A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

General discussion about Leonard Cohen's songs and albums
yaniv297
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Re: A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

Postby yaniv297 » Thu Mar 26, 2009 6:36 pm

thank you, this is really interesting!

it's a pity the "i did my best" verse was cut on most covers, including buckley and cale. it's my favourite one. why would cale drop it anyway? it's so beautiful.
johnny7moons
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baffle

Postby johnny7moons » Tue Mar 31, 2009 9:34 pm

The 'baffled king' made a lot more sense to me when i finally got the double-meaning.

The first verse of the VP version of 'Hallelujah' is full of references to sound and music hearing. It starts with the words "I heard..." (recalling the way many early Buddhist scriptures begin, "Thus have I heard..."). Then we've got a chord, and David playing it, and then we've got the fourth and the fifth, the minor and the major (nothing remotely secret about these chords - they're the basic building-blocks of almost every popular song; here perhaps Cohen is registering the humility of his songwriting craft, as compared to King David's art). And then there's the baffled king... 'baffled' can indicate shock and confusion, and quite possibly the beauty of David's creation, his 'secret chord', did baffle to king in this sense. But 'to baffle' can also refer to the damping-down or muffled of sound. So, perhaps, in some sense, the king himself was 'baffled', muffled, although the chord he played was not? Perhaps he himself was muffled in comparison to the music he made?
sebmelmoth2003
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Re: A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

Postby sebmelmoth2003 » Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:15 pm

audio should be at link (or somewhere on the radio 4 site) fro 7 days from 13.30 hours tomorrow.

Hallelujah HallelujahListen:Next on:

Tomorrow, 13:30 on BBC Radio 4

Synopsis

Composer Jocelyn Pook - http://www.jocelynpook.com - celebrates the music and meaning of the word Hallelujah through history and creates a new composition inspired by the word. This exuberant exclamation of joy and gratitude has survived the passage of centuries, transcending the barriers of language, religion and culture, and has inspired composers and songwriters from the Psalms through Monteverdi, Handel, Vivaldi, Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen.

Featuring contributions from composer Julian Anderson and singer-songwriter kd lang.

Broadcast

Tue 7 Apr 200913:30BBC Radio 4


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00jhpp8
Steven
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Re: A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

Postby Steven » Mon Apr 06, 2009 6:23 pm

Friends,

David, in Hebrew, means "beloved of God." His bafflement may have encompassed a
grappling with how that "belovement" ( :) ) was not sufficient for guiding him away
from actions that were less than holy while, nonetheless, he felt it unconditionally
remained with him, albeit at a further distance (the "cold" and "broken," yet
still present, connection). I've "been here before," with this same thought, but
the spirit moved me to rephrase it. Mea culpa.
Eskimo
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Re: A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

Postby Eskimo » Tue Apr 07, 2009 1:47 am

"I have found myself a king among his sons" is how YHWH sent Samuel off to check out the sons of sons of Jesse....I imagine David, the youngest and least physically-imposing of the boys and one who was not even have around for the first audition ("out tending the sheep" and probably playing his harp) was baffled when Samuel anointed him after being told "he is the one"....

Another point at which David can be said to baffled is in Psalm 22 when this chosen one asks:

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Why are You so far from helping Me,
And from the words of My groaning?
O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;
And in the night season, and am not silent

....it is the opening words of this psalm that Jesus cries out just before his death in Matthew's recounting of the crucifixion...and it is these words that Rev. Raymond Brown, an American biblical scholar, said we will all utter sooner or later.....
sebmelmoth2003
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Re: A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

Postby sebmelmoth2003 » Tue Jun 16, 2009 11:59 am

programme repeat for anyone who missed it first time around.

audio online until sunday 21 june.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00jhpp8
seadove
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Re: A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

Postby seadove » Fri Jul 10, 2009 1:01 pm

O1
Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

O2
Your faith was strong, but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
I would like to elaborate and point out a few discripincies on the life of David (or even Samson, if Leonard was insinuating Delilah cutting his hair, etc).

1. King David was never a baffled king. He was the most assirtive king we know from the bible.

2. It's true about the word hallelujah. It seems that King David invented the word as early as him being 12 years old as a shepherd.

3. David composed many songs, the most famous one being "The song of songs". Most of them have been integraded in our prayer books.

4. His weakness is pointed out toward the love of women, and sometimes the love of men (with Jonathan, for example). There is a resemblance toward Leonard in this issue as far as women are concerned.

5. That weakness was to such an extent that he sent Bat Sheva's husband to the front to manage a bitter war with his enemies. He did not come back alive.

6. The songs skips to the kitchen chair with someone breaking his throat, etc.... Who's throat? Who would dare to break David's throat? Not even a woman would have the power to break his throat. So it must be someone else's throat. Due to the fact that the next sentence reads "and she cuts your hair" etc, it may mean that Leonard skipped on to Delilah, which was a differant period in the bible.

Any thoughts here?
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mat james
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Re: A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

Postby mat james » Thu Jul 23, 2009 3:57 pm

"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
GARYMARKBE
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Re: A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

Postby GARYMARKBE » Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:32 am

THE phrased "baffled king" is one of the most inspired and powerful phases of multidimensional meaning Leonard Cohen ever wrote. A baffle is a device that when placed on a guitar or other instrument alters the tone and sound and resonance. I am not a musician myself at all but I have heard this term. The baffle ties with producing the musical terms "the minor fall" "the major lift," etc. I regret it will take someone more knowledgeable than I to explain these in any detail. King David was a musician, and I expect there is an implication that he had adjusted the baffle on his lyre which I sometimes hear is the instrument he played (alas, I am not biblical scholar either.) But I think that the King is himself an instrument, voicing the cry of the Universe to God, or perhaps a musical message of God to the Universe. And in coming to sing his strange Hallelujah, his own tone and reverberations have been altered, as if he were an instrument himself on which the songs of God/ the Universe are sounded and voiced, so he has himself been baffled like a musical instrument. I am surprised no one on this forum had an inkling "baffle" held this meaning. I am also surprised you think King David of the Bible did not encounter the bewilderment. King David was a man of God, and ruler of his people, grave responsibility. But the woman Bathsheba whom I believe the song refers to (in part, as the meaning seems to slip back an forth from one Bible story to another and to non Biblical references which may be autobiographical or modern day archetypes) is a woman who filled King David with great lust leading him to great conflict, and to take actions that contradicted his responsibilities and even basic morality. King David caused Bathsheba's husband to be sent to die in battle, and later suffered great guilt and repentance but never escaped his lust, or perhaps some deeper emotion for Bathsheba. He was filled with conflicts that surely baffled him. All this and much more is implied by the simple phrase "baffled King." The mixed passions like those of Samson who lusted tor the betraying Delilah ( the cutter of hair in the Bible) lead to the sorrow and pain that cause the praise of the joy of life (Hallelujah) to be broken and ambiguous, although not all the suffering and pain in the world can stop or dissuade the Poet from shouting his Hallelujah, his praise and thanksgiving to God for the joys of life. Ambiguity is often spoken of in regards to poetry not as an unclear confusion but as a referenced to the multi-layered dimensions and alternatives of meaning, I am not trying to point out any one"authentic" meaning for the brilliant Mr. Cohens song but merely point to some guide lines to direct you to look at ADDITIONAL depths. -GARYMARKBE@aol.com
MaryB
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Re: A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

Postby MaryB » Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:09 am

GARY,

My profoundest welcome to the forum. What an incredibly powerful first post! Your explanation of 'baffled king' is extremely erudite and makes so much sense. You do sound like a musician and biblical scholar :D ! I thank you for clearing it all up for me. Hope to hear more from you.

Best regards,
Mary
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hydriot
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Re: A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

Postby hydriot » Sun Aug 16, 2009 1:16 am

seadove wrote:6. The songs skips to the kitchen chair with someone breaking his throat, etc.... Who's throat? Who would dare to break David's throat? Not even a woman would have the power to break his throat. So it must be someone else's throat. Due to the fact that the next sentence reads "and she cuts your hair" etc, it may mean that Leonard skipped on to Delilah, which was a differant period in the bible.
It's 'throne' not 'throat', and just a metaphor.

I think David was baffled just why his chord pleased the Lord! ;-)
“If you do have love it's a kind of wound, and if you don't have it it's worse.” - Leonard, July 1988
GARYMARKBE
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Re: A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

Postby GARYMARKBE » Sun Aug 30, 2009 6:04 pm

Tradition says that not David but King Solomon, David's son composed The Song of Songs. It is often called The Song of Songs Which is Solomon's.

Historically David is not the original composer of Hellulujah. As I recall, Moses's sister Miriam says when the Israelites successfully crossed the red sea and escaped the Egyptians, "Let us sing a new song, Hallelujah, in praise of the Lord." So I would think it was composed then almost 3,500 years ago during the reign of Ramses II in Egypt. David ruled as king of Israel in the 10th century BC. We could postulate that David might have composed a new version or something. But I see the Baffled King as the person addressing us in the song. the narrator, perhaps one might say, Leonard Cohen. The unspoken I of the song (and I think unlike some songs by Cohen and others, in the verses we know of Hallelujah, there is only one speaker, one I) does seem to move through time and space, the "I" beoming "You," becoming David, Becoming Samson, becoming all the references I recogniize and many I probably don't. I find it strange and inexplicable how this happens but some portion of my deep mind that listens to song seems to accept this. Another song where the identity of the narrator seems to change, and the "you" addressed changes, is Bob Dylan's Tangled Up in Blue. I love that song but my efforts to try to figure out the characters in the song, the time sequence,the events, have all met with only bafflement. I thought at one point the characters in that song were moving in part through reincarnations, but nothing seems to fit. (The lyrics of Dylan and Cohen seem to have something oddly in common.) The verses of Hallelujah are if not that contradictory at least not clearly connected. I sense if we had access to the seventy three or so unpublished verses, the disconnection would be even greater rather than cleared up. It is hard to dismiss this disconnect as some mistake or irrationality when the song has such a powerful affect on what might be millons of people.

In a parallel manner there is a transformation or transportaion from a throne to a kitchen chair. I have no emxplanaiton of the metaphore and am not clear on what appears to be a modern S&M situation, of the lover, apparently Samson at this point, being tortured. I do remember something in the bible about Deliah putting Samson through various tests or some such to check his lies about the source of his strength. Maybe she tied him up at one point.

Thank you for your kind words, Mary.
MaryB
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Re: A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

Postby MaryB » Mon Aug 31, 2009 2:57 am

Initially, Samson told Delilah he would lose his strength if bound with bow strings. She did so while he slept, but he snapped them when he awoke. He then said it was new rope that would do it. She tried that and he snapped those also. He next tells her that if his locks were woven there was the source of his strength. The final telling was the truth - his strength was in his hair.

Since you are so good at it, I leave the analysis up to you. I'll be waiting :D .

Kindest regards,
Mary
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GARYMARKBE
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Re: A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

Postby GARYMARKBE » Tue Sep 01, 2009 12:09 am

Thank for filling me in on Samson. I knew all the major Old Testament stories when I was a child but its amazing what you can forget from one century to another, and just the Cecil B. Demille version either. In fact I saw part of an obscure Italian (?) movie on TV recently where Delilah tied Samson up in accordance with his lie, and I was thinking, what's with that?

I am not sure I have a lot of interpretation to offer about Samson here. However one thing I noticed: first she ties him to a chair, and THEN she broke his throne; or at least that is the sequence in which we are told of these events. That would be OK but then it suddenly occurred to me, wait a minute. Samson was never a king, so he would not have a throne. Whose throne was it? If we were talking about AFTER she cut his hair, she would have disabled the nations greatest defense, its great warrior, and thereby enabled the kingdom to be conquered perhaps (I am not sure what the exact consequences were in the Bible, how far they extended.) To conquer the kingdom might be to break the throne,the throne of Samson's king even if not Samson's. Or does the thone somehow revert back to someone else like David?

Indicentally I recently found i was confusing two unrelated biblical characters. David was fascinated by a married womam, whose husband he sent to die in the front lines. That woman was Bathsheba, or Bethsheba, or Batshiva. Different spellings. Solomon encountered the Queen of Sheba, if i have the title right, who was in no way related. Not only I, I have found, but other careless people have made this mistake. So don't you do as I have done, and be ashamed and miserable because you confused names in the house of the Bible.

You know I wish I could look down on the people who mistake Baffled King for Battled King, or broken throne for broken throat, but for longer than most of you have been alive, I really thought Hendrix said, ""Scuse me, while I kiss this guy." He was actually kissing the sky; and in that sky was someone named Lucy with some diamonds. I did not know Lucy was there for a while; I thought she had used diamonds to disguise herself. I won't even go into the the Blowing in the wind question, where there is no doubt a man needs only two ears and it is the required number of "years" that is under debate.

The lyrics here I see spell out correctly "do you" instead of "do ya"-- I think i have seen the word spelled out "do ya" in other places. It clearly sounds like "do ya" which makes it a modern vernacular, removing it from the classical theatrical manner we always hear Biblical characters speak in movies, and I think,in church quotes. "Do ya" seems to fit a rhyme better too, as I recall. Does any singer not pronounce it "do ya?" I think certain Canadian speech patterns frequently support "do ya."

One more thing I have been thinking about. It is pointed out Cohen sings "shoot at people who outdrew ya" instead of "shoot people who outdrew ya." You can read a lot into that if you want. but I want to take issue with some previous comment about this. It is quite possible to shoot someone who draws his gun faster than you while he fails to shoot you. In addition to drawing a gun right, you have to aim accurately and to so may take an exta second to do that. I remember hearing Matt Dillon (William Conrad) on the radio Gunsmoke lecture on that. And every week on the opening credits of the TV show Gunsmoke Matt Dillon (James Arness) shot down a man who fired first but inaccurately. I think if you omit the at, "shoot someone" implies you hit them and maybe killed them, where shoot at leaves the accuracy more up in the air. I can not parse this down more at this time but may think about it. The fact that we are let to "shoot (at)" and "outdrew" from a discusion of what you learn from love leads me to thinkthe gunfighting references might be symbolic rather than literal. But i am strongly disinclinced to read these in a Freudian sense.
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Re: A short history of "Hallelujah" - lyrics, versions, oddities

Postby MaryB » Tue Sep 01, 2009 1:02 pm

GARYMARKBE wrote:The lyrics here I see spell out correctly "do you" instead of "do ya"-- I think i have seen the word spelled out "do ya" in other places. It clearly sounds like "do ya" which makes it a modern vernacular, removing it from the classical theatrical manner we always hear Biblical characters speak in movies, and I think,in church quotes. "Do ya" seems to fit a rhyme better too, as I recall. Does any singer not pronounce it "do ya?" I think certain Canadian speech patterns frequently support "do ya."
Gary,

This topic may be of interest to ya.viewtopic.php?f=9&t=14339&start=0&st=0&sk=t&sd=a
1993 Detroit 2008 Kitchener June 2-Hamilton June 3 & 4-Vienna Sept 24 & 25-London RAH Nov 17 2009 NYC Feb 19-Grand Prairie Apr 3-Phoenix Apr 5-Columbia May 11-Red Rocks Jun 4-Barcelona Sept 21-Columbus Oct 27-Las Vegas Nov 12-San Jose Nov 13 2010 Sligo Jul 31 & Aug 1-LV Dec 10 & 11 2012 Paris Sept 30-London Dec 11-Boston Dec 16 2013 Louisville Mar 30-Amsterdam Sept 20

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