12 January 2013

The Holy or the Broken; Alan Light

The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah" by Alan Light
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Microhistories are a big thing - Salt, Cod, the Basque, etc. So it's no surprise that someone would do a song, and this is an interesting choice of song. Cohen's version vs Buckley's, and all the others (Cage, Bono, lang and too many others to list), which lyrics and verses are sung (Cohen may have written 80, I think we only know a tenth of that number), why suddenly it's The Song are all questions that the author tackles.

A few years ago I heard it sung by a graduating 8th grade class, introduced as "Jeff Buckley's song" - being the pedant I am, I corrected the speaker (not at the moment!), who was shocked to learn that it was actually from Leonard Cohen. That's also addressed here: that people while don't know the provenance, they do know at least one version. This is one of those songs that is open to multiple interpretations, in part because of Cohen's allowing others to add and subtract verses (as well as change the occasional word).

If you don't have a favorite interpretation, there are QR codes in the back that will take you to various versions. On the other hand, by the end of that exercize you may be as sick of the song as many people are (there's a semi-serious petition to call a moratorium on use of the song in movies and tv).

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