Who covered Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' better? | The Tylt
Well 2016 is certainly not going to let us off the hook. This is the year that took David Bowie, Prince and now legendary singer songwriter Leonard Cohen. Cohen will be remembered for many things, but perhaps most of all his song Hallelujah. This chill-inducing song has been covered countless times. Two renditions stand out. Jeff Buckley's guitar based 1994 cover, which brought the song out of obscurity and John Cale's 1991 piano centered cover which first defines the song as we know it. So which cover is better? Vote below.
Who covered Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' better?
People fell in love with this song because of Buckley. It required a new vision for the beauty of the lyrics and melody to shine and that's what he gave us by organizing the song around his guitar licks. Zach Shonfeld writes
"So many of the song’s fans believe Buckley wrote “Hallelujah,” and he may as well have, in a sense: He reimagined it in remarkable ways and brought it to popular light, even if he never lived to see the effect. Buckley’s unforgettable recording, which serves as the centerpiece of 1994’s Grace, opens with a literal exhale and closes with Buckley dragging out the titular exultation for 10 soaring seconds. In between, the singer deconstruct’s Cohen’s song as a trembling, achingly raw solo performance set to lilting electric guitar figures. There are highlights: the way Buckley’s voice threatens to crack on the “Cold and broken” phrase, the way his murmur rises suddenly to a shout around the six-minute mark, the way the ebb-and-flow guitar arpeggio first enters the track 47 seconds in."
Before there was Buckley's cover, there was John Cale's. This founding member of the Velvet Underground was the first to see the genius of the song. He recorded his version in 1991 and most renditions of the song follow the structure he gave. Once again Zach Shonfeld writes:
"Sparse, haunting, and impeccably sung, the former Velvet Underground member teased out the song’s melody in a way Leonard Cohen never could. Though he didn’t write the song, Cale’s interpretation rescued “Hallelujah” from permanent obscurity and established what it could—and should—sound like, rescuing several deserving verses from the cutting room floor in the process. (Legend has it Cohen faxed him 15 pages’ worth of abandoned lyrics.) For the piano phrasings alone, Cale deserves credit (or blame) for every “Hallelujah” that has come since."
Cale's cover is historic.
Buckley's rendition is considered one of the greatest 500 songs of all time according to Rolling Stone (264th if we want to be specific).
For those curious, here's some history behind the song.
Rest In Peace Leonard Cohen.