The Story Behind Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

By 1984, Leonard Cohen had spent nearly 20 years beating his relationship traumas and existential aches into brooding folk songs. He’d won praise as a poet and novelist, released six acclaimed records, wooed a succession of famous femme fatales including Janis Joplin and Nico, and established himself as the patron saint of clove-smoking, bohemian depressives everywhere.

Holed up in a New York hotel, he said that he “filled two notebooks with the song,” while writing the verses for ‘Hallelujah’. The song mixed biblical imagery with erotic impulses, tiptoeing the line between salvation and despair. To Cohen, it was ultimately a celebration of powerlessness in a world where not every thing can be reconciled. In these moments of disillusionment, he rejoices in his finitude, exclaiming “I don’t understand a fucking thing at all– Hallelujah!”


To learn more about Leonard Cohen’s magnum opus, check out

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