112. Jeff Buckley – ‘Hallelujah’ (1994)

“Well there was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show that to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you?
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was hallelujah”

Taken from the album Grace

Also released on Live From The Bataclan, Live At L’Olympia, The Grace EPs, Live At Sin-e, Songs And Artists That Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11, So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley and Grace Around The World

UK #2, AUS #70

What is there to say about a song like this? It seems like everybody loves this song. Whatever genre you’re into, I’m sure there’s someone within that genre who has covered ‘Hallelujah’, made it their own, made it special to a whole new audience. ‘Hallelujah’ has been covered so many times because it’s such a beautiful song, but also because it’s easy to adapt to, easy to feel connected to. Every artist I’ve heard cover Leonard Cohen’s original, from Imogen Heap to Alexandra Burke, Rufus Wainwright to k.d. Lang, each and every one has brought something new and taken something out of it. People treat ‘Hallelujah’ like religious scripture, to be passed on through generations and from artist to artist to audience and back again.

The lyrics in ‘Hallelujah’ are inspiring and intriguing, absolutely fascinating for me as a songwriter and magic to my ears as a music listener. I think the lyrics in this song have a lot in common with Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’. They mean so much without being literal, and they seem to be speaking to a generation – yet every time it gets covered or re-released, it speaks to a whole new generation in exactly the same way. It feels Biblical and important and full of history.

I have never heard a version that even comes close to Jeff Buckley’s 1994 rendition. k.d. Lang’s version is beautiful, to the point that it nearly always brings me to tears, Alexandra Burke’s version has an element of drama to it that I love, Imogen Heap gives the song a new intimacy with her a capella rendition, and yet none of them make me feel as much as Jeff Buckley’s. His voice is flawless, the instrumentation is perfect, and the version has a disturbing level of closeness to the listener. It’s as if the song was written especially for me, and yet it feels as though it was written as an anthem for everybody. That’s the true measure of an amazing song: you feel like it’s close to your heart especially, but everybody else feels the same way.

Audio:

k.d. Lang audio:

Alexandra Burke audio:

Rufus Wainwright live performance:

Justin Timberlake at Hope For Haiti Now:

Imogen Heap audio:

Leonard Cohen audio:

One Response to “112. Jeff Buckley – ‘Hallelujah’ (1994)”

  1. Sean Says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb and state that Imogen Heap’s version is the best one… Or at least neck and neck with Buckley.

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