The idea that spirituality is bound up with human desire (see the end of yesterday’s post), is exemplified more so in Cohen’s most famous song, Hallelujah. He makes Old Testament references to David and Bathsheba as well as Samuel and Delilah, but interestingly, recorded a second, much more secular version.
The first, in 1984, was the product of five years and two full notebooks, struggling to “crack” the song.
In 1988, he changed most of the verses, removed most of the biblical references aside from “holy dove” (he also refers to a God, but not “the Lord”) and began to perform that version live.
The “full version,” apparently has something like 70 verses. When John Cale requested to cover it, Cohen (allegedly) faxed him 15 pages of lyrics. Cale’s version, which came out in 1992, combines lyrics from 1984 and ’88. Cale’s “mixed” version was covered by Jeff Buckley, then others.
I’m pasting both of Cohen’s below side by side for comparison, followed by embedded youtube videos of each version:
These lyrics were sourced from The Cohen Files.
Image caption: Artemesia Gentileschi, David and Bathsheba (1645) oil on canvas, 286 x 214 cm. Palazzo Pitti, Florence.