In tribute to Leonard Cohen 2

By Tom Quiner

It’s a simple song.

The refrain uses but two chords, alternating between A minor and F major in 6/8 time.

Leonard Cohen died yesterday. His “Hallelujah” is one of those soulful songs that stops you in your tracks. Cohen knows how to tell a story. In other words, his lyrics are wonderful, provocative, soul-searching.

But let’s face it, it is his one-word refrain that makes this song a masterpiece: Hallelujah sung against a minor chord.

Shouldn’t a word like Hallelujah be sung against a major chord? The music suggests a lyric more in line with, “I am lonely, oh so lonely.”

And yet that’s what makes the song so utterly haunting, this disconnect between the meaning of the word and the meaning of the music.

The praise sung in the song is a more introspective way of giving thanks. When we sing Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and who hasn’t, it’s hard not to close our eyes and talk to God at an especially deep level.

When you put a choir of 1500 singers together with Rufus Wainwright, the results are other-worldly, as you can see in the video above.

If you want to create world peace, bring warring factions into a hall to sing a soulful song together like this one. There is something about creating beauty together that truly binds us.

Thank-you, Leonard Cohen, for your masterpiece. May you rest in peace.


  1. I watched, only once, a video of a Priest with the face like an amiable rodent singing, at the end of a Nuptial Mass, Leonard Cohen’s song, which I understand to be accounted poetry by some. I googled the words.

    I am fairly familiar with poetry, as with competent verse, and this is neither.

    Particularly unpleasant is the fourth stanza, in which the author seems to be complaining about his woman’s no longer showing him “What’s really going on below But now you never show it to me, do you?”

    Perhaps it’s just as well.

    The following lines: “And remember when I moved in you The holy dove was moving too And every breath we drew was Hallelujah” are, unless he and she were married, immoral and blasphemous.

    Saddest of all, this mush is frequently sung by chidren’s choirs in Poland.

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