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September 18, 2008


Rufus Wainwright sang it on the soundtrack of Shrek. I believe, John Cale, whose version is rightly praised, sang it in the actually film. The tension between the Disney and Cohen themes was exciting in that film. Especially, "Remember when I moved in you / and the holy dove was moving too."

The Cale and Buckley versions should be regarded as the best. Cale for his lovely piano accompaniment and throaty vocals. Buckley for the song's arrangement and the notes he hits. Some people might also like his version because he's dead.

While Cohen often does the best versions of his own songs, this one has always seemed to elude him.

For years there were few versions of the song available to be heard. Jeff Buckley's record company and his estate marketed his version so much that people who didn't know better thought he wrote it.

Now, there's so many different, and much more interesting, recordings of Hallelujah available thanks to the internet.

Leonard Cohen himself has been performing a great version on tour this year.

Hallelujah as a populist expression of sacred joy is evoked not only in popular music of the Broadway variety but in the aforementioned versions of the underrated Canadian troubador. Thank you for pointing this out without the obligatory footnotes (e.g. What is enlightenment). I wonder who wrote the hallelujah chorus that I can't get out of my head this morning. It has the line, "Satan lie's awaitin'" but I don't know if it's the same as "come on get happy."

Though ignorant of many more recent developments, I think I can answer SP's question. "Satan lies awaitin' / and creatin'/ skies of gray" is from "Hallelujah" (music Vincent Youmans, lyrics Leo Robin) in the show "Hit the Deck" from the late 1920s. "Come on get happy" is from the 1930 song "Get Happy" (music Harold Arlen, lyrics Ted Koehler), which was Harold's first hit and played the same role in his career that "Swanee" played in G. Gershwin's. Very astute of Sylvie P. to link these two spiritually similar songs from the same era.

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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