Jeff Buckley was that voice and “Hallelujah” was the song destined for him alone.
In 1984, songwriter Leonard Cohen released his single “Hallelujah“. This high holy song was hell initially as it consisted of eighty verses before being editing. A Leonard Cohen composition though it may be, it didn’t find true mainstream success until John Cale (formerly of protopunk group, The Velvet Underground) came out with his own version of the song for the Leonard Cohen tribute album, I’m Your Fan. It was Cale’s version that ultimately inspired singer/songwriter, Jeff Buckley to release the song on his debut (and unfortunately, his only) studio album, 1994’s Grace.
There are some songs out there that have been released by those that breathed the breath of life into said songs, and just the same, a song is still just a song until it finds its true voice. Jeff Buckley was that voice and “Hallelujah” was the song destined for him alone. The song itself was never released as a single; and, it wasn’t until 2006, almost 10 years after Jeff’s untimely passing. Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” charted all the way to number three on the Swedish charts, which prompted Jeff’s label, Columbia Records, to release the song as a posthumous single in 2007.
Over the years, there have been numerous versions of the song that were released, each version, just as good as the last (although Jeff Buckley’s version is by far the best.) The song has been covered by artists such as Rufus Wainwright and k.d. Lang, who released her own version of the song for her 2004 album, Hymns of the 49th Parallel.
… the song that is always selected to accompany the collective mourning.
“Hallelujah“, although brilliantly beautiful all on its own has acquired itself the reputation of being the song closely associated with mourning, and above all other versions, it is Jeff Buckley’s version of the song that is always selected to accompany the collective mourning. Case in point, on April 20th, 2013, to remember those who fell victim to the Boston bombings, the song (again Jeff Buckley’s version) was played as a tribute at Fenway Park.
The song is now twenty years old from when Leonard Cohen first released it on his album, Various Positions. In terms of digital downloads, “Hallelujah” is still charting up there. The popularity of the song can not be overstated enough. Popular television shows, past and present, from The O.C., House, Without A Trace, and House Of Cards, just to name a few, have all featured “Hallelujah” on their progams.
… by right and rhyme, Jeff made the song his …
One day, the now seventy-nine year old Cohen will pass away, but fear not, Cohenites! His legacy is secure in the fact that try as one might, “Hallelujah” will always be there in some form or fashion, and by extension, the same could be said for the dearly departed Buckley, because, although he had no hand in the composition of the song, by right and rhyme, Jeff made the song his and whenever “Hallelujah” creeps into anyone’s consciousness, it’s Jeff’s version of the song that will forever remain prevalent in their minds. There’s a part of me that wishes that I could ask Mr. Cohen how he feels knowing that Jeff Buckley’s version is the king supreme of all other versions of “Hallelujah“? Few people might remember (I surely didn’t) but it was actually Bob Dylan who first covered “Hallelujah” on July 8, 1988 at the Forum de Montréal in Canada (much respect to Bob, but his version doesn’t even come close.)
I leave you now to decide for yourselves. Which version of “Hallelujah” do you prefer? Please let us know in the comments section below!