"Hallelujah" as written by and Leonard Cohen....
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


Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah
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

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah

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

Lyrics submitted by typo, edited by Woulfz, Trinztrix, caryo, BMBArtistMgt

"Hallelujah" as written by Leonard Cohen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Hallelujah song meanings
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  • +17
    General CommentWow, everyone has such deep interpretations of these lyrics, and they're all a great read.

    In a long long car trip my friend and I decided we should listen to the song and pause it, rewind, listen again, rewind, and analyze this song and here's what we came up with.

    Many people have already mentioned the biblical references to the story of King David (who supposedly was a composer of God) and his struggles with lusting over a woman and King David kills her husband and thus does the dirty deed.

    Possibly this Hallelujah is a corrupted Hallelujah. It's about sacrifice and love. King David sacrificed his morals and his relation with God by killing a man to obtain love, and that is why the Hallelujah is so dark.

    The first verse is very very fascinating. It begins with sarcasm. "You dont really care for music do you?" Possibly the subject in this verse is the woman that David killed for, and that the sarcasm is that the woman doesn't realize how great David's sacrifice was through breaking his relation with God by displeasing him.

    (Still talkin about the first verse here)
    The chord structure of the piece is exactly with the lyrics. The music actually plays the 4th and 5th chord progression in the piece and Cohen plays an a minor chord when he says "minor."

    After it is established that the subject doesn't care for music, Cohen goes on to explain the music anyway. This establishes that King David is more interested in composing a dark Hallelujah and he is baffled by the dark love that came from his bloodshed. Like, how can something good come out of murder and adultry.

    (The chorus)
    Obviously this Hallelujah isn't the typical Hallelujah that would be heard at Easter. The chords roll back and forward between F major and a minor creating a darker chorus. This being because the Hallelujah is a dark and repressed praise created by death.

    (second verse)
    Supposedly King David commited his adulterous crime after gazing upon a woman in the moonlight on a balcony. This second verse reinforces the biblical theory that this is about King David finding love.

    "She tied you to a kitchen chair"
    This part of the song could refer to King David being stripped of his morals. Symbolicaly speaking, he was tied to a kitchen chair, borke your throne and cut your hair, could be referring to a King David after he commited the murder and there was no turning back.

    It could also be possible that Cohen sings "she broke your throne, and cut your heir." Throne and Heir are two words that would most likely be seen together as opposed to throne and hair. However, in the bible Solomon (King David's son) was hurt by his father's actions.

    "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?"
    This could be King David speaking to God denying that he didn't take his name in vain because he killed for love.

    With that stand point, even the dark Hallelujah has a "blaze of light" like the holy Hallelujah.

    The final Verse
    The final verse is again King David talking to God basically admitting he was wrong, and he even standing behind the dark love is entirely wrong. However, by standing in front of the lord of song and only proclaiming his dark Hallelujah proves that it was worth it all to King David.

    Many people see it as a sexual references, and that could be very much so correct. There is just a lot of small parallels in the verses of the song to the bible that make the bible theory of this song more concrete.

    I still see this piece as a black love that comes through tragedy.
    bluedrummajoron August 20, 2005   Link
  • +9
    General CommentTo me, this song is all about how love can be so wrong, such a mistake, and yet at the same time, when all's said and done.. at the end of our life when we "stand before the Lord of Song", that it's never wrong, and it's never a mistake. C.S. Lewis wrote once that the only place where we can be safe from the dangers of love is hell.. And why would we want to be? :)

    And on another level, the whole song could be seen as a prayer, as the previous writer noted. Cohen's music makes me crazy sometimes because when I'm looking at lyrics, I'm not sure whether he's talking about a human relationship or a divine one. And a friend suggested that maybe I was analyzing way too much, and that, "maybe, if it's done right, all songs are a prayer at some level or another."

    I can't pretend to have an answer for that.. but the line quoted above, "There's a blaze of light in every word / It doesn't matter which you heard/ The holy or the broken Hallelujah.." pretty much says it all, for me. ;)
    sionaon January 13, 2005   Link
  • +8
    Song MeaningMost of the interpretations I have heard refer to biblical stories and of course it is impossible to ignore the analogies with King David and Bathsheba. However,I think these can obscure the meaning of the song and I would rather go beyond them. Analyzing a poem line by line sometimes misses the core of meaning which may actually be not fully realized by the poet himself.What after all was Kubla Khan, Coleridges poem about? It came out of a drug-induced reverie and the words are impossible to interpret literally.

    What I see in the poem is a man who finds it hard to reconcile his own singular personal quest for truth as a spiritual seeker and as a creative artist with earthly love.He is "overthrown" by the beauty of the woman bathing on the roof and intoxicated with desire for her yet with that comes compromise.Being tied to a kitchen chair suggests being bound to domesticity and having his hair cut recalls Samson whose strength was lost when Delilah cut his hair.He feels he has sacrificed his power for ephemeral sexual desire,emotional needs and freedom from the burden of loneliness.

    And inevitably the hallelujah, the ecstasy fades and withit bitterness and disillusionment since his lover has no feeling for creativity as evidenced by her lack of interest in music,his explanation of which seems to fall on deaf ears.

    At the same time,the sexual magnetism, "down below" has diminished or even gone in the way that the energy of many relationships weaken into dead habit.

    So there is a sense he has been left with nothing, doubting a god above and likening earthly love to a gunfight.It is as if he has betrayed his deepest yearnings and is only left with a cold and broken hallelujah, an empty exhortation, a state of inner desolation.

    Yet the tone of the song is so bittersweet, so beautiful and sad that there might be a suggestion that he has reconciled those feelings and accepted the limits of the relationship,knowing that even sharing a life with someone cannot assuage his inner loneliness.

    Hallelujah is a beautiful,ironic and melancholy masterpiece.
    TheStef112on December 22, 2010   Link
  • +6
    General CommentThe best version of this song is this version by Leonard Cohen.
    mafiachuckon April 13, 2004   Link
  • +5
    General CommentHere is my (long) interpretation for the longer version of this wonderful song.

    To begin with, I think the religious references have to do with the fact that the speaker's love was so strong that he nearly deified her. It probably also refers to the fact that many people, when they become desperate or depressed, turn to religion for hope. I am certain the religious references are not as literal as many people believe; Cohen was not a Christian. (However, he IS interested in the Bible and he believes there is a greater power judging our actions.)

    "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"

    The speaker used to be a "king". He was in charge and in control of himself. He knew what he wanted and how to get it. He wooed women with loving words; by singing "Hallelujah". He knew all the right "chords" and everything. But the woman this song is about is not moved; she doesn't care for such "music", even though it is enough to move the Lord. But, though confused by all of this, he continues to compose his song of Hallelujah/Love, which leads into the next verse.

    "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"

    This is his current Hallelujah song. It is no longer written to her, but to himself. He recalls how he fell in love with her, and how in that way he was at her mercy. She broke his throne; he was no longer the "king" he once was. She cut his hair, which is a reference to the Biblical story of Samson. (All of Samson's power was in his hair. He had romantic encounters with several women, and fell in love with one of them, Delilah. She cut off all his hair and thus destroyed his strength.) She drew "Hallelujah" from his lips, meaning he was in love with her when she kissed him; he loved her despite the fact that she toppled his power.

    "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"

    She doesn't believe he loved her. She believes he lied when he took the Name—in this case, "Love"—in vain. He admits that he doesn't really know what love is, but it doesn't matter, because he means it.

    "Baby I've 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
    But love is not some victory march
    It's a cold and broken Hallelujah"

    He's felt lonely like this before; he was lonely before they became lovers. Her flag he's seen on the arch is the happiness and pride she once felt for their love, which she now believes is gone. But he claims there is nothing about love to be happy or proud about; it is painful and lonely.

    "There was a time when you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?
    But I remember when I moved in you
    And the holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah"

    They used to be closer. She would tell him all about the things she felt inside, but she doesn't do that anymore. And he remembers when they had sex; it was beautiful, and he fell more in love at every breath.

    "Now maybe there's a God above
    But all I ever learned from love
    Is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
    It's not a complaint that you hear tonight
    It's not someone who's seen the light
    It's a cold and lonely Hallelujah"

    Maybe there is hope or a point to it all, but he can't see it. All he learned from love was how to hurt one another. She moved to hurt him first—she "outdrew" him—and so he hurt her—"shot at" her. He is not meaning to complain. He is not claiming to know more. All it is is painful love.

    "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"

    He didn't understand her (he "couldn't feel") but he tried to be there for her (he "tried to touch"). He never meant to trick her. Now the relationship has gone all wrong, but he still loves her. I especially like the last part of this verse. It implies that he's more or less given up on trying to move on; he's standing before the Lord now, ready to be judged, and he will no longer pretend or lie; all he has left to say now is Hallelujah—he still loves her.
    SwampHermiton January 09, 2006   Link
  • +5
    General Commentthere was a time when you let me know what's really going on bellow the surface, bellow your pose, you act, bellow your belt, bellow your cloths, bellow your everyday thoughts, bellow what you are willing to show to everybody else, but now you never show that to me, your eyes are sealed to me, i can't see your insides anymore, you are locked, do you? your soul is blocked. but remember when i moved in you, when i moved in with you and we were living together, when i moved in your body and your eyes were infront of mine such as every other limb of ours, and we were flying like doves and felt in peace surrounds us and moving us towards better air, colorful air, we breathed it in and then out and it came out as hallelujah.

    this verse is so sad, sad like tears.
    nati1271on October 25, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is a combined biblical reference and commentary about a relationship. Jeff Buckeley explicated this aspect of the song in his additional verses, but its clearly in the original. Brilliant song...
    enigmaticbasementon April 11, 2005   Link
  • +3
    Song Meaningverse #1 (first three lines)... refers to david of the bible but also eludes to the playing of the harp (consider that many guys talk about interacting with a woman the way they would a musical instrument, both physically and emotionally/socially, and tells of the woman not being interested in physical or emotional interaction anymore - (next three lines plus hallelujah): reminder of how they used to interact and what it was like

    verse #2 (first three lines): references batsheva's capture of david's interest and of a woman's power over a man - (next two lines): references delilah's betrayal of samson, forewarning of how a man can be hurt by woman - (continued with last line plus hallelujahs): in knowing delilah, samson's hair was cut, thereby robbing him of his strength; various hallelujahs elude to something stolen and something expressed - as in a man being 'released' from his independence and his subsequent appreciation of what he would not have otherwise known

    verse #3 (missing on this page): "Baby I have been here before... I know this room, I've walked this floor... I used to live alone before I knew you." - reasserting the idea that he had been with her, had shared a bedroom, and that before he became one with her he had been an individual but now he was only one half of something broken.- (continued): "I've seen your flag on the marble arch... Love is not a victory march" - love is destroying him because he can't move on having known what she was like - (continued): "It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah... Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah" - (various hallelujahs: a pleading for her return, a remembrance and appreciation for the past)

    verse #4 (missing on this page): "There was a time you let me know... what's really going on below... But now you never show it to me, do you?" - they are not intimate anymore, physically, emotionally, or otherwise - (continued): "And remember when I moved in you... The holy dove was moving too... And every breath we drew was Hallelujah" - their physical and relational oneness reflected one another, it was spiritual and beautiful - (continued): "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah" - (various hallelujahs: reflecting on how it was and reminding her of how great it was, etc.)

    verse 5 (first three lines): he knows he's not perfect or possibly even a good man but he doesn't pretend to be either, and maybe she is or feels it necessary to at least try to be, but why should she care whether he pretends to be or not? - (next two lines): there was an argument, and one or both were acting self-righteous - (next two lines): she was going to be upset no matter what he said - (hallelujahs): whether he went with the i'm-gonna-win-this-argument-at-any-cost type or the i-want-you-back-and-i'm-secretly-sorry type or the i'm-going-to-say-i'm-sorry-just-to-win-you-back type, any could have applied but none would have done him any good

    verse 6 (first three lines): it felt to him like they had fallen apart at that point so he tried just going through the motions afterward to see if it could still work, but she didn't come back to him in the way he needed, meaning he couldn't the relationship to go back to the way it used to be - (next two lines): it didn't work in the sense of them being together intimately - (next two lines): but, if it is over, he's still glad to have known her, the motions were still nice in some ways, he considers it a welcomed and righteous experience, no regrets but a certain sadness that it didn't last - (hallelujahs): all of the other kinds of hallelujahs mentioned before and possibly several others, unspoken and heart-felt, or as the listener might imagine were they in that situation.
    lqdcrcton September 08, 2010   Link
  • +3
    Song MeaningForget all the over interpretation, all the breaking down of the song into little pieces, all this discussion of King David and Bathsheba, masterbation (???), etc. - even to the point of breaking down what Cohen meant by using the word Hallelujah !

    The point is all these lines, all these references, ARE the tools to the meaning, not the meaning. What is the meaning? That inspite of all our mistakes, misunderstandings, inperfections and pain in love, life and our understanding of God we should — we must — still cry out thank-you, thank God, knowing it will never be perfect.
    This is clear to me. But you don’t have to believe me — I heard Leonard Cohen himself say this.
    appledanon November 26, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentLiterally?
    You can't take the word "it" literally when you're trying to interpret Cohen. no, I'm serious... (hah.)

    I'm not going to pretend I know what this is about. Cohen was such an incredible lyricist. Here's some things to think about, though:
    "You." Who is this crazy "You" person that doesn't like music much and had his throne stolen, etc. ?

    Why was she on the roof (this might acutally be part of the biblical story, I don't know)? What's the significance of the kitchen chair?

    I don't know this version here. I'm most familar with the Cale version on the Shrek movie, the last verses go something like this (I can't quite remember some of the lines): "All I ever learned from love/was how to shoot at someone/who out drew you/.../Love is not a victory march/it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah."

    I think a lot of this song has to do with the imperfections of humans, and how we, to the very end, will reach out for a Savior.
    "There's a blaze of light/In every word/It doesn't matter which you heard/The holy or the broken Hallelujah"

    Gosh. I don't know.... I haven't checked the song list under any of the other artists that have done covers of this song. Maybe there are some innvations under Tori Amos or John Cale or Rufus Wainright... etc.
    Greyshoeson December 19, 2004   Link

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