Why Leonard Cohen’s Touching Song Hallelujah is my Favourite and Why I Prefer the KD Lang Version

Leonard Cohen’s version of Hallelujah may be raw, rough and ready, but for a number of performers it has been delivered in the true spirit of everything Cohen meant it to be when he wrote it. Leonard Cohen is first and foremost a poet. He will be the first to stand in line to proclaim he is not a singer. Personally, I find his voice hauntingly realistic and have enjoyed the infamous ‘Hallelujah’ for many years. But my appreciation for the song changed when I witnessed KD Lang performing her version at the Winter Olympics in 2010.

Words and music by Leonard Cohen
Words and music by Leonard Cohen

It was certainly appropriate for Ms Lang to stand up and face an audience of billions in a country where she had spent many years as a resident. The fact that Leonard Cohen and his song ‘Hallelujah’ hailed from Canada may not have been coincidental but the result was ethereal. KD Lang’s voice, Leonard Cohen’s lyrics and composition resonated with a world audience and the best acoustics of our generation. The combination brought a new life to an old favourite and sent chills up the spine and leaves me with goosebumps every time I hear it.

Leonard Cohen

The debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen was first released in 1968. Leonard Cohen was well into his thirties by then but had published poetry and prose in his earlier years. He was born in Montreal in 1934. Hallelujah can be found on his Essential Leonard Cohen album.

Leonard Cohen Singing From Helsinki

This video clip from Helsinki shows Leonard at his best. He lets the song, lyrics and music enfold him so we become enraptured by his delivery. He feels it, so we feel it. Hallelujah.

Leonard Cohen's Version - After All it is His Song

Hallelujah is on the Hymns of the 49th Parallel

KD Land's Version of Hallelujah

I apologise for not being able to bring you live footage of KD Lang’s version as performed at the Olympics but the recording is live. Apparently downloads are restricted to iTunes visitors. I'm sure you will be able to feel the power of KD’s voice and appreciate her interpretations of a classic from one of the master song writers – Leonard Cohen.

KD Lang - You be the Judge

What do the Lyrics Mean?

The lyrics to Hallelujah have changed since the original version from Leonard Cohen on his studio album Various Positions. The song has been performed by many including John Cale, Jeff Buckley, Bon Jovi and Justin Timberlake. It seems each performer puts their own mark on the song and the lyrics all of which amuses Leonard Cohen, given that his first recording was rejected by his record company. It has been reported there were 82 verses in the original lyrics. Some say it is biblical with mentions of Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath while others say it has sexual references or a touch of melancholy that could relate to relationships.

When interviewed Leonard Cohen refers to Hallelujah and says, "I can't sing and I can't play the guitar and I don't know if this is a song..." When he was inducted into the songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2008 he said there was a verse from the song he wanted to share.

I did my best, it wasn't much

I couldn't feel so I learned to touch

I told the truth, I didn't come to fool you.

And even though it all went wrong

I'll stand before the Lord in song

With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Song 1 Challenge My Favourite Song

This Hub has come about as part of a challenge set up by afunda. Instead of the usual 30 Hubs in 30 Days Challenge he has suggested writing about songs. The idea came from Facebook and you can read his introduction to the challenge in the link below followed by his favourtie song. Hallelujah is certainly up there with my favourite songs. I have too many to pick just one. Song 2 of the challenge will be my least favourite song. It would be wonderful to have you all follow this journey into the world of music through my ears and from the heart.

© 2011 Karen Wilton

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Comments 29 comments

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

Very nice, Karanda. Good luck with the challenge. I'll 'think' about it. :)

Karanda profile image

Karanda 6 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks for the support and encouraging words Denise.

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

Let me know about that hub and the forum link again...can't locate the one for the songs. Thanks :)

profile image

Erik S. 6 years ago

I've heard OF this song, but I'd never actually listened to it. Until today. You had so conveniently posted the video on your hub.

It honestly made me cry. It's so deep and so beautiful. So uplifting yet so heartbreaking at the same time. I feel so humble when I listen to it, and I can't thank you enough for sharing this song.

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

K- KD Lang's voice is so clear and rich isn't it. I loved her version. Brought a sweet ending to this Valentine's Day tonight. Thanks for sharing.

Karanda profile image

Karanda 6 years ago from Australia Author

Thank you Erik, I'm so glad you got something from this. It moves me every time I hear it and yes, I guess it does make me feel humble too.

Karanda profile image

Karanda 6 years ago from Australia Author

KD Lang does have such a powerful voice, I can't think of any other female who could have carried those notes as steadily as her for the opening ceremony Denise.

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

Hi Karanda,

I love this song so reading this hub and listening to the different singers really was a treat !!

I really do think that KD Lang's version was by far best version.

Good luck with the challenge and i look forward to following you.

Take care,


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

Thank you for this wonderful share of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. I wrote a poem in one of my hubs near this past Christmas and added Leonard's version the original.

However there are certainly three others who have done his great song justice. KD Lang, Bon Jovi and Rufus Wainwright, if you haven't listened to Bon Jovi's it certainly is a treat.

My favorite next to Leonard singing it himself is Rufus, have a listen, I hope you enjoy. Great hub, thanks again for posting it.


Karanda profile image

Karanda 6 years ago from Australia Author

Thank you Eiddwen for reading and listening, looks like we agree on this one too. I had always loved the song just the way Leonard Cohen sang it but it is great to hear the different interpretations by other performers and there have been plenty to record Hallelujah!

Karanda profile image

Karanda 6 years ago from Australia Author

Saddlerider1 I am so glad you enjoyed this and yes Rufus Wainwright's version is pretty close to the original Leonard Cohen. I wanted to include a video from Bon Jovi because he puts a different spin on the song but I couldn't find one with a decent volume that would show off his voice. Thank you for the link and extras.

attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 6 years ago from Australia

Hi Karanda i listened to Lcs song for the first time when Saddlerider posted it. It's not my cup of tea, as his voice is too low, but the lyrics are amazing.

Karanda profile image

Karanda 6 years ago from Australia Author

The lyrics certainly are amazing. To each his own definitely applies here. The reason I enjoy Leonard Cohen's version is because his voice is so low.

attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 6 years ago from Australia

It's a shame it's not so low we can't hear it. Only joking, of course. KD Lang's version is beautiful. Lenard's is too and it's an incredible haunting song that the world has to thank Lenard Cohen for creating.

Karanda profile image

Karanda 6 years ago from Australia Author

Love your sense of humour Keith. I'm glad you appreciate the song and KD Lang's version of Hallelujah.

inlamtwily@hotmail.com 6 years ago

Leonard Cohen's song is so beautiful. I don't believe there is a "best" version as so many people have their own favorite. Of the 200 or more covers I love Allison Crowe the most, and Rufus Wainright is great, too. John Cale, Norway's Guitar Buddies, and many other versions are deservedly loved. Leonard Cohen's performance of Hallelujah on his recent touring is also wonderful.

The Olympics used pre-recorded tracks for their opening ceremony performers. Still it's a very dramatic production and kd lang's version is one of the many hugely loved covers of this song for our times.

Karanda profile image

Karanda 6 years ago from Australia Author

You might be right in that there is not necessarily a best version. Hallelujah is one of those songs that gets picked up by the best performers. I had heard that KD Lang actually sang it live but I have been unable to verify. Thank you for commenting.

Ask_DJ_Lyons profile image

Ask_DJ_Lyons 6 years ago from Mosheim, Tennessee

His version of the song is one of my absolote favorites. I adore this song; therefore, I read your hub with great interest. I got chills when I heard KD Lang's version. Wow! Thanks for sharing. I will follow this song tour with great interest. Thanks again. I voted this up. Woo hoo!

Karanda profile image

Karanda 6 years ago from Australia Author

I'm so pleased I was able to introduce you to KD Lang's version of Hallelujah. There is no comparison to Leonard Cohen's of course, each performer putting on their own stamp on those wonderful lyrics. Thank you for taking the time to comment @Ask DJ Lyons.

cathby profile image

cathby 6 years ago from Canada

I saw KD Lang perform this song at the Olympics - it was absolutely amazing, words can't describe the feelings I felt as I watched her sing it. I have heard this song performed by many different artists but KD Lang is the best, she gives her mind and soul into the performance of this song!!!

Karanda profile image

Karanda 6 years ago from Australia Author

Cathby what an amazing experience for you. KD Lang's Hallelujah performance was extremely powerful on television so I can't imagine what it must have been like to have seen it live. Thank you for sharing those moments.

Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

I love this song, too! I wrote a hub featuring Jeff Buckley's version. His rendition is so very raw and heartfelt that, even after listening to KD's brilliant vocals, I love his best.

Still, I could listen to this song over and over. Our church organist played a rendition at a recent funeral that brought me to tears.

I appreciate the insight you offer from Leonard Cohen, as well. Thanks so much for helping raise the Monday sun in Colorado.

Karanda profile image

Karanda 5 years ago from Australia Author

Storytellersrus thank you for sharing your Hub on Jeff Buckley, I thoroughly enjoyed it and yes, his version of Hallelujah is something. Glad to be able to bring some sunshine to your neck of the woods and thank you for bringing some to mine.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

What a treat to find your hub today and enjoy this wonderful version of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. I had never heard him sing. There are other versions that I love as much but this man's depth and feelings come through in his distinctive voice. Thanks for a great listen.

Karanda profile image

Karanda 4 years ago from Australia Author

Glad you enjoyed the read and the unique sounds of Leonard Cohen, it truly is special isn't it?

frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 4 years ago from Central United States of America

Interesting read, and I believe KD Lang's version is most beautiful. But Leonard's sounds like George Burns - sorta- and I enjoyed that one too.

Karanda profile image

Karanda 4 years ago from Australia Author

Thank you frogyfish for reading and listening. George Burns I'm not familiar with so I'll have to take your word on that one. I love both versions of Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen as he intended it to sound and the KD Lange version as she sang at the Olympics.

gsidley profile image

gsidley 4 years ago from Lancashire, England

As a life-long Leonard Cohen fan, I enjoyed this hub.

Throughout the last 35-years of my life, I think I can identify some of his lyrics that perfectly capture my mood at the time, be it sadness, anger, jealousy, infatuation, hopelessness or bravado. Indeed, I might make that the focus of my next hub (or perhaps that's too self-indulgent?).

Karanda profile image

Karanda 4 years ago from Australia Author

Ah yes, gsidley, the lyrics from many a Leonard Cohen song can certainly resonate on our past. Go ahead, be self-indulgent, I would read a Hub with that sort of focus.

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