SuperGenius is born in a moment of blinding beauty and then propagated in flashes of inspiration from one mind to another.
When those sparks ignite in a rapid-fire movement, a REM-like sleep flutters across a community of open minds, a new standard is set, a fresh meme is forever created, and the originator of the beauty becomes immortal.
Leonard Cohen is the immortal composer of the fine and inspirational ballad, “Hallelujah.” Hallelujah leads you on a journey of discovery and lesson-learning.
Cohen’s Hallelujah has a new life — thanks to American Idol and Jason Castro — but most relate Hallelujah to Jeff Buckley and not Leonard Cohen.
We need to reconnect the Hallelujah genius back to the beauty of songwriter Leonard Cohen and we’ll do that by examining bits of a shining lyric and a haunting, melancholy, melody that stuns as it changes your mind and then morphs into a historical morality play.
Hallelujah begins with its own spark of SuperGenius beauty as David is gifted with the blessing of music to please his God and, in its core, you learn through Cohen’s lyric, how to write a song that makes magic:
I heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well, it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift,
The baffled king composing, Hallelujah
Now Cohen propels us forward in time to demonstrate the temptation of angering a God you once honored.
With improper yearning, a burning sexuality and the repudiation of immorality as self-hefted cudgels against the spirit, the theft of the gift from that God you previously pleased is the only allowable result:
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
Well she tied you to a kitchen chair
she broke your throne, she cut your hair
and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
Cohen’s lyric continues to move out and away from Hallelujah in antiquity — most singers cut the next two “God above” perspective verses, and so, too, shall we — and Cohen then lands us in the “I” present from the “you” past as we now struggle with our humanity in the light of real time.
We are confronted with the idea that love can destroy and never heal. We are warned against the ramification of the pettiness of never confessing we are all broken and we are always slow and we are all in dying need of reconstitution:
Maybe there’s a God above
But all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
What are we to take away from Cohen’s Hallelujah teaching?
We are urged to look to the past for the danger of beauty in temptation and inspiration and how the spirit of the flesh was ruined by self-doubt and eternal yearning.
We cannot move forward as a people without uttering “Hallelujah” — but we are entrapped by the past consequence of an ill-spoken “Hallelujah” that has been corrupted by modern desire and the betrayal of a greater love.
Hallelujah becomes the ultimate moral homily for the Ages and Leonard Cohen’s rabbinical SuperGenius blesses us all.
Here is Leonard Cohen singing — lip-syncing, really — his Hallelujah in full voice and with the complete lyric — I warn you now he’s a writer and not a performer.
The absolute best version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah lyric is found in the voices of Espen Lind, Askil Holm, Alejandro Fuentes, Kurt Nilsen on a Norwegian television program. Their performance is as haunting and beautiful as the song. The fact they are all sitting down and singing Hallelujah is an amazement.
Now, in knowing Cohen’s Hallelujah lyric, we must be aware when we utter the divine and holy “Hallelujah” — in celebration, with love, while dying, during drowning — we are tempting the wholeness of us and celebrating the greatness in us all while honoring the creative spark that birthed us, and in our ongoing deaths, we are forced to recognize the fleeting hubris of mankind in a context far beyond the “you” and the “I.”