From Jeff Buckley to Bob Dylan and from Celine Dion to Andrea Bocelli or Bon Jovi, who hasn’t given voice to Leonard Cohen’s cult song Hallelujah? But it was ignored when it came out almost forty years ago, an extraordinary destiny told in a new documentary, Alleluia, The words of Leonard Cohenexpected in French cinemas on October 19th.
For many it is still a piece by Jeff Buckley, the rocker with the face and voice of an angel, who drowned in 1997 at the age of 30. But these verses loaded with biblical references and eroticism by the Canadian poet and singer who died in 2016 have been picked up by dozens of other artists. In 2008, when she was successfully revisited in gospel mode by Alexandra Burke in the British television competition The X Factor, Hallelujah ranked 1st, 2nd and 36th in the English music charts, respectively the versions of Burke, Unforgettable by Jeff Buckley and the original by Leonard Cohen.
“I don’t see another song with such a trajectory“, Assures AFP the music journalist Alan Light, author of a book on Hallelujah (The Saint or the Broken, not translated into French), published in 2012. “It took 10 years, 20 years, going through all these different versions. “ before he goes and does “snowball”adds the one who was consultant and producer of this documentary, in theaters this week in the United States.
However, the trajectory of this song hadn’t started very well, as this film by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine tells us. Because, in 1984, a prosperous year for the music industry, the Columbia record company refused to release the album in the United States. Various positions in which it appears.
A few years later, it was Bob Dylan who released the first anonymity song, on a blues-rock cover. Then John Cale, one of the founders of the Velvet Underground, gave it a more sensual twist in 1991, before Jeff Buckley and the even more erotic version of him on the album. Adorn (1994).
The documentary shows how Hallelujahdiscovered by the new generations in the cartoon Shrek (2001), then in All on stage in 2016, sung by Tori Kelly, it became a piece of popular culture. In 2010, Canadian kd lang took over with a powerful voice at the Vancouver Winter Olympics ceremony. Eleven years later, it still is Hallelujah which is sung during a tribute to the victims of Covid-19 in Washington, in front of Joe Biden.
For Alan Light, there is first the “beauty of the melody“. But also texts that leave room for interpretation.”If, to you, it’s a religious song, that’s fine. If it’s a broken love song, great, you can too“. AND “there is no wrong way to play it“, He explains, recalling a cover of the ukulele virtuoso, the American Jake Shimabukuro.
But when Alan Light interviewed Bono for his book, the U2 singer still insisted on “to apologizefor a 1995 trip-hop version, where he talks more than he sings.
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