From Jeff Buckley to Bob Dylan and from Celine Dion to Andrea Bocelli or Bon Jovi, who hasn’t put their voice on Leonard Cohen’s cult song Hallelujah? It was however ignored when it was released almost forty years ago, an extraordinary destiny told in a new documentary, Hallelujah, The Words of Leonard Cohenexpected in theaters in France on October 19.
For many, it’s still a piece of Jeff Buckley, the rocker with the face and voice of an angel, who drowned in 1997 at the age of 30. But these verses loaded with biblical references and eroticism by the Canadian poet and singer who died in 2016 have been taken up by dozens of other artists. In 2008, when she was successfully revisited in gospel mode by Alexandra Burke in the British TV competition The X Factor, Hallelujah ranked 1st, 2nd and 36th in the English Music Charts, respectively Burke’s versions, Jeff Buckley’s Unforgettable and Leonard Cohen’s original.
“I don’t see another song with such a trajectory“, assures AFP the music journalist Alan Light, author of a book on Hallelujah (The Holy or the Broken, not translated into French), released in 2012.”It took 10 years, 20 years, going through all these different versions.” before she takes off and does “snowball”adds the one who was consultant and producer of this documentary, in theaters this week in the United States.
However, the trajectory of this song had not started very well, as this film by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine tells us. Because, in 1984, a prosperous year for the music industry, the Columbia record company refused to release the album in the United States. Various Positions in which she appears.
A few years later, it was Bob Dylan who released the first song of anonymity, in a blues-rock cover. Then John Cale, one of the founders of the Velvet Underground, gave it a more sensual turn in 1991, before Jeff Buckley and his even more erotic version, in the album Grace (1994).
The documentary shows how Hallelujahdiscovered by new generations in the cartoon Shrek (2001), then in All on stage in 2016, sung by Tori Kelly, it has become a piece of popular culture. In 2010, the Canadian kd lang took it over with a powerful voice at the Vancouver Winter Olympics ceremony. Eleven years later, it’s still Hallelujah which is sung during a tribute to the victims of Covid-19 in Washington, in front of Joe Biden.
For Alan Light, there is first the “beauty of melody“. But also lyrics that leave room for interpretation.”If, for you, it’s a religious song, that’s fine. If it’s a broken love song, great, you can too“. And “there’s no wrong way to play it“, he explains, recalling a cover of the ukulele virtuoso, the American Jake Shimabukuro.
But when Alan Light interviewed Bono for his book, the U2 singer still insisted on “apologizefor a 1995 trip-hop version, in which he talks more than he sings.