Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah Meaning
Song Released: 1984
Covered By: Rufus Wainwright (2007), Jordan Smith (2015), Pentatonix (2016)
anonymous Jul 13th, 2016 7:05am report
I found this song moves me to great depths! But I couldn't understand the words.
Mr. Cohen was refreshingly clear..so I was interested in the history and input here.
I understand how an artist adds words to his ballad to feed the crouds..
Music is such that each person who experiences the song is touched emotionaly. And we each have our own depths of emotion. Our own experience. Our own interpretation.
As a woman I must alter words to get the meaning that is digging at my soul.
Also I sing an octive higher and with power. So this is my interpretation of this glorious work of soul cleansing art:
1: Now I've heard there was a secret cord
That David played and it Pleased The Lord..
(spoken) But you don't realy care for music. Do you?
(sung to my self..building to powerful crescendo) It goes like this: the fourth-the fifth. The minor fall and the major lift..
The baffled King compossing
HALLELUJAH!!! (victorious) (thankful) (joyouse)..
2: My faith was strong-but YOU needed proof.
(reflecting) you saw her bathing on the roof..Her beauty and the moonlight
(spoken. Wondering. Knowing an ah- ha moment.)overthrew you.
(sudden anger and bitterness) He tied me to the kitchen chair!
He broke my throne,and He cut my hair!
And from my lips He drew my Hallelujah! ( despairing, loss, pleading to God) hallelujah..
3. So maybe there's a God above,
But all I ever learned from love was how to shoot someone..who out drew you.
And its not a cry that you heard at night.
It's not somebody who's seen the light.
Its a cold and its a broken
(bitter realization. Conclusion on the fight within. But the discussion gose on
A discussion of faith and supositions.) 4: You say I "took the name in vain", I don't even know the name..Even though I did!
Well whats it to ya?
There's a blaze of light in Every Word!
It dosn't matter what you heard. The Holy or the broken Hallelujah. (repeat as determination and strength builds)
5: ..maybe I have been here before..
I know this room.
I've walked this floor.
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen my flag on the marble arch!..But love is not a victory march!
It's a cold
And its a broken
(contemplating loss and broken trust)
6: I did my best, though it wasn't enouph.
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch.
I told the Truth! I didn't come to fool you!
And even though it all went wrong
(determined in mind and heart) I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!..(ends with deep gratitude, assurance, leaving wreckage behind and joyful dedication to, and love of God)
This song sais that the important thing in life is not our failures and imperfect state, niether slander nor abandonment, nor loss, but strength of spirit and greatful acceptance of the Love of God. For your song can "Please the Lord".
anonymous Jul 12th, 2016 7:42pm report
Oh, Hallelujah, praise You, Lord!
Please help Mr. Cohen and others to know who You are and to worship You in Spirit and in truth.
Please draw them to You. LORD God, You are love. You are what our hearts long for and the meaning of our lives. Hallelujah!!!
anonymous Mar 27th, 2016 3:27am report
Hallelujah reflects on the dichotomy between romantic and spiritual love
anonymous Mar 27th, 2016 3:04am report
It is the hardships of true love.
anonymous Feb 1st, 2016 2:59pm report
The phrase Hallelujah literally means "Praise Jehovah". As an old testament phrase, this was a poetic form of singing praise to God. As a writer of many portions of the psalms, David used this expression. Jehovah is identified in the original texts as Gods name. It was removed and still is absent in many modern bibles apart from Psalms 83.
The verse in the song referring to an unknown name, and the 'taking the name in vain' refers the 'jah' in hallelujah.. God's name that few people know these days.
anonymous Jan 12th, 2016 1:49pm report
The bottom line of this song is that it demonstrates the universality of all human experience. More so, it asserts that whether we know how, or why, whether we succeed or fail, or even whether we BELIEVE it or not, God is glorified. It artistically paints picture after picture of the individual coming to the realization that we are all subjects to an enigmatic, fearsome, yet somehow compassionate, King.
anonymous Jan 1st, 2016 1:32pm report
Our observations are extremely limited bc we experience the "world" through our senses. The person who posted on Oct 15th at 10:54 wrote a small explanation that's actually worthy of pondering.
Some are here to shed light and not to master
This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
anonymous Dec 23rd, 2015 12:24pm report
Hallelujah reflects on the dichotomy between romantic and spiritual love. While each verse describes the bittersweet heartache of a lost love affair, the chorus is just the repeated word "hallelujah", the essence of spiritual love. When "hallelujah" appears in a verse it refers to earthly joy that ebbs and flows and in this case finally turns cold and broken. In the chorus, "hallelujah" takes on a different meaning. With each successive utterance it moves from reflection to inspiration to conviction and finally, resignation. The chorus is compelling and satisfying because it tells us there is meaning in life and reason to celebrate, even in failed relationships. It is the spiritual distillation of romantic love that lingers in the heart.
I think it's crazy how much people project their own lives into songs. I suppose that is what music is supposed to do. :). Here is the way I see it:
The song is about a man (like Sampson and David) who has succumb to his desires and becomes completely enveloped by the love of a woman who ends up shattering both his heart and his belief in existence of God, brought about by the intense spiritual connection he once had with her. In the end, he is grateful for the experience. Hallelujah!
anonymous Dec 1st, 2015 12:04pm report
While acknowledging the efficacy of the biblical references, I choose a secular interpretation, in which a young man uses them as analogies to the bittersweet reflection of first passionate love to a woman who first awakens his passion. But she will not let that evanescent feeling bind her to him and eventually leaves him. He is at first left with the bitter anger of memories when their physical and spiritual love enthralled him, only to be cruelly abandoned. But now he can appreciate what she gave him, if only briefly, that will endure to other relationships. She will remain his instructor to the deeper meanings of feelings of the heart. And he can now remember her with gratitude for having started him on that heart-rending but necessary path through life.
ClarkTerry Nov 29th, 2015 11:59am report
Cohen's original version had only four verses and was deeply spiritual. It has evolved, or should I say "de-volved" to contain more physical references.
Here my interpretation of Cohen's original four verses:
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
Pleasing the Lord brings you joy, but cohen acknowledges that it's not a priority for everyone.
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
This is about how lust can "overthrow" you if your faith in God is not strong" enough. It will reduce your status in life to something less than it is now, like being "tied" to the "kitchen". Then he gives biblical examples of David and Solomon. Lust is so powerful that while you are destroying yourself you will still stay "Hallelujah" to the glory of the flesh. Note that he didn't say adulterous lusting for "her beauty overcame you" it "overthrew you".
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
Our nature is to rationalize sin. He points out that the glory of God AND the glory of the flesh can cause you to say Hallelujah because both instances have "a blaze of light".
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
This is judgement day. He confesses that he tried but wasn't as faithful has he should have been. He couldn't "feel" the spirit of God so he turned to the "touch" of flesh in an attempt to find joy in life. He acknowledges that "It all went wrong" but he has come full circle and again praises God again with "Hallelujah".
This song is beautiful in its original version, but has since been corrupted to celebrate lust. God made s-e-x to be a beautiful thing that brings joy a husband and wife, something worthy of Hallelujah for sure. However, the hallelujah in this song is not about that, it's about adulterous lust and how it can destroy you.
anonymous Nov 29th, 2015 11:03am report
We put our actions towards perfectionism, beauty, strength, wisdom, and earthly love and believe if we can attain all of those things we will become God-like. However there is a paradox to life on earth, and perfectionism, beauty, strength,wisdom, and earthly love can crumble to fascism, ugliness, weakness, ignorance, and hate.
We sing hallelujah to ourselves - like a pat on the back - when we accomplish great things, or luck goes our way, and feel like the spirit is a part of our very being- stirring within us.
We sing hallelujah to God - with a broken heart - when all of our earthly accomplishments turn to dust and we lose faith that God really exists. At those times we hope to hear a sound, or see the light or be provided with evidence that there is a God. But all we have in the meanwhile is an uncertain hallelujah until we feel the spirit move within us again.
anonymous Oct 15th, 2015 10:54am report
This song is an essay on the vanishing point at which the confluence of erotic, spiritual, and filial Love intersect. But there are no naked singularities. There is only Leonard Cohen reporting from the event horizon.
anonymous Jul 14th, 2015 7:15pm report
I sing this song from a woman's viewpoint -- but my interpretation is much like the first comment. Without that final verse, the song and the singer both end broken. But with that final verse:
"I did my best, it wasn't much
"I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
"I told the truth, I didn't come to fool yah
"But even though it all went wrong
"I'll stand before the Lord of Song
"With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!"
This is triumphant -- somewhat bitter, but still triumphant. The singer doesn't need to follow a Judeo-Christian tradition (I don't) to understand this. The "Lord of Song" could be any of a number of Gods -- Apollo, Herne, Lugh and so many more. Still, to stand before that god, still praising even in sorrow -- that's triumph
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