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25 Things You Might Not Know About "Hallelujah"
It was written in 1984 but only became a hit in the digital age. The amazing story of "the most perfect song in the world."
It's one of the best-loved songs in the history of recorded music, and the subject of a new book
It's been covered by all these people
In fact there are over 300 known versions
Bono has called it "the most perfect song in the world". And yet, "Hallelujah" didn't become a hit until decades after it was written...
It was originally composed by Leonard Cohen, and released on his 1984 album "Various Positions"
But Cohen's record company hated the album, describing it as a "disaster"
Another label put out the album, but "Hallelujah" wasn't even released as a single. People just kind of ignored it
And that's how things stayed for several years
The thing is, Cohen's is not the famous version. No, the arrangement everyone's familiar with is the work of John Cale, who covered the song in 1991
Cohen's original is very different, and features a whole bunch of verses that no-one sings anymore
In fact Cohen wrote around 80 draft verses for "Hallelujah"
When Cohen heard that Cale was interested in covering the song, he faxed him FIFTEEN PAGES of potential lyrics
Jeff Buckley then covered Cale's version on his 1994 "Grace" album. But that wasn't a huge hit either. At least, not initially
In fact, 'Hallelujah' didn't really hit the mass consciousness until 2001, when Rufus Wainwright's version appeared on the "Shrek" soundtrack
The film's musical directors assumed the studio execs would object, but to their surprise, they loved the song
Rufus Wainwright had known Jeff Buckley while he was alive, but only came to love "Hallelujah" in the wake of his death
It was "American Idol", though, that propelled "Hallelujah" to the top of the charts at last
From there, it started to appear EVERYWHERE
Imogen Heap's version soundtracked Marissa's death in the third-season finale of "The O.C."
On 21 December 2008, "Hallelujah" became the first song in 51 years to occupy the first and second positions on the UK Singles Chart
In 2010, Justin Timberlake recorded the song for a Hope For Haiti Now benefit concert
The great thing about "Hallelujah" is that it can be adapted for different occasions. Witness Adam Sandler's version, directed at Hurricane Sandy
It took on a new emotional resonance in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting
Ill Divo did an operatic version
Sheryl Crow sped it up a bit
It even sounds good on the ukulele
Not every cover hits the mark. Bono's was so bad - by his own admission - he offered the world an apology
Cohen's response to the song's ubiquity?
"I think it's a good song, but I think too many people sing it"
And his explanation of the song's meaning?
Well, he's always been cagy about that - but he did once offer this by way of explanation...
"This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled. But there are moments when we can reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that's what I mean by 'Hallelujah.'"
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