“That’s really a catchy chorus” – John Cale Talks About His Cover Of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”


You’re well known for covering “Hallelujah” at a tempo that defined future versions of it—the pace people identify it with.
Leonard’s tempo was much slower than mine. There were 15 verses, so it took a really long time to sit through a performance with Leonard. He was always very stately with it. I took it at the speed I could make sense of the words, because really that’s what makes it in the end. Can you grab people’s attention and hold it?

How did you decide you wanted to cover his song? Was it just for the I’m Your Fan compilation?
I remember hearing it when I went to see a Dylan concert at The Beacon, and he was on in the first half and sang the song, and I thought, ‘That’s really a catchy chorus.’ I really liked it. Then I forgot about it until the people at Les Inrockuptibles called up and said they were doing an album of his stuff, and did I want to sing one of his songs? I mean, I knew all the other songs. But I had to trim down the 15 verses on this one to verses I identified with, because a lot of them are pretty religious, and I don’t have much credibility talking about religion.

From Interview: John Cale Shares His Life Story by Cassie Marketos. Self-titled Magazine: February 21st, 2013. The entire article, an intriguing read, is available at the link.

Credit Due Department: Photo by Hreinn Gudlaugsson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikipedia

Note: Originally posted Jun 16, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Is NY Times Article On Redundancy Of Covers Of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah A Redundant Cover Of Michael Barthel’s 2007 Paper?

nyclapThe most popular Leonard Cohen-associated item on social media today is How Pop Culture Wore Out Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ by Nick Murray (New York Times: Sept. 19, 2016), Its thesis is summarized in this excerpt:

But “Hallelujah” is most familiar from film and TV, where it has soundtracked dozens of deaths and breakups, and been belted in too many singing competitions to count. Because it telegraphs emotion — both mournful and hopeful — and involves some vocal acrobatics, it has become shorthand for Big Emotional Moment and employed by performers looking to stamp themselves with authenticity. [Bolding mine]

Now, this is not the first publication positing the overuse of Hallelujah. A few examples of earlier pieces follow:

In addition, there are a batch of forum threads, tweet conversations, and book references to the phenomenon.

The original exposition of this hypothesis,1 however, is rarely mentioned.

Take a look at “It Doesn’t Matter Which You Heard”: the Curious Cultural Journey of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” by Michael Barthel (ClapClap.org: April 26, 2007).  And, compare this excerpt from Barthel’s paper with the excerpt shown above from the NY Times piece:

The way Hallelujah is being used here [in TV and movies] is the auditory equivalent of a silent film actress pressing the back of her hand to her forehead to express despair—emotional shorthand. It’s sometimes called a needledrop, and it’s an element of visual grammar that signals the mood of the scene loudly and unmistakably. [Bolding mine]

Readers will find that Barthel’s paper is more thorough and far more nuanced than the piecs that have followed (kinda like covers of Hallelujah, eh?).

And yes, this may be the first post calling for a moratorium on articles calling for a moratorium on covers of Hallelujah.


  1. OK, it’s the earliest exposition of this hypothesis as far as I know []

Video: Tori Kelly Performs Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” For Emmys 2016 “In Memoriam”

Update: See full sequence at Video of Tori Kelly’s Complete Performance Of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” For Emmys 2016 “In Memoriam”

For more information, see Emmys 2016: Watch Tori Kelly’s Touching ‘Hallelujah’ for ‘In Memoriam’ by Althea Legaspi (Rolling Stone: 18 September 2016)

Prince of Asturias Music School Students Return To School, Record Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” Throughout Oviedo


From Leonard Cohen Sounds Again In Oviedo (La Nueva España: 13 September 2016) via Google Translate:

On the occasion of the return to the classroom that takes place these days, Prince of Asturias Foundation has shared a video with the interpretation that young students from the International School of Music Foundation have made this summer Hallelujah,” a song by Leonard Cohen, awarded in the category of Literature in 2011.

View video at

Prince of Asturias Foundation Music School Students
Perform Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”


Also see University of Oviedo creates Leonard Cohen Chair, funded by the artist as “thank you” to Asturias

Credit Due Department: Thanks to CHEMA of Barcelona, who alerted me to this video.

Moldovan Independence Day Celebrated With Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

moldovaLeonard Cohen’s Hallelujah has appeared in multiple movies and TV shows, tributes, memorials, award programs, sports events, cultural festivals, and religious convocations. It has been used as a theme song at the founding convention of a Polish political party. I have not, however, discovered Hallelujah used to celebrate a national Independence Day.1 Until now.

Laurence of Paris sends word that the Presidential Orchestra of the Republic of Moldova performed Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah on August 27, 2016 in honor of that country’s 25th Independence Day.

Note: The performance of Hallelujah takes place during the first portion of the video, but feel free to hang around for the fireworks at the end.


  1. In considering the Easter and Christmas adaptations of Cohen’s lyrics, I did offer the Cohencentric 4th Of July Hallelujah. []