10 Best Covers of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah'
    • TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2016

    • Posted by: Gabe Paoletti

    This week the trash fire that is 2016 consumed the life of another legend: Leonard Cohen. The singer-songwriter crafted songs that blended eastern and western themes and spiritual and sensual ideas. Perhaps no song captured this style as much as his unexpected, and slow-burning hit "Hallelujah." It was a song that took Cohen three years and more than 80 drafts to perfect, and the song reflects the passion and precision that was put into its creation. Its position as standard of modern American music has caused the song to be covered by numerous musical legends, as well as by any attempting to show musical chops. The song has been covered both in the spirit of the original, as well as by people who have reinterpreted it through the lens of other musical and cultural traditions. Although it may seem cliche, "Hallelujah" is covered so much because it's that could, so who cares? Also, the fact that all 10 of these versions give us chills proves how good the song is. Here are some of the greatest covers of "Hallelujah," some of which have even eclipsed the popularity of the original, but all of which are direct derivations from the song by this late musical legend.

    1. Amanda Palmer



    After hearing the news of Leonard Cohen's passing this week, Boston rock artist Amanda Palmer decided to cover the artist's masterpiece during a concert in Albany. This improvised cover takes on an expectedly mournful tone. While crying, Palmer sings the song in what begins as almost a whisper, which grows into a powerful performance. In her cover, Palmer captures the sadness and strength that affects anyone dealing with death and mourning.

    2. Regina Spektor



    NYC indie pop artist Regina Spektor created an immensely haunting version of Cohen's song when she appeared at the Jewish Heritage Festival in 2005. In her cover, Spektor added a string section to the usually piano driven performance of the song. This element gave it a tension, that was enhanced by the faraway quality she lent to her vocal performance of the song.

    3. Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris



    In 2010 while recording a Hope For Haiti telethon, Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris teamed up to record a cover of "Hallelujah." The song was a chance for the two artists, known more for their bombastic pop music, to show a different side of themselves.

    4. Bon Jovi



    In his tackling of this powerful song, Bon Jovi infuses his peculiar vocal idionsyncracies and emotion into the song. It takes on a powerful dimension, with much more force than the original.

    5. k.d. lang



    Canadian country and pop singer k.d. lang rose to prominence through her amazing vocal performances, and her rendition of "Hallelujah." On the song, k.d. brings a quiet but self-assured emotion to the lyrics, and infuses the music with her subtle twang. Her cover of the Cohen song was so popular, she performed it numerous times for events, including the 2010 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony in Vancouver.

    6. Il Divo



    In this Spanish version, international band Il Divo made major changes to the lyrics of the song, but kept the music nearly identical to John Cale's version. The new lyrics maintain the haunting nature of the lyrics, as well as the religious and romantic motifs. The quartet's varying voices give the song another dimension, as these talented singers switch from one to the other.

    7. Bob Dylan



    Bob Dylan was a great friend and admirer of Leonard Cohen, and was the first to try his hand at covering the song. In a 1988 concert in Cohen's hometown of Montreal, Dylan played the then relatively obscure song. Through his interpretation, one can see the stark differences between these two artists. While Cohen's version is understated, Dylan's cover is brash and loud. The two artists respected one another, despite their artistic differences.

    8. Willie Nelson



    In his 2009 album of covers, American Classic, country music legend Willie Nelson took a crack at Cohen's song with amazing results. Though he does not deviate much from the standard, Nelson's gravely voice imbues the song with a grit and grace that elevates it. The slight country tinge to the music grounds the cover, and seems in line with the folk and country sensibilities that Leonard Cohen embodied.

    9. John Cale



    For years after the initial creation of the song, "Hallelujah" existed as one of many of Leonard Cohen songs, not the standout part of his discography like it's known as today. It took Welsh musician, Velvet Underground founder, and enormous Leonard Cohen fan John Cale to bring the song out of obscurity and into the position it holds today. Written for his Leonard Cohen tribute album, Cale took Cohen's song and stripped it down to just piano accompanied vocals. This low key version of the song, injected with an air of sobriety and solemnity, rocketed the song to greater fame and acclaim.

    10. Jeff Buckley



    Though John Cale's version may be the most popular, and the one that truly brought the song the fame it has today, the greatest version of "Hallelujah" is undoubtedly the Jeff Buckley version. Like Leonard's version, Buckley's was not appreciated at its release, and the song did not gain critical and commercial success until long after Buckley's death in 1997. It was years later, in 2007, that the track even charted. Since then, though, the track as well as the album it was released on, Grace, has received amazing success, and his cover been widely seen as the greatest version of "Hallelujah." In his version, Buckley performs the song with a juxtaposition of sadness and joy that forms an unparalleled outpouring of emotion.


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