Bob Dylan: Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)

bob dylan 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

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

“He said, ‘I like this song you wrote called Hallelujah.’ In fact, he started doing it in concert. He said, ‘How long did that take you to write?’ And I said, ‘Oh, the best part of two years.’ He said, ‘Two years?’ Kinda shocked. And then we started talking about a song of his called I And I from Infidels. I said, ‘How long did you take to write that.’ He said, ‘Ohh, 15 minutes.’ I almost fell off my chair. Bob just laughed.”
~Leonard Cohen (quoted in Telegraph 41, p. 30)

This is one of my fav Leonard Cohen songs.

Released December 1984
Recorded June 1984
Genre Folk rock
Length 4:36
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Leonard Cohen
Producer John Lissauer

Hallelujah” is a song written by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, originally released on his album Various Positions(1984). Achieving little initial success, the song found greater popular acclaim through a cover by John Cale, which later formed the basis for a cover by Jeff Buckley. It is the subject of the book The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah” (2012) by Alan Light. In a New York Times review of the book, Janet Maslin praises the book and the song, noting that “Cohen spent years struggling with his song ‘Hallelujah.’ . . . He wrote perhaps as many as 80 verses before paring the song down.” Many cover versions have been performed by many and various singers, both in recordings and in concert, with over 300 versions known. The song has been used in film and television soundtracks, and televised talent contests. It is often called one of the greatest songs of all time.

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in 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

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Other notable versions:

Leonard Cohen – album version:

Leonard Cohen – live at the Montreal Jazz Festival 2008:

John Cale:

Jeff Buckley:

Rufus Wainwright:

K.D. Lang – Live Olympic Games 2010 Opening Ceremony

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan first performed Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ on July 8, 1988 at the Forum de
Montréal in Canada. Montréal is Cohen’s home town and it is possible that he attended the show.
Dylan’s second and final performance, on his “Interstate 88” tour, was on August 4, 1988, at the
final night of a three show residency at the Greek Theatre, Hollywood.

Dylan and Leonard Cohen first met sometime in the late ’60s and have remained friends ever
since, meeting whenever the opportunity arises. One such occasion was after a concert in Paris,
probably Dylan’s October 7, 1987 show at P.O.P.B. Bercy. The two songwriters spent some
considerable time talking shop, over coffee, in a café somewhere in the 14th Arrondissment of
Paris. Dylan told Cohen that he especially liked the ending to his then new song ‘Hallelujah’.

“And even though it all went wrong / I’ll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on
my tongue but hallelujah!”

~Derek Barker (The Songs He didn’t write)


..And here they are in all their glory….

Baby I have 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
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah


  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • G. E. Smith (guitar)
  • Kenny Aaronson (bass)
  • Christopher Parker (drums)

Forum de Montréal, Montréal, Canada – 8 July 1988:

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?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Greek Theatre, Hollywood, Los Angeles – 4 August 1988:

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken 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

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22 thoughts on “Bob Dylan: Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)”

  1. I’ve played this song ( Hallelujah) on many tapes I’ve made. My brother introduced Leonard Cohen to me in the early 70’s. Loved everything he sang, have two LP’s of Cohen, a lots of home made cassettes. I resiliently tape a CD of Christen Faith music, and the song “Hallelujah” is on it, I enjoy listen to Leonard Cohen, I’m a long time fan, Good Luck to Mr. Leonard Cohen.

  2. I truly hope no one else covers this song ever again. Its a truly great song, but it has been flogged to death, which is a great shame. Dylan and Cale did it years ago, which was fine, but since Buckleys version its been done more times than stairway to heaven.

  3. This is nicely put together and I’d agree that Cohen’s humour is missed by a lot of the other artists who’ve covered Hallelujah.

    I’d dispute the date of the Dylan and Cohen meeting though, as it’s probably not 1987, but more likely 1984.

    The Cohen quote seems to have originated in a 1985 interview, which is mentioned on this page:

    so if that’s correct, the “coffee meeting” was on 2nd July 1984. Plus the fact that they were discussing “new” songs like Hallelujah and I and I would seem to support this date.


    1. But the song wasn’t released until December 1984. Also, could this conversation have taken place in Montreal ?

  4. Thank you for sharing all of your posts of this song! Wonderful! I have a version that is my absolute favorite. Justin Timberlake (I was not that much of a fan until I heard him do this song actually) singing with Matt Morris at the “Hope for Haiti” fundraiser telethon…..incredible…..


    Connie Champagne’s Judy Garland returned from the dead to sing a show of songs she never got the chance to sing before she died, and although I’d heard the song from a few good singers and from the composer, it finally knocked me out here.

  6. Even as a loyal Dylan-fan since 1969 ! who believes “nobody sings Dylan like Dylan”, I feel compelled to confess ( horrors ! ) that Hallelujah is best by Cohen, who has the most mesmerising voice from within to capture and let loose what is his. More so in his mature years, as in the video-clip 2008. Thanks for the posting.

    1. I was going to say the same thing. NO ONE gives weight to every word the way he does. Most of them sound to me like they’re rushing through the verses, especially the first one. I probably like k.d. laing’s version best after his.

      1. Leonard’s version is by far the funniest, too. Everyone’s cover is so reverent, which kind of takes the power out of the humor. “But you don’t really care for music, do ya?” is a very funny line when he sings it. and that’s right at the top.

    1. Thanks for your comment Rick,

      I’ve updated the post to include K.D. Lang’s beautiful “Olympic 2010” version 🙂


  7. Nice to be reminded of what a great song this is. Unfortunately it has been a bit broken for a lot of Norwegians I think.
    Jeff Buckley is extremely good in his version of the song.

  8. These performances are interesting in part because of the verses that Dylan leaves out (e.g.: the one beginning “Maybe there’s a God above …” for instance) and for the fact he seems to have written one verse himself (or am I mistaken here?).

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