April 20th, 2007



A couple months ago, John Cale's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" came on someone's Pandora playlist in the lab. "I love this song," I said, "though maybe it's just because I'm a Christian."

My roommate Andy was appalled, and called bullshit. "Do you even know what this song is about?" he challenged. "Just because it has 'hallelujah' in it doesn't mean it's religious."

Well, I took his word for it--he's probably more familiar with the song than I am. And lo, I looked up the lyrics on Google, and he was right--it was a secular song in religious trappings. Okay. I was confused--this was not the song I thought I had heard. But I could accept that.

But now I find this little article on the history of the song. And now I'm a little torn.

Because, in fact, Cohen wrote two different sets of lyrics for the song: one for his album Various Positions, and another for live performances. The album version begins in despair and ends in regret, and the live version begins in regret and ends in reverence. Both sets of lyrics describe exactly the same kind of experience, in very different ways. Cale chose the darker, more unsettling version, and opted to leave out the redemptive final verse.

Interestingly, though the album version expresses a more profound spiritual disillusionment, it actually has more Biblical references. I wonder how many people listening to that one get that "She tied you to a kitchen chair / She broke your throne, and she cut your hair / And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah" is supposed to evoke Samson and Delilah. (Jürgen Jaensch, who drew the image on the lyrics page, certainly doesn't.) Yes, it's a still a song about sexual intimacy, and still a song about (religious?) disillusionment. But there is something genuinely spiritual about this version, too. Something you'd sing to God, but not in church.

Both versions of the song speak to me. If you know me well, you probably know why.

dear america


NASA? What the fuck. Just...what the fuck.

Not only is this mere days after the whole Virginia Tech thing, this is mere months after that crazy stalker astronaut lady did her crazy astronaut stalkering.

What is this, Timothy McVeigh Appreciation Month?