all cult trivia from my mind), but also for his hilariously insightful lyric "democracy is coming, to the U S A!"

One of the perks of living in the live music capital of the world is that I have been able to experience this song in a live, piano accompanied performance courtesy of one Nano Whitman.

Meaning: we're all fucked. Does the refrain and the lyrics of this song not scream out that fact?! It's a cold and it's a broken, fucking hallelujah. Those of us who were forced to believe are hallelujah screwed, but the poor saps who still believe are double, hallelujah screwed, and is there anything more beautiful than that realization.

All I've ever learned from love is how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya! What is love, some evil trick of the human phsyche that allows us to love ourselves and destroy others while believing that we are loving them. The core of love is rotten with an arrogant self regard that poisons all those we touch.

If I'm rambling please forgive me. I just polished off a very nice Pinot and am chasing it with a box of fine chocolates. Julia, this song needs no analysis and no explanation. If it's very melody and crescendos don't make you want to scream out with your most primal human rage then you are incapable of feeling, but I imagine that label applies to most of our parents.

Maybe there's a God above, or maybe there fucking isn't, but the truly courageous being won't give a shit either way!

I love you all...
(reply to this comment)

From Jules
Friday, September 09, 2005, 20:24

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

I agree that this song needs no explanation. However, every form of exceptional art does resonate in a different way with each of those who appreciate it.

For myself, this song to me says something perhaps slightly (though perhaps only just) more optimistic than "we are all fucked".

For me, these lyrics are about the loneliness of the artist. That is an exceptionally tired clique, I know, but I see it as being about the person who is driven by the rhythm of who they truly are.

Most people in life don't ever play "the secret chord" that resonates within them. They are content to not ask questions and to quiet the voice of reason that tells them to ask "why?". They accept what they are told and if they once had that passion for integrity, it has gone and they have now have no desire to know what lies beyond what is accepted, or to reach within themselves to speak "a blaze of light in every word".

Those of us who have left our community of origin, because on some level, for whatever reason, we knew it was wrong, do have that passion and need to be true to ourselves, and it does cost us.

It is difficult to lose your faith, whether that be faith in the Family or Jesus or Christianity in general. It is a loss. Part of what is left of ones innocence dies with the faith that one had in a higher power, a Big Brother, who would look out for you.

The need to be who we are costs us relationships at times as well. People sometimes see what they want to see in us, and perhaps we project what they want as well. When you have fought so hard and so long to be free though, eventually that will assert itself and one's partner may not understand why or how you need to move on, yet that it is what drives us.

I suppose I feel that at the end of it all, I must be true to who I am, no matter what it costs me. It is who I am.

In the Family, there was really only one person who stood up for who they individually were, and that was Berg. Every other person in the group just followed what he said to do. Even he chickened out when things got too difficult, Malta and his back pedalling on his public stance about child sexual abuse being prime examples.

Everyone else in the Family never had to make any descisions on their own ever. Even Zerby and Kelly just go along with what Berg already created. I am sure many people have had the same annoying experience that I have when people in the Family write them with the same arguments word for word that have been published by leaders in the group.

And that's the whole point of this song for me. It would have been so much easier in some respects to stay in the Family, as some people I grew up with did. To turn a blind eye to their past and what I knew to be true. To supress my thoughts and the injustice that screamed out to me and to remain in the culture of my birth. The FGs said it was the "easy way out" to leave, but is so much more difficult to start your life over and to face rejection from many of those you grew up with.

But when that is in your soul, no matter what the cost, you must do it, and "stand before the lord of song, with nothing on your tongue but hallelujah." (reply to this comment

From Joey
Saturday, December 31, 2005, 00:05

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

It is indeed a burden sometimes so close to being too heavy to bear to be true to your self. As soon as you turn away from any form of pre conceived ideals everything becomes a variable. There is nothing to go off bar our internal substance. Organised religion of any description is, to me, an out for those who perhaps can't, won't or just aren't ready to stand on their own two feet and risk ridicule by saying this is what I truely believe is my truth.

There is alot of talk about persecution for beliefs in the various religions that exist in our world but it's softened by the fact that there are another 100,000 to millions of people believing the same thing. Some questions challenging their chosen faith can be deflected with the old "So many people can't be wrong!"

What if it was only you? What if being true to yourself meant that you were the only one one the face of the earth who felt a particular way? Would you have the substance to stick to it? All these questions I've been asking myself for way too long and from an unnaturally early age. At 12, once released into "normal" society, trying to re examine every little aspect of my reactions, morals, responses, feelings, motivations, etc, etc. Because I put the time in and was open to any answer, not just the ones I wanted, I've found myself in a funny spot I never expected to find myself in! Now at 30 I've constructed for myself a stage that is built on one of the firmest foundations I've felt. I know what I believe because I've examined the options. The best part is that I'm confident enough to allow my conclusions to be open to further change, additions and in some cases complete reconstruction if an opinion of enough founding can prove itself to me.

All I'm trying to say is that all the hard work is worth it.

I've said it once and I'll say it again, Jules, your light shines far and your strength is contageous.(reply to this comment

From vixen
Tuesday, August 30, 2005, 05:19


I love you too, but it's 'PSYCHE'!(reply to this comment

From exister99
Tuesday, August 30, 2005, 07:56

It is generally considered poor taste to nitpick things that were written in a drunken state.(reply to this comment
From vixen
Tuesday, August 30, 2005, 08:03


Well, I guess that makes me the mistress of bad taste, then. *shrugs*(reply to this comment

From lucidchick
Monday, August 29, 2005, 22:21

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

A while back I took to joking that my optimism was killing me (e.g., optimism that there would be justice, or that academics would not take offense at those who are moved by our survivors' stories -- or at the verly least be bright). But that's only on the bad days.

I recently found a quote that unfortunately sums up much of what life has left me feeling (as I recognize it on the days when I have the clarity to face things):

"I don't consider myself a pessimist at all. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel completely soaked to the skin."—from interview with The Daily Telegraph (1993)




squish(reply to this comment

from ErikMagnusLehnsher
Sunday, August 28, 2005 - 08:14


That's a beautiful song. I must confess that the only place I had ever heard it before was in the movie Shrek when Shrek was on his way to deliver Fiona to Lord Farquaad...see what kids do to you? :)

I think it was the Jeff Buckley version. Not at all like a country song.
(reply to this comment)

From monger
Sunday, August 28, 2005, 09:37

That's the first place I remember hearing it, too. Just looked it up...the cover in Shrek is by Rufus Wainwright. I'm listening to his version now, and while it's not my favorite it's still excellent. I must say my appreciation for the song is growing still.(reply to this comment
From Ne Oublie
Monday, August 29, 2005, 02:34

That song tends to remind me of Hide & Seek (by Imogen Heap).(reply to this comment
from abso
Saturday, August 27, 2005 - 18:58


I assume you've heard the Jeff Buckley rendition of this song?

- Quite honestly you had written the lyrics somewhere on this site even before I became a Jeff Buckley fan and heard his version of this song on his Grace of my all time favs

"love is not a victory march.
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah"

"I ever learned from love
is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you"

.....whatever love is, I love these lyrics

(reply to this comment)

From Jules
Saturday, August 27, 2005, 21:02


No I have not heard the Jeff Buckley version. Please tell me he is not a country singer. To have a country singer revise this song (not that there's anything wrong with them--when they stick to pickup-trucks, heartbreak and how much they love their kids) would be more than I could bear.

If Buckley is not a country singer, he needs a new name. (reply to this comment

From Holon
Wednesday, September 07, 2005, 11:44


What a harsh words my good friend. Dont we all have heartbreaks,love our kids and yes,some of us ( Dan) have pick-up trucks. There aint' nothin wrong with singin what ya know and love my dear. Dont knock it till you try it!

CALL ME!(reply to this comment

From abso
Sunday, August 28, 2005, 02:12


when you get a chance to hear the Jeff Buckley version I'd be interested to hear what you make of your favourite song by one of the best artists ever

On a more casual note, I find many people interpret neediness or being needed for love...(reply to this comment

From vixen
Sunday, August 28, 2005, 02:52

Jeff Buckley was amazing and his cover of 'Hallelujah' is absolutely beautiful.(reply to this comment
From Jules
Friday, September 09, 2005, 20:45


Just for the record, I was not trying to bash Jeff Buckley, I had just never heard of him.

To be honest, I usually Google things I don't know so I don't sound so ignorant and I guess I should have done that with him as well.

I know this is incredibly geeky on so many levels, but I wish I could hook up a Googlish thing to my brain to immediately give me information on on all those things I still am clueless about in my real life. (reply to this comment

From monger
Saturday, August 27, 2005, 23:10


I know what you mean about country singers ruining classic songs. The other day I heard a country rendition of Pink Floyd's Have A Cigar that probably ruined the song for me for life.

As for Hallelujah, Buckley's version is great. Allison Crowe is a bit much for me....and I can't say I've heard KD Lang's cover. Cohen doesn't really stretch himself too much when it comes to singing, but his downbeat delivery does work very well with his music. I too love the lyrics to this song, and I won't try to critique it as I'm sure I'd fail to do it justice.

As for country lyrics, I'm particularly fond of this bit by David Allan Coe:

Well, I was drunk the day my Mom got outta prison
And I went to pick her up in the rain
But, before I could get to the station in my pickup truck
She got runned over by a damned old train
(reply to this comment

From Solo
Tuesday, August 30, 2005, 09:17

I agree with you when you say that Allison Crowe is a bit much, I think she focuses too much on the vocals and not enough on the beautiful simplicity of the song. I believe Jeff Buckley did the best job when it comes ot that. His rendition was full of emotion and simple and the simplicity of it was what made it profoundly beautiful. Criticise me if you like but I think that song was meant to be simple and not fancy with special vocals and all that. Anyways there are my three cents I expect a cent back.(reply to this comment
From More ho-down country
Monday, August 29, 2005, 08:29


Mama wears nightgowns in the garden
Cause she knows them taters got eyes
She's partial to cukes, then the carrots
Her man's sanctified johnson don't rise... (reply to this comment

From anovagrrl
Monday, August 29, 2005, 08:20


Mama likes to wear nightgowns in the garden
'Cause she knows them taters gots eyes station in my pickup truck
She got runned over by a damned old train (reply to this comment

From anovagrrl
Monday, August 29, 2005, 08:30

Damn! Got caught by a software glitch. How do you get single-spacing to happen here, anyway?(reply to this comment
From Old Joke
Sunday, August 28, 2005, 10:48


Do you know what you get when you play a country record album backwards?

Your wife, your dog, your job, your health...etc(reply to this comment

Saturday, August 27, 2005, 22:12


No, not a country singer. Lots of americans use shortened names, even people with high-powered positions. Here's a bio:

Here is a link to the CD:

I only know about this because the other day I was doing one of those obsessive, play the song a million times but still can't get enough things on this song.

Did you know it was covered by KD Lang?

What do you think of Alisson Crowe's cover? Track 3 of "Tidings" set:

The other day in a starbucks I heard a growling rendition of Hallelujah and I am trying to figure out who it was. I started with Tom Waits as a theory, but if it was I can't find the recording. Amazon sucks as far as trying to find specific songs.

I hope one day I get to hear your critique...(reply to this comment

From Big Sister
Monday, August 29, 2005, 20:23

That was undoubtedly the cd "Lifted" you heard in Starbucks; a cd compliation by Hear Records. A few years ago I also heard Hallelujah in a Starbucks and bought the cd on the spot, just for that song. That's Rufus Wainwright, Loudon Wainwright's son, singing.(reply to this comment
From monger
Sunday, August 28, 2005, 11:12


With all this talk of covers, here're five versions of the song for those who are interested:

It'll be down in a day or two.(reply to this comment

From lucidchick
Monday, August 29, 2005, 22:25

Thank you, monger. awsome public service :-)(reply to this comment
From lucidchick
Monday, August 29, 2005, 22:46

That shoudl read "awesome" - sorry about the typo.(reply to this comment
From lucidchick
Monday, August 29, 2005, 22:56

And THAT should read "should." But I'm stopping here so as not to embark on my own infinite typo project.(reply to this comment

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