I’ve heard so many interpretations of Hallelujah by Cohen. When I was in a different place in my life, this song meant something different to me. That’s one of the beautiful things about music and songs… the interpretation is not just on the singer/writer, but on the listeners too, each unique.
I’ve experienced three different versions of this song in my own life, and each just as powerful as the other. It never fails to touch me, every time, every version, every note… taking me on a journey, allowing me to feel every note, and then becoming overwhelmed. Tears stream down my cheeks right now as I write this blog post, because this last version is hard and hurts like nothing… well, it hurts like hell.
I don’t know what my mind understands at this moment, but my soul is crying out… with a broken hallelujah.
As best as I can, I’ll try to explain what this song means to me… today.
Well 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?
Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
This is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. David was always my favorite character, not because he was a king, a great warrior, or a forgotten son raised to greatness, but because he was the most human of all the characters, one that I could relate. He wasn’t perfect. He made a LOT of mistakes, he faced a lot of bad situations, but what set him apart was his heart. That’s how he did everything – with all his heart despite what anyone else said or did. The world operated out of logic, but David operated out of passion.
My greatest struggle in this world is the overwhelming passion that stirs inside me, and for so long I’ve had to stuff it down, hide it, suppress it, keep it hidden in a practical world. When I let a little bit of it out, I lost my whole world – it cost me everything. I found my broken hallelujah.
Many times I’d find myself sitting and holding my guitar, unsure of what to play. I had no conscious idea of what to do. I would close my eyes, lay my ear on the top of the body, and let my fingers slide along the strings. With each twang, I released the pain, the fear, and the passion with every chord. I’d play and play and play… and sometimes I would sing, but not with words… just sounds…it was just another string playing another secret chord.
I’m not being religious here, I’m trying to be as real as I can. In those moments, I can’t explain it, but I was just a baffled king – a failed, confused, and hurt human – composing a broken hallelujah. I played from my heart. Not in my head, I couldn’t replay what I played if I tried, but from my heart.
Music moves me. It always has. It always will.
Well 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 her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
I know these are the stories about David and Bathsheba & Samson and Delilah. Again, each person has their own interpretations, and I’m not here to argue them. To some it’s a warning about allowing your heart to rule over your practical sense, especially duty. For most of my life, I thought these men weak for allowing a woman to come in and cause them to fall from their greatness. But experience has since taught me things are not as black and white as we’d like to think. These men weren’t weak, they were passionate. They were led by their hearts – the same hearts that led them to their victories, their greatness, their strength. When you let your heart lead you, the consequences are both good and bad. Yeah, they fucked up… but did they really? I see two men who loved just as passionately as they did everything else, and even when they fell to the lowest point in their lives (David committed murder, Samson to become a slave) they STILL cried out with their hearts. I could imagine them both in their darkest hours, humming the chords through their tears, composing yet another broken hallelujah.
But baby I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor
You know, I used to live alone before I knew ya
And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
Who’s ever been hurt, been disappointed, been abandoned by those who were supposed to love us? How many of us have fell victim to the wars of ‘love’? How many of us carry those scars… again, and again, and again? Nobody wins when love fails. To love is to be vulnerable. It is to be real. You can’t love without handing the banner (flag) of our hearts to someone else, to entrust it to them. That banner isn’t to be waved, but protected. I think of our passionate soldiers who risk their lives protecting the freedoms our flag represents. That’s the same passion love requires. It’s not fluffy… it’s cold, it’s marble hard, and impenetrable – and in the wrong hands or unrequited – devastating. It will bring the strongest among us to our knees with another broken hallelujah.
Well there was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show that to me do ya
But remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah
Fading love. Sometimes I think it’s better to never have loved, to have known a great love, and helplessly watch it as it fades away. Love is the one thing we can’t control. Even God himself can’t make us, his own creation, love him. We can’t make who doesn’t love us to love us, or make ourselves love who we don’t, no matter how much passion we possess. God can’t make me love him. These last few years I’ve had a major crisis of faith – heart-broken from stepping out in the greatest hope I had, to fall on my face. There was a time I felt so close to God and knew I walked with Him, and He opened my eyes to the things of the world around me. I’ve experienced and felt too many things to ever doubt …but my understanding is in chaos. All truth isn’t pretty. I walked away from all I knew. No, my volitant heart took to the sky as fast as I could. I couldn’t breathe. Hell, I haven’t been able to breathe right ever since. I shed my robes, stepped down from my mantle, removed my mask, and have been standing naked in all my shame, covered in all my scars, with tears rolling down my cheeks, and a broken hallelujah on my lips.
Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
And it’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
Some of you will understand. Some of you won’t. This is all I have. I have nothing else. But if you have ears to hear… you will hear my broken hallelujah.
This is the version I like best: https://youtu.be/llyADThAg5o