Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah became more poignant for me after his somewhat absurd and untimely death, especially when I contemplated the meaning behind the song’s words.

I like Jeff Kober’s interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s masterpiece, which I have pasted from his blog about Vedic meditation.


Hallelujah begins with reference to one of the great kings of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic world and mythos:

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


In the second verse, Mr. Cohen takes his musings into the realm of love while continuing with the Biblical imagery, now including Samson and Delilah:

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


Thus far Mr. Buckley’s version remains faithful to Mr. Cohen’s, and this faithfulness continues through the next two verses, both of which deal with the fraility of love and memories of what once was, and always with the holy chorus repeating its praise of the Creator:

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

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

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

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah


This is where it becomes interesting. This next verse also is shared by both Mr. Cohen and Mr. Buckley, but, aside from the repeating chorus ending the song (itself one of the most sublime croonings you ever will hear), this is Mr. Buckley’s last word on the subject:

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shot at someone who outdrew you.
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah


Sad, despairing, hopeless. Maybe there’s a God (not that he’ll ever do me any good), but love, that place wherein I sought salvation here on the earth–love itself is darker and more full of despair even than my heart.

This is the version so many have re-recorded. Ending here. How many? The song has been recorded more than 150 times.

Mr. Cohen is now 76 years old. He has spent and continues to spend time and attention and energy examining the spiritual aspect of things. He knows that nothing real ends in despair. Here’s his next verse:

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


“There’s a blaze of light in every word.” “In the beginning was the Word.” God is in everything, the holy and the broken. And all of it is Hallelujah, all worthy of praise. There is nothing that is not God.

And what does the humble poet, do, knowing this? Mr. Cohen’s final verse:

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
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah


I struggle with comprehending our existence in this mind-blowingly vast Universe, but even though I’m confused about who I am and why I’m here, I find this song tremendously comforting.

Whether we are lost or not, whether we are bitter are not, we must make ourselves submissive and grateful to the beauty and wondrousness of it all.

Believer or non-believer,

Peaceful or discontent,

Holy or broken,

It’s always Hallelujah.



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Rest in Peace Jeff Buckley 1966-1997