Nov 21, 2016: Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ Charts for First Time… For One Week

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Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" sheet music

The Leonard Cohen “Hallelujah” sheet music

It took the death of Leonard Cohen, on November 7, 2016, 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 on Nov. 21 (in the issue dated Dec. 3), the first time Cohen’s original—which has been recorded by dozens of other artists—has made that chart.

Surprisingly, it marked the first time that Cohen had 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.

“Hallelujah”‘s posthumous success was short-lived. Just one week later, Cohen’s version of the song fell off the Hot 100 for the chart dated December 10, 2016.

Related: Tributes to Leonard Cohen poured in following his death

Listen to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

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 didn’t chart.

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 provides further research: “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, 2016 Hot 100, 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 same week that Cohen’s version charted, it ranked slightly higher than Cohen’s, bounding 81-56.” The act’s cover ultimately peaked at #23.

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.

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.

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

And one more. Here’s the Pentatonix version.

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