Must read book review by Ashley Fetters at Atlantic.com about what’s bound to be my next Kindle purchase: Alan Light’s The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah.” Here’s an excerpt:
Click here to review/purchase book
Pop standards don’t really get written anymore. Most of the best-known standards were composed before the arrival of rock and roll; perhaps something about the new brand of mass-marketed, Ed Sullivan-fueled stardom just didn’t quite jive with the generous old-world tradition of passing songs around the circuit, offering to share.
So when an obscure Leonard Cohen song from 1984 was resurrected in the ’90s, then repurposed and reinvented by other artists so many times it became a latter-day secular hymn—well, that was kind of like a pop-music unicorn sighting.
Alan Light’s new book The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah” traces the bizarre cultural history of that very unicorn: “Hallelujah,” a song that lay dormant in Cohen’s vast repertoire for more than a decade before its popularity surged up again with a posthumous Jeff Buckley single. “Hallelujah” has metamorphosed over the years from a cheesy, reverb-heavy B-side oddity on an album Cohen’s label rejected to a mystical, soul-stirring pop canticle that’s played today at just as many weddings as funerals. Light reverentially details every stage in the evolution—and along the way, he reveals the compelling stories behind some of its most iconic interpretations.
Click here to read the full review.
So what’s your favorite version? The original Leonard Cohen? The Jeff Buckley masterpiece that made it famous? The mournful use of the song in Shrek 2 or the third season of The O.C.?
I will go first: As I reluctantly admitted in my column last year, Top 5 Pretty Boys I Begrudgingly Admire, I’m a closet J.T. fan, and his gritty collaboration with Matt Morris at the 2010 “Hope for Haiti Now” benefit concert is my second favorite performance in the Timberlake portfolio. (Behind, of course, his globally significantwork on The Barry Gibb Talk Show.)
Please share your favorite in the comments section. And to guide your selection, we’ve posted some videos below of the most popular renditions:
Leonard Cohen’s Original (1984)
Jeff Buckley’s Masterpiece (1994)
Bono’s Hip-Hop Arrangement (1995)
Rufus Wainwright from the Shrek soundrtrack (2001)
k.d. lang’s Contemplative Dirge (2006)
Alexandra Burke’s X-factor Controversial Soul Version (2008)
Justin Timberlake, with Matt Morris, at Hope for Haiti Now (2010)