I just ran across a powerfully moving song recorded by Jeff Buckley in 1994. Apparently this song has been used in many movies, including Shrek and Lord of War. I don’t know how I managed to miss it before.
The song is called Hallelujah. It was written by Leonard Cohen in 1984 and has been covered by a number of artists in many different styles, but the version by Jeff Buckley is simply heart stopping. He performs it with a single electric guitar and his voice. It is becomes even more powerful when you listen to it in light of Buckley’s tragic life, and untimely death by drowning in 1997.
The song has a tragic, melancholy feel to it, and Buckley sounds as though his soul is crying out to God for hope while simultaneously lamenting the pain and tragedy of life.
I have read a number of interpretations of the lyrics on various web sites. Some say it is not religious at all, but is rather a song about the pain of love in general. This song spoke to me on a very spiritual level, however. It is about the fall of man on a very personal level – the fall that everyone experiences away from God. Some lament this fall (as Buckley does here), while others pay little attention to it, or find it irrelevant.
The opening verse includes imagery of David playing music to the lord and praising him. This describes a time in man’s life when he is walking with God, though amazed, and confused by eternity – but singing Hallelujah (Praise the Lord).
The second verse goes on to describe the fall. It again uses imagery of David with his seduction by sin (when he sees Bathsheba bathing in the moonlight. He succumbs to the beauty of sin, which proceeds to enslave him (ties him to her kitchen chair), and remove the love of god from his heart (from your lips she drew the hallelujah).
The third verse describes life after the fall. He knows this life all too well, as he lived it before he knew God. It is cold and lonely in this place, but he is helpless to return to God by this time. He sees evidence of God (the flag on the marble arch), but all he has left are cold and broken hallelujahs.
The fourth verse shifts gears a little bit, allowing God to share his thoughts on the matter. He is sad that the man no longer talks to him, and he reminisces of the time that he used to move in the man and when their every breath was hallelujah.
The fifth, and final verse, is ultimately sad, as, by this time, the man is completely disillusioned with God, love, and religion. He is no longer even sure if God exists, and he questions whether love even exists, as he has seen terrible pain spread under the guise of love.
Click here to see a video of Jeff Buckley performing Hallelujah live (from YouTube).