ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Sincerely, L.Cohen

Updated on January 15, 2012

By Nils Visser

One of Canada’s most famous voices is that of Leonard Cohen, born in Montreal in 1934. He learned to play the guitar as a teenager, but first and foremost he was a poet. He opted for a literature course at the McGill University in order to launch a career as a poet, and in 1956 published Let Us Compare Mythologies. He moved to the U.S. in 1967 and soon gained fame as a singer-songwriter with his iconic Suzanne.

Leonard Cohen has continued to publish the occasional collection of poetry, the last time being in 2006 (Book of Longing), and has written two novels as well. However, he is best known for his music, releasing 11 original albums, starting with Songs of Leonard Cohen in 1967. His latest and 12th album, Old Ideas will be released on the 31st of January 2012. 

His songs have often been covered by other artists, most notably Hallelujah, selected by over 200 artists, amongst which the likes of Amy McDonald, Allisone Crowe, Jeff Buckley, John Cale, Alexandra Burke, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Brandi Carlile, U2, Imogen Heap, Katherine Jenkins, Neil Diamond and Rufus Wainwright.


Try some of this

The lyrics of Hallelujah serve as a good starting point to explain Cohen’s continued world-wide popularity, recently illustrated by a very successful series of concerts in a world tour which would have exhausted most younger artists, let alone a 74 year old singer-songwriter. By-the-by, when reading any lyrics by Cohen, do try to imagine them being voiced in his deep baritone, it takes ingenious poetry and lifts it to an experience that is, at the very least, moving if not spiritual.

One of the first lines is an example of Cohen humour, just like the title of this article, the standard closure of a letter which he uses to end the song Famous Blue Raincoat. In Hallelujah the narrator intrudes to explain the technical makeup of the song, i.e. the chords:

"it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift

We could spend a week discussing the meaning of the song, not quite within our present scope. We may conclude that a relationship is at the center of the song, and using that as basis we’ll settle for some of the somewhat disturbing and erotic imagery invoked by some of the lines. 

Cohen uses an allusion, referring to King David and Bathsheba in the line:

"you saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you.”

Here using a minimum of words, Cohen creates an image that almost makes the listener feel the tantalization and guilt of a peeping Tom. To be overthrown by beauty, a rare experience, one that truly does turn your world upside down when it occurs.

In a later stanza Cohen cleverly mixes a number of things, starting with the sharing of thoughts and (sub)conscious perceptions which used to take place between the two lovers but have since ceased.

“There was a time when you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?”

Judging by what follows, the lines above can take on a double meaning, involving a more physical interpretation as well. The stanza concludes by moving on to a sublime mix which seem to describe the physical act of lovemaking quite graphically, whilst at the same time elevating it to a religious experience.

“And remember when I moved in you
The holy ghost was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah”

At almost every turn one gets the perception that the singer-songwriter behind lines like these has lived life to the full, and bears his mental and physical scars with wonder and pride. He may have made mistakes, but they are his and he embraces them like he would one the lovers he sings about with such intensity. Some folks don’t like his songs, they find them unsettling, provocative, a tad too honest or just plain depressing. Others hear a master at work. A master of poetical devices and imagery. A master of song. A master of real life, including both pain and ugly truth as well as the inconceivable tenderness of intimacy and simple beauty of drawing breath and feeling the heart beat the rhythm of Life.



    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Nils Visser profile imageAUTHOR

      Nils Visser 

      7 years ago from Brighton UK

      Not always of the same quality. Recently discovered an Amy McDonald cover (check you-tube) that gave me goosebumps however. The best, in my opninion, is the recent Live in London concert in which Cohen steals it back from Wainright and Buckley.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 

      7 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      i recently discovered leonard cohen. big fan of his work. he does hallelujah the best, but rufus wainright and Jeff Buckley are fantastic! I had no idea the tune had been covered over 200 times!

    • profile image

      The Writers Dog 

      7 years ago

      A great Hub about a great artist. I also recommend The Brown Derbies' cover of Hallelujah. Of course, Cohen's fellow compatriot kd Lang also did a beautiful verison.

      Voted up.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)