Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah Meaning
Song Released: 1984
Covered By: Rufus Wainwright (2007), Jordan Smith (2015), Pentatonix (2016)
1TOP RATED#1 top rated interpretation:anonymous Jun 27th 2017 !⃝
The beginning talks of David and his chords that play hallelujah. Then came the betrayal of Sampson by Delilah and God by David with Bethsheeba. I think it speaks of the point that love betrays and not every hallelujah comes from a happy and joyful heart, but it can also come from a place of hurt and betrayal
2TOP RATED#2 top rated interpretation:anonymous Mar 27th 2010 !⃝
The first time I heard this song it touched me. Both the melody and the words are really powerful. This is my interpretation.
The logic of the song is there can be many different hallelujah's. Hallelujah can be said in many different circumstances.
Lennard Cohen uses this theme to talk about the hardships of love.
There are many biblical references in the song (King David, Samson and Delilah). I will not go in to them, other have already explained these references in great detail.
There are many versions of this song. Even LC did not always sing the same verses.
I believe the version he performed during his 2008 tour (maybe still does) is the most logical (complete):
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
David loves music, but his love does not. He does not understand this (is baffled) and tries to explain (the cords are matched by the actual song), thus composing the Hallelujah.
I believe this is about unmatched intrests in a relationship.
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
The man (David) falls in love, but the relation is not a healty one. It ends up with him submitting and losing his powers. It is a distructive relationship and the Hallelujah is one of dispair.
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
Maybe the most "black" verse, reflecting on the bitterness of love. When you hear a Hallelujah it's probably not because of joy (seeing the light), but because someone is hurting.
Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
The relationship still exists, but it's hollow. It is like it was when he was alone. He has seen the glorious side of love (the flag on the marble arch), but the love is not lasting and his hart is broken, therefore the Hallelujah is cold and broken.
There was a time you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah
He remembers when things were good, how their lovemaking made him feel like they were really together, and their Hallelujahs were those of joy and ecstasy.
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
The conclusion of the song: Here LC turns from looking back to looking forward.
We try, but often fail in love. We start with the best intentions and though it can go wrong, we need to try. In the end it is worth it. This Hallelujah is optimistic, because it shows that the hardships have not defeated him.
This last verse is not included in most covers, but for me the last verse makes the song complete. It takes it full circle, bringing back the biblical relationship between the subject and a (the) Lord. It also gives the song a hyperbolic ending, which I prefer.
3TOP RATED#3 top rated interpretation:anonymous Mar 21st 2017 !⃝
The reason the lyrics of this song are so beautiful is because of the double and triple meanings in all of the verses. As you read the reviews you start to realize that multiple interpretations are correct. It takes a lot of thought from a brilliant mind to speak to people from all walks of life in the same sentence, covering an entire gamut of beliefs and emotional states, each able to conclude a different meaning. I guess one could call it biblical in its own right.
anonymous Apr 17th 2022 !⃝
To me, it's about faith in God, those you love, and in yourself. All of these are so very delicate in our lives. Love this song!
I think the interpretation is quite simple. Leonard Cohen is writing about a relationship he had and uses biblical references to express the ideas which come from Jewish philosophy that God provides all the experiences - both good and bad in our lives, for our ultimate benefit; and that we should praise God for the good as well as the bad.
Leonard Cohen was interest in esotericism and mysticism or in a different word spirituality.
This song is about self realisation, peak experience, spiritual awakening whatever you like to call it.
The king is the ego, thinking creates almost every suffering in our life. So the first part when he say the minor fall and the major lift is the falling away of the ego and realising what you are awareness or a soul.
In esotericism there is a part that is divine feminine, simply said if the masculine is action the feminine is being. The symbol for the feminine is a moon that can you see as a death and rebirth.
So the second part explains what a realisation can do with you, the ego is not anymore on the driving seat but something different and more powerful.
The third part explains that everything feels so natural if you have these type of experience because it's what you are without all the layers of ego and all your defences and idenity. Love is not a victory march is about that you can't get to that point by doing something or action that the love we seek outside ourself is not a true love. And that love that we know of is a part of the ego and a selfish love, so what can i get out of a relationship for example there is a part that needs something.
The fourth part explains the experience of oneness or the mystical experience, the dove is a symbol for the soul. I think it was Rumi who said in nice words your realise that you are not a drop in the ocean but the ocean in a drop so that means i move in you, Jesus said also i am the father and the son.
The fifth it that we never really accept life as it is and when things comes close or hurt we push it away.
anonymous Nov 30th 2020 !⃝
For me, the verses were clearly & unquestionably written from the perspective of Bathsheba's husband, Uriah the Hittite, one of the elite soldiers of the Hebrew King. The Old Testament texts firmly indicate that the husband was not aware of the affair, but Cohen assumably wrote his verses that Uriah knew “what’s really going on below.” So based on his creative freedom, Uriah was a broken & betrayed lover, husband & soldier. Perhaps Cohen was projecting his own love life at the time.
Once you see the dynamics, EVERYTHING will begin to make sense including the flag on the arch. It was a "victory flag" raised by a soldier's wife hoping for her husband's safe return, or welcome sign from a victorious war. But for Uriah, the flag no longer represented a victory in his eyes. It became a sign of defeat & betrayal. Looking back or forward at the flag from a distance, he sings achingly "Love is not a victory march. It's a cold and a broken Hallelujah.”
BTW, who the heck brought Samson into this? Nonsense!! Cutting hair is a symbolic gesture by a strong woman who emasculated a powerful King in her domain, kitchen!! Meaning she was now in control!! She even sat on him “and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah!” Oh, you are so slow. In other lines, Uriah "moved in you (Bathsheba)" & “The Holy dark/dove (King's dove. Wink!) was moving too (in Bathsheba.)”
Why was David a baffled King? Because he was still allowed to remain as a King & a Prophet in spite of all the transgressions & sins he had committed (adultery, murder, cover-up, etc). He knew he blew it becuase he was THE judge in the house of Israel. Not only that, young David was just a humble sheep herder & a harp player who eventually became one of the most powerful Hebrew Kings in the Jewish/Biblical history!! Buffled? Anyone would be.
The King’s “faith was strong but” he still “needed proof (of God)” even after all the miraculous blessings he received. So, God indeed shows the proof that David was careless & powerless enough to risk all of his kingdom to satisfy his lust. He already had 5 wives when he “saw her on the roof.” OMG!! He was given a sign in the form of a test that God’s Power & Wisdom were far greater than himself.
Back to Uriah. He was a Hittite, that means he was not a born Jew. So he was probably a convert to Judaism to satisfy his wife, as well as the requirement to join the powerful Hebrew army. In one of the less known verses, Uriah says “You say I took the name (of God) in vain (by converting). I don't even know the name (Jews typically avoid mentioning God’s name.) But if I did, well really, what's it to ya?”
Unlike David, Uriah’s faith was not strong, so he (or Cohen) sings “Maybe there’s a God above.” And the lesson he “learned from love” was “how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.” David obviously outdrew him. A bitter lesson learned from his love triangle.
“It’s not a cry (Uriah’s) you can hear at night.” Or cry of “somebody (David) who’s seen the light (God’s grace.)” Cohen says it doesn’t matter whose hallelujah it is. Hallelujah drew from the broken love “is a cold” and “a broken Hallelujah." In fact, one of the verses he says “It doesn't matter which you heard. The holy or the broken Hallelujah.”
Once you listen from the right perspective, things become very clear. BUT this is just my opinion. Take the best & leave the rest.
Based on Rufus Wainright’s lyrics - The same as Shrek version.
Also refer to genius.com lyrics for a few less known verses.
anonymous May 9th 2020 !⃝
My own take on the interpretation of the lyrics is “reconcile the irreconcilable”, as love and life are supposed to be good and even perfect, but in reality they are surely anything but that. However, that must have have been God’s will, not ours. So all we can do is to praise the Lord, even though we don’t know why it happened the way it did.
anonymous Mar 15th 2020 !⃝
Having read the various interpretations above, it is clear that whatever was originally meant by Leonard Cohen doesn't much matter, except to him. Like most music, what the melody, chords and lyrics mean that is most important, is how the individual interprets it. Even if Cohen was to reveal what he meant when he wrote it, would that make the song more meaningful, or less so? More than likely, it would re-enforce some people's views, while others might be disappointed, or simply ignore it and continue to interpret the words as they relate to their own experience. Isn't that what music is after all?
anonymous Dec 22nd 2019 !⃝
Clearly, the interpretation is personal. When I watch K.D. Lang perform it, I can feel all the angst she has known in her life, and also feel that there can never be a full recovery from deep pain. The religious references bring us back to our basic existence, suggesting that nothing we experience is new.
anonymous May 3rd 2019 !⃝
ive told the truth.. i didnt
come to fool you .. to me its my prayer and promise to god
anonymous Dec 19th 2018 !⃝
I love it...Never knew all the lyrics, but after watching the special tonight and hearing both Leonard Cohen and K.D. Lang perform it feel I have a better understanding...It related to David/Bathsheba and Samson/Delilah...And life, love and Cohen’s own relationships...”Hallelujah”
anonymous Dec 18th 2018 !⃝
Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen is a very deep but at the same time clear lyrics. The latest comment clearly explained the interpretation of this lyrics.
-The person who made comments on songs recently
anonymous Dec 18th 2018 !⃝
Its a twin flame love expressed. mad and crazy love thats inevitable.A spiritual , physical and emotional love altogether.
anonymous Oct 3rd 2018 !⃝
I love what one of you said: " That's why the night has to come before the day." So true, this song speaks to everyone. The music and lyrics are genius together and this is hands down one of the best songs ever written.
anonymous Jul 5th 2018 !⃝
I think it was about a girl he was with who did not care about music or the part when it says "she tied you to her kitchen chair she broke your throne and she cut your hair" he was in an abusive relationship or it could be both and when he says hallelujah it's because he got away from her and he was free I love the song though.
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