Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah Charts for First Time

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Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" sheet music

Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” sheet music

It took the death of Leonard Cohen, on Nov. 7, for the singer-songwriter’s own version of his most popular song, “Hallelujah,” to chart in Billboard. The song entered the trade magazine’s Hot 100 at #59 this week, the first time Cohen’s original—which has been recorded by dozens of other artists—has made that chart.

Billboard also reports: “The song starts thanks to a fairly even split of streaming and sales chart points, as it enters the Digital Song Sales chart at #12 with 33,000 downloads sold in the week ending Nov. 17 (up 1,177 percent), according to Nielsen Music. It also drew 3.8 million U.S. streams in that period, a 279 percent increase.”

Update (November 29): Cohen’s version of the song has fallen out of the Hot 100 for the chart dated December 10, 2016.

Remarkably, this marks the first time that Cohen has ever placed a single under his own name on the Billboard Hot 100. The first time that any song written by Cohen appeared on the Hot 100 was in 1967 when actor/singer Noel Harrison took the Canadian’s “Suzanne” to #56. A version of that song by Judy Collins was popular on radio but never charted as a single.

Related: Tributes to Leonard Cohen pour in following his death

Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” released originally in 1984 as a track on his Various Positions album, did not garner much notice at first—until other artists began covering it. Most ubiquitous was the late Jeff Buckley’s 1994 version, but it too never charted—until now. Along with Cohen’s version, the Buckley interpretation, says Billboard, “debuts on the Hot 100’s Bubbling Under chart (dated Dec. 3) at #7, as it re-enters Digital Song Sales at #29 (18,000 sold, up 698 percent) and its streams soar by 205 percent to 1.7 million.”

The first version of “Hallelujah” to make any Billboard chart was Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris’ 2010 take, featuring Charlie Sexton, which reached #13 that February.

Billboard further elucidates: “American Idol’s Lee DeWyze and The Voice’s Matthew Schuler took ‘Hallelujah’ to #44 and #40 on the Hot 100 in 2010 and 2013, respectively. In December 2015, Jordan Smith of The Voice sent his version to #61, while Lindsey Stirling’s mostly instrumental cover reached #81 this past January. On the Nov. 12 Hot 100 (three weeks ago), Pentatonix’s a cappella cover brought ‘Hallelujah’ to the Hot 100’s top 40 for a third time (following the Timberlake/Morris/Sexton and Schuler versions). On the latest Hot 100, it ranks slightly higher than Cohen’s version, bounding 81-56. The act’s cover climbs 27-19 on Digital Song Sales (27,000, up 29 percent) and surges by 59 percent to 4.6 million U.S. streams.”

Listen to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

According to Wikipedia, “Hallelujah” has been covered by more than 300 artists, including Rufus Wainwright, k.d. lang, Willie Nelson, Regina Spektor and Bono. Bob Dylan covered the song in concert in 1988. He has been quoted as saying, “It’s a beautifully constructed melody that steps up, evolves and slips back, all in quick time. But this song has a connective chorus, which when it comes in has a power all of its own. The ‘secret chord’ and the point-blank I-know-you-better-than-you-know-yourself aspect of the song has plenty of resonance for me.”

Bon Jovi has also covered “Hallelujah” in concert.

On the November 12, 2016, episode of Saturday Night Live, cast member Kate McKinnon performed the song in tribute to both Cohen and Hillary Clinton, who had been defeated by Donald Trump four days earlier.

Related: Leonard Cohen dead at 82

The song was named one of the top 10 greatest tracks of all time in a poll of songwriters conducted by the British music magazine Q. (Cohen’s version of “Hallelujah” charted in the U.K. in 2008, reaching #36.) Rolling Stone named it one of the top 500 songs of all-time.

Leonard Cohen’s farewell album, You Want It Darker, is in the top 10 of the Billboard album chart this week. His highest charting album was 2012’s Old Ideas, which hit #3.

Incidentally, in case you were wondering, the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 this week is “Black Beatles,” by Rae Sremmurd featuring Gucci Mane. Don’t look at us—we don’t know either.

Watch the video of Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah”

And one more. Here’s the Pentatonix version.

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Best Classic Bands Staff
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