Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah Meaning
Song Released: 1984
Covered By: Rufus Wainwright (2007), Jordan Smith (2015), Pentatonix (2016)
anonymous Nov 11th 2016 report
This was so comforting in light of the election. I'm thinking faith having to do with people doing the right thing as far as their responsibilities to their fellow man.Huge disappointment, but hope,too.
anonymous Nov 4th 2016 report
Not an interpretation, but need to add Pentatonix to the "Cover" list.
anonymous Oct 12th 2016 report
I believe the song has more to do with dealing with one's own disobedience against God.
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
The person is despairing that he has fallen out of favor with the Lord and that he cannot just play a song to make things better.
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
He falls to lust and feels powerless to come back from it. Even though he feels pleasure, it is empty and unfulfilling.
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
He tries to deny his sin and tell those who call him out that it's none of their business. He still recognizes the power in God's word, but is struggling with his indecision.
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
Finally, he feels redemption. He knows that even though he did wrong God is still kind and forgiving. The person has repented and again desires to be close with God.
anonymous Oct 2nd 2016 report
He first 2 lines of this song just haunt me. I see a person willing to compose a piece of music that would be good enough to be played for God Almighty Himself but alas no not good enough for u. Unrequited love. We've all felt it. Devastating
While Leonard is an observant Jew, his belief seems riddled with doubt. God may exist, he may not, or maybe the Jewish view of God is incorrect. At the end of the day, Leonard just doesn't know.
But also, at the end of the day, Leonard recognizes that, like all of us, he's living in this world, a world with temptations, disappointments, glories and heartbreak. Faced with these dichotomies, we can either fall to despair, or seek some form of spirituality to carry us through.
Spirituality, in its broader meaning, refers to our relationship with the world and the others that we share the world with. We are all connected, whether it be via some vast spiritual being that we're all just some manifest fragment of, or simply because we're all here on Earth, and are all in the same boat together. Either way works.
When Leonard says "Hallelujah" he's telling us that no matter what view of spirituality we want to embrace, our best affirmation of this spiritual connection is to simply be grateful. Grateful that we've been allowed to experience life in all of the varied levels that we've encountered. Bitterness will not help us ride out this roller coaster, gratitude will.
Hallelujah, I'm grateful that I've been allowed to participate!
anonymous Sep 3rd 2016 report
This song is about David's relationship with God and at the same time Leonard Cohen's. This interpretation is not based on this song only but the words of some of LC's others. He speaks a lot about recognizing his brokenness. I refer to the four verse version rather than the six verse.
The first is about the "secret chord David played that pleased the Lord." There is no such secret music chord, that chord is repentance from the mistake he made with Bathsheba. "But you do not care for music (repentance) do you". "It goes like this the fourth the fifth, the minor fall" (David's transgression), "the major lift" (David's restitution subsequent to his repentance Ps 51, after the prophet Nathan had pointed out his sin). "The King of battle, (which David was) composing hallelujah" or praise the Lord. David wrote many of the Psalms including many of praise. LC had experienced similar events in his life which were also transgressions (he spoke to himself about this is the song 'going home')
The second verse is David's faith "your was strong (had killed a lion, a bear and Goliath) but you needed proof" and then he saw her (Bathsheba) on the roof, her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you" (David and LC). The point being that none of us knows whether we can withstand enough temptation. The beauty and moonlight can overthrow us. His sin with Bathsheba overthrew him until he repented. This pleased the Lord. LC draws an analogy with the Samson-Delilah incident. She tied him to a kitchen chair, she broke his throne and cut his hair and from Davids mouth she drew (removed) David's desire to praise God.
Third verse, "you say I took His name in vain". Here LC is referring about himself and the life which he feels has not been as God-honoring as it could have been. "But I don't even know the name" (LC is searching after God including within the teachings of Christ. He refers to this often in other songs of his, for example that he does not understand the sermon on the mount). This is a deep sermon that many Christians also do not understand. LC understands a lot more than he lets on. "But if I did really what is it to you". We are not to judge the actions of others in that way. "There is a blaze of light in every word, it does not matter what you heard the holy or the broken, hallelujah". God is light (1 Jn 1:5) and when one speaks to God, whether out of brokenness (LC is very conscious of his) or holiness (no human is holy, but some may not feel the extreme sense of brokenness that LC does).
Fourth verse "I did my best, it was not much, I couldn't feel so I tried to touch (Read Act 17:27 in KJV where Paul explains to people on Mars Hill, that people seek God by feeling after Him that they might find Him, yet he is not far from us). "I've told the truth, I did not come to fool you". LC is telling us the truth of his life in this song. "and even though it all went wrong" (LC is repentant of many things in his life - he alone knows the extent), "I'll stand before the Lord of Song (God), with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah (praise). LC is aware that although he has fallen God will restore him like David. LC (like all of us) has nothing to offer but repentance, but God will honor that.
LC is a deeply spiritual man, spent 6 years in a monastery. He is acutely aware of how he has fallen and tells himself in many of his songs that he will be restored one day. Listen to LCs songs 'come healing", 'going home' (where he talks to himself and assures himself that he will leave behind his burden) and also 'anthem' where our brokenness is necessary for light to enter.
In many ways LC is reminiscent of Leo Tolstoy, a fellow human who was also tempted and felt too weak to withstand it, in spite of wanting to do otherwise. May God bless LC and many other of our fellow humans so troubled. May God have mercy on others of us who are not at all troubled about our transgressions.
anonymous Sep 1st 2016 report
Your flag on the marble arch was when hitler draped a nazi flag over the arc de triumph and marched his soldiers into france with little to no resistance.
Hence, the love existing between the couple he is singing about has lost all meaning, and is worthless like nazi germany's conquest of france.
My opinion anyway but yes, i have come to see that my love for god must come first, or i will end up like i am currently. Broken, lost, confused and alone, and missing my sons with every breath...
anonymous Aug 28th 2016 report
It's the story of returning to your first love, the safest place. Hallelujah. In human love, we are easily swept away and disillusioned to believe it is more than just chemistry. In the beginning we share what's deeply felt inside our souls with another and seemingly they with us. Unfortunately, once the conquest is made immaturity seeks something different instead of something deeper, more difficult, more dark, below the surface of we are willing to expose anymore. One person is abandoned for another and we are left completely exposed and vulnerable. Once lost, the pain we feel from having been nothing more than one more persons victory we are left with what to do with their new love interest that outdrew us...then return to our first love which cannot ever let us down because of its nature of relationship with us. Human emotional love is outgrown and a more stable version of mutual support and a commitment of sacrifice is accepted and traded in for the fleeting pleasure and life long pain of unrequited human passions.
anonymous Jul 15th 2016 report
I always thought Cohen was a dirty old man, but in a cooler-than-you kind of way.
So Hallelujah to me just seemed obviously sexual. lallelujah is the female orgasm, and how powerful and elusive it is.
Most of the song seems like a biblical analogy of oral sex on a woman.
I'm sorry if that offends those of you who consider it a hymn to be sung in church, but you know... Cohen is that brilliant dirty old man
anonymous Jul 13th 2016 report
It's Adam and Eve all over again. Again and again and again.
Drawn to material things (as opposed to spiritual) they prove to fail in fulfillment and we are left seeking higher power once again - often it takes being broken to bring us to place of seeking.
Not that love isn't spiritual... but reliance on things human proves both unlasting and unfulfilling and invariably ends in being let down.
anonymous Jul 13th 2016 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 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 report
Hallelujah reflects on the dichotomy between romantic and spiritual love
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