‘I’ve heard there was a secret chord…

LEONARD COHEN

September 21, 1934 — November 7, 2016 (82)


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Outosego

The header photo will remind many readers of a wonderful man who goes by the handle Outosego in the blogosphere. His stylized image of that Leonard Cohen photo is the logo on his most excellent blog http://www.outosego.com.

Leonard Cohen November 7

N., or Outosego as he is known to so many, is battling serious health issues, and we send our most positive psychic energy and our prayers for him to be well.

Think sunshine and better days…


Hallelujah

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

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
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

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah


Leonard Cohen November 7


 

10 thoughts on “‘I’ve heard there was a secret chord…

  1. Wonderful – but I hardly dare to ask you about the great man who loved this singer so much, who had advised me to follow you… Please pass on my friendship and respect to Outosego

  2. Ah, yes, my — our — dear friend N., aka Outosego. I keep in touch with his family since he is unable to use a computer. He is not doing well. All we can do is hope and pray for nothing less than a miracle. I know he will see your message and be touched by it. Bill Mich…..

  3. Thank you – I was afraid of this news – please tell him that I am sending him from my sunny part of France all my energy, all my enthusiasm and that he must keep his promise to come and see me to taste the French wines of my country – with anchovies and olives – which do not taste the same as in Greece. And yes I will pray for a miracle for him, I only know him from afar, but what I know of him deserves all the miracles.

  4. Yes, he is most deserving of a miracle. I forwarded your compassionate and ‘sunny’ reply to his wife. Thank you.

  5. Shrek’s Hallelujah song

    Many Christians rejoiced when they heard “Hallelujah” played on Shrek (2001 Movie – https://bit.ly/3EtU3Te) as they thought it was a beautiful hymn. It was sung when Shrek became downcast as Lord Farquaad was going to marry Princess Fiona, whom Shrek really loved. Lord Farquaad didn’t love Fiona but he could only be crowned King if he married a princess. Consequently, “Hallelujah” was presented in the movie from Shrek’s perspective of disillusionment at the situation, bitterness at being outwitted by Farquaad and sadness at losing Fiona, rather than from happiness or in praise to God (even though “Hallelujah” means “Praise God”).

    “Hallelujah” might also have been written from the same perspective of disillusionment by Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, who was a general in King David’s army. Despite his dedication and faithfulness to King David, the king purposely sent General Uriah to the battlefield’s frontline to be killed (2 Sam 11), so that David could marry Bathsheba. This was despite David having other wives – 7 in total, as well as many concubines.

    Some say that Leonard Cohen, who wrote the original “Hallelujah” song, may have become similarly disillusioned with his Jewish heritage (his father was a Jewish Rabbi) or by his perception of hypocrisy among those who declare their faith, as he became an ordained Buddhist Priest.

    The first verse of Shrek’s “Hallelujah” describes how David composed a secret chord that please God (eg. in the Psalms and other songs he composed which calmed King Saul’s tormented/ “baffled” mind in 1 Sam 16:23). However, Leonard Cohen asks King Saul if he really cared about pleasing God like the secret chord that pleased God – “But you don’t really care for music, do you?”. To push the point further, some say that he was really questioning if Saul, in his confused “baffled” mind, really knew what he was singing when he sang the first “Hallelujah” chorus to David’s music (eg. was he really worshipping and praising God)?

    The second verse describes how King David tried to prove that his faith was strong, but in fact proved that he did not did not have much faith at all (“Your faith was strong but you needed proof, you saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you”). As a result of his attraction to the Bathsheba’s beauty, the mighty King David became so weak that he was easily captured and tied up at home rather than against powerful enemies on the battlefield (“She tied you to a kitchen chair, she broke your throne, she cut your hair”).

    David lost the legacy of his crown and throne when his son through Bathsheba (King Solomon) followed his father’s example and married 700 wives with 300 concubines. David could have crowned any of his many sons, but Bathsheba’s son was chosen to be his successor. As a result, David’s great kingdom that was previously admired by the rest of the known world quickly crumbled, was divided into Israel & Judah and was subsequently conquered by other nations after Solomon’s death. Bathsheba through her son, broke David’s line of succession and overthrew his descendant’s’ reign.

    David lost his power and strength (“she cut your hair”) just as Samson lost his strength when his hair was cut. And instead of singing the second “Hallelujah” chorus to praise God, Leonard’s words in the second verse suggests that David’s “Hallelujah” chorus was a result of making love to Bathsheba (“And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah”).

    The final verse clearly outlines Leonard Cohen’s non-Christian perspective in this song when he wrote “Maybe there’s a God above” (Buddhists do not believe that God exists). He tells us that he is not singing to God as he does not know if God exists. He also says that his “Hallelujah” does not come from feelings of love – “It’s not a cry you can hear at night”. Instead, he tells us that the “Hallelujah” he sings is “cold” (unemotional without feelings towards God) and “broken” (ie. not really or truly praising God).

    He wrote and sung 60+ verses of various combinations for this one song, with many having similar repeating themes such as “You say I took the name in vain, I don’t even know the name, but if I did, well really, what’s it to you? It’s no complaint you hear tonight, It’s not some pilgrim who’s seen the light, it’s a cold and it’s a lonely Hallelujah.”

    Consequently, instead of praising God by singing the Hallelujah refrain, the unusual words in the verses twist the normally expected direction of the Hallelujah chorus and give it different meanings as intended by Leonard when he said, “The song explains that many kinds of hallelujahs do exist, and all the perfect and broken hallelujahs have equal value” (https://bit.ly/3Ht9ugh).

    Some say that the song may be interpreted to devalue and reduce the holiness of the first “Hallelujah” chorus by pointing out that some are confused and “baffled” like King Saul, don’t really know what they are singing and are not really praising God. It suggests that people may merely value or sing it just because the (“secret”) musical chords sound nice because of its harmonic progression.

    For others, Leonard’s twist in the words of the second verse tells us that they are singing it just because it makes them feel good (such as when Bathsheba got David to sing the second “Hallelujah” chorus while making love to her), rather than because they are really worshipping God from a grateful and righteous heart.

    By reducing the holiness and sacredness of the word “Hallelujah” to that sung by a “baffled” Saul in the first Hallelujah chorus and by David (while making love) in the second Hallelujah chorus, some mention that Leonard appears to also mock those who sing Hallelujah by declaring that he too can sing the (third) Hallelujah chorus, even though he does not even acknowledge that God exists and he has not seen the light as a Christian (“It’s not somebody who’s seen the light”).

    When Leonard wrote “And all I ever learned from love, was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you”, others mention that this song with its cleverly hidden double-meaning, was his way of getting revenge at Jews/ Christians who attacked him for becoming a Buddhist even though he might have loved them.

    Maybe Cohen sought to shoot and wound well-meaning Jews and Christians by getting them to devalue the word “Hallelujah” or mock themselves by singing the words in his song like a baffled Saul, or like David just because the music sounds nice and feels good (eg. while making love), or like Leonard himself in unbelief. For many might not really know what they were singing/ or what the words really meant. Studies of Leonard’s many other poems and song lyrics show that they are very cleverly worded and were not combined together by chance.

    While Leonard might have looked down on Saul’s baffled mind and despised David’s hypocrisy through his “Hallelujah” song, he appears to have overlooked the David’s contrition and repentance, seeking forgiveness on realizing his mistake, and God’s faithfulness and love for all who humble themselves and turn from their own ways. For “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

    Hallelujah lyrics–
    “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 (x4 chorus)

    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, she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
    Hallelujah (x4 chorus)

    Maybe there’s a God above
    And all I ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot at 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”

  6. I have never read —I doubt anyone has —such a thorough, intellectual and definitive account of the origin, history and interpretation of Hallelujah. Impressive indeed. Thank you.

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