17 magical performances of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ (VIDEO)

A final hallelujah to singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, who has died at 82.

Singer Leonard Cohen, Netherlands. Rob Verhorst | Redferns

By now you’ve probably heard that Leonard Cohen, the renowned Canadian poet, novelist, and singer-songwriter, has died at the age of 82. Over the years, new recordings or videos of artists covering his iconic spiritual anthem, Hallelujah, have cropped up on a regular basis, and the song is so powerful that each new rendition—whether it’s by the rousing Choir Choir Choir or an Irish priest seranading a bride and groom at their wedding mass—breathes fresh life into the 30-year-old lyrics. The words, the melody, and the emotion behind both have a universal, moving effect that’s a rare find in the world of modern music.

Perhaps no other single pop song has touched the hearts of so many people of all faiths and walks of life. Hallelujah, with its Biblical imagery, the chord structure that is both hymn and anthem: I can’t listen to it without feeling both grief, and love, and a fundamental connection with all human beings going back to, well, King David. It’s both meditative and yearning and a prayer, as it should be—hallelujah means “glory to the Lord.” Whenever I hear it, from the first time as an angsty teenager sprawled on an unmade bed, to now, a supposedly level-headed grown-up and mother, I am reduced to a puddle of tears, somehow understanding that my puny feelings are part of a bigger, more joyful communication with the world—the living and the dead, the angels and devils and saints. Sometimes an artist comes along who is able to articulate, in a poem, play, or song, the entirety of human spiritual need and connection, and distill it into a few verses and a single-word chorus. Leonard Cohen was that man, and he will be sorely missed.

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Cohen’s music inspired artists across genres: Dozens of musicians have covered Hallelujah—including quite a few you might not expect (Bon Jovi???). But that’s how Cohen’s gift of songwriting invokes the divine: In writing a song that stirs the spirit in so many diverse people, he connects us all to one another, and to God.

We were surprised to discover the diversity of top musical artists who were equally moved by Cohen’s poem, and decided to highlight videos of 17 of them. Can you believe who’s on this list?

1. Bono

2. Willie Nelson

3. Regina Spektor

4. k.d. lang

5. Pentatonix

6. John Cale

7. Rufus Wainwright

8. Jeff Buckley

9. Brandi Carlile

10. Justin Timberlake & Matt Morris

11. Michael Bolton

12. Susan Boyle

13. Bon Jovi

14. Celine Dion

15. Renee Fleming

16. Neil Diamond

17. Bob Dylan

And of course, the man himself:

Cohen’s memory will continue to live on as each new crop of young people discovers Hallelujah—it will be a story passed from generation to generation as surely as we know the stories of King David and Samson and Delilah. If the videos have inspired you and you want to sing along, or simply read them as a kind of elegy, here are the lyrics:

Hallelujah

Well 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?
Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

 

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

 

Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

 

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

 

But baby I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor
You know, I used to live alone before I knew ya
And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

 

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

 

Well there was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show that to me do ya
But remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

 

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

 

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya

And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

 

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

 

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

 

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Hallelujah

 

Leigh Anderson
Leigh Anderson
Leigh Anderson is the author of "The Games Bible: The Rules, The Gear, The Strategies" (Workman, 2010) and has written for Vox, Newsweek.com, and Popular Science, among others.

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