Wednesday, 28 May 2014

‘A Blaze of Light in Every Word’

It’s said that Canadian singer-songwriter, Leonard Cohen wrote eighty verses for his famous song, Hallelujah but selected only four for the  final studio recording.


I’ve edited and am re-posting my original piece about Hallelujah now in tribute to the young men and women of the Israel Defence Forces to thank them for looking after us ordinary citizens during the seven arduous weeks of Operation Protective Edge.

The video clip (above), features the Band of the IDF Education Corps singing the song in Hebrew and was produced by


Leonard.CohenIt’s difficult to believe that the ol’ romancer celebrates his 80th birthday next month. Perhaps that marks a year for each verse of Hallelujah!

But as I’m a fantasist I find it difficult to think of him without speculating how  his work would look if he had become an ordained rabbi.

His background in and knowledge of Jewish tradition  and culture would make him half-way there without a smidgen of real effort. But who cares? I’m sure no literate person would deny him his place in the pantheon of great modern psalmists.

As I’m leaving discussion about his new album for another day, I’ll conclude this post with the studio version of the lyrics to Hallelujah and a simply marvellous piece from his 1961 poetry collection, The Spice-Box of Earth.

Meanwhile, I challenge any Cohen mavens (experts) reading this to explain why he spells the word ‘Jew’ with a lower-case ‘j’.

The Genius ("For you I will be a ghetto Jew ..")

“For you
I will be a ghetto jew
and dance
and put white stockings
on my twisted limbs
and poison wells
across the town

“For you
I will be an apostate jew
and tell the Spanish priest
of the blood vow
in the Talmud
and where the bones
of the child are hid

“For you
I will be a banker jew
and bring to ruin
a proud old hunting king
and end his line

“For you
I will be a Broadway jew
and cry in theatres
for my mother
and sell bargain goods
beneath the counter

“For you
I will be a doctor jew
and search
in all the garbage cans for foreskins
to sew back again

“For you
I will be a Dachau jew
and lie down in lime
with twisted limbs
and bloated pain
no mind can understand”



Now 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?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

“Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

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

“Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

“You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

“Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

“I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

“Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah”


© Natalie Wood (28 May / 29 August 2014)

1 comment:

Natalie Wood said...

From Alan Light's 'The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of 'Hallelujah' " ... The word hallelujah has slightly different implications in the Old and New Testaments. In the Hebrew Bible, it is a compound word, from hallelu, meaning "to praise joyously," and yah, a shortened form of the unspoken name of God. So this "hallelujah" is an active imperative, an instruction to the listener or congregation to sing tribute to the Lord.

"In the Christian tradition, "hallelujah" is a word of praise rather than a direction to offer praise – which became the more common colloquial use of the word as an expression of joy or relief, a synonym for "Praise the Lord," rather than a prompting to action. The most dramatic use of "hallelujah" in the New Testament is as the keynote of the song sung by the great multitude in heaven in Revelation, celebrating God's triumph over the Whore of Babylon".