Friday, June 18, 2010

What's Your Favorite Version of the Leonard Cohen Song Hallelujah?

Lately, I've been hearing more and more covers of the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah". This includes adaptations for TV, the movies, and special events, like the last Olympics and the recent Hope for Haiti fundraiser. The song was also performed by two recent American Idol finalists, Jason Castro (in 2008) and Lee DeWyze (this season, 2010). According to a Wikipedia article summarizing the song and the website The Leonard Cohen Files, the song has been covered by different artists almost 200 times. There's also a great blog post that goes into more detail about the many covers of Hallelujah, and suggests that it is now "the most overused song ever". Good stuff.

Anyway, after hearing DeWyze attempt the song last month, it got me thinking about the different versions of the song, and which interpretation I like the best.

For my part, while I appreciate the emotional intensity of the the Jeff Buckley version, I favor the controlled sincerity in the John Cale treatment, and I was really impressed when I heard Kate Voegele's version a short time ago. She brings a lot of fresh energy to the song, and I think helps make it accessible for a new, younger audience.

What about you? What's your favorite version of the song? To help you think through some of the options, I've listed some of the more famous cover versions below.

Hallelujah - The Original
Leonard Cohen - Various Positions (1984)

Hallelujah - Famous Versions
John Cale - I'm Your Fan (1991)
Jeff Buckley - Grace (1994)
k.d. lang - Hymns of the 49th Parallel (2004)
Kate Voegele - Don't Look Away (2007)
Jason Castro - American Idol (2008)
Justin Timberlake & Matt Morris - Hope for Haiti Now (2010)
Lee DeWyze - American Idol (2010)


  1. I like (besides Cohen) Buckley and lang. But I also love Rufus Wainwright's version. You should check it out.

  2. Thomas - Thanks for the song nods and for stopping by. I've heard the Lang version but not the Wainwright one. Wasn't that one originally slated for Shrek?

  3. I actually like Lang's the best (also, besides Cohen) and Rufus Wainwright's version is beautiful. I haven't heard one yet that I have absolutely hated, though.

  4. Halahblue, yes, we're fortunate that there are so many varied and heartfelt versions of the song. I wonder if any other Cohen songs could stand more covers. Time for a new "Everybody Knows" remake?