The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #9: Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen (+) Covered by Jeff Buckley, K.D. Lang and a Cast of Thousands. (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #9: Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen (+) covered by Jeff Buckley, K.D. Lang and a Cast of Thousands.

When I was jus a boy, my family went to Church every Sunday. We always sat in the back pew on the left side of the church. We always sat on the left side of the back pew, too. On that left side of the pew stood a pillar that separated the seat on the very end from the rest of the pew. My father always sat in that special place. I always sat on the other side of the pillar, with my mother and sister next to me. Most of the people who made up the congregation of my Church all sat in the same seats each week, too. As everyone entered and headed down the aisles, we would always nod and smile at them and they, in reply, would do so at us. Sometimes, my parents would share a whispered critique. Sometimes, those who walked by, stared straight ahead and never even acknowledged us. My parents made note of that, too. After the service was over, sometimes there would be tea served downstairs and, if not, there would certainly be conversations held outside, on the Church steps, before everyone got into the cars and drove back home to put on their comfortable clothes. We do so adore the skin we inhabit.

In technical terms, going to Church is suppose to be about your Religion and about offering thanks and praise to whichever God you choose to follow. For those for whom Church means spirituality, inviting The Lord into one’s heart is a life-affirming experience. For those who live to sing the praises of The Lord, the word, “Hallelujah” was coined. The origin of the word is such that it, quite literally, means “to sing praises to God”. For many people, the word, “Hallelujah” has always been a sacred, religious word and the emotions connected to it were always aligned closely with piousness and religion. Thus, it was a word reserved for those closest to God.

This brings us to Leonard Cohen. Cohen was a Jewish, by birth but, he was a secular man, by nature. So, when he came to write his signature song, “Hallelujah”, it should not come as a surprise that the song plays like a hymn but, it not a song of praise to The Lord. In fact, the essence of “Hallelujah” is that it helps to break down the wall that separates the pious from the rest of us and acknowledges that we, too, can and should deserve our own moments of “Hallelujah”. He does this by using the Bible to prove his own point. In the first few verses of his song, he talks about two important Biblical figures, King David and Samson, who both were first presented in the Bible as being pure and ideal in God’s eyes but who, in the end, both proved fallible, for one reason or another. Cohen’ point with both is that we are guilty of putting imperfect people on pedestals and worshipping them and their deeds as if they were flawless of character when, in fact, we all have or weaknesses and we all make our mistakes, too. The important point being that our misdeeds or weaknesses shouldn’t disqualify us from ever feeling the elation of a moment that results in a feeling of Hallelujah. Cohen gives examples of sexuality, living purposeful lives, achieving hard-fought goals and so on. That he weaves religion, in and out, all through this song, gives “Hallelujah” an air of beauty that makes it instantly recognizable regardless of who is singing its verses aloud.

Leonard Cohen released “Hallelujah” in 1984. It was his first hit in many years and helped to revitalize his career; setting him up as an elder statesmen of song, during the second half of his life. When first released, “Hallelujah” was not a huge hit for Cohen. Instead, it is a song that was recognized by other musicians for the craftsmanship of its’ lyrics and, because of the attention they showed to the song, it gained a larger audience and ended up becoming the iconic song that it is today.

The first person to recognize the importance and beauty of “Hallelujah” was John Cale, who was a key member of The Velvet Underground. He sang the song using the piano. Cale’s version was slower and softer than Cohen’s. It was a worthy cover but, its’ greatest impact was to come when Cale’s version was heard by a young, up-and-coming performer named Jeff Buckley. *(You can read about Buckley in a previous post, here). Buckley recorded his own cover of “Hallelujah” for his debut album. There are many fans and critics who find Buckley’s breathy, emotional rendition to be the definitive take on the song. Regardless of whether or not you agree, the way Buckley emotes is representative of the feeling of Rapture many people experience when they find God and allow Him into their heart. After Jeff Buckley completed recording his cover of “Hallelujah”, he passed away in a tragic accident; thus, adding to the mystic about his cover. Many others have followed Buckley in covering Cohen’s song such as Canadians Rufus Wainwright (who sang it as Cale did, with piano accompaniment) and fellow Canadian, K.D. Lang, who recorded this song on her album of Canadian classic covers called, “Hymns of the 49th Parallel”. Lang, also, sang this song during the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

“Hallelujah” is a beautiful song filled with phrases that conjure up much in the way of imagery in our minds. Regardless of who sings it, it feels like they are experiencing a form of exultation that, in the past, was reserved for only those with a direct connection to God. But, thanks to the genius of Leonard Cohen, that pre-requisite has been de-mystified and has been made more accessible for the flawed characters, like us, who inhabit our planet but yet, attempt to strive for happiness, while living lives of compassion and empathy. Which brings me back to my days in Church as a child. I never felt the Rapture as I sat with my parents in the back row on the left hand bank of pews. But, what I did feel was a sense of community with the other people who were there. Our Minister would speak about Charity and Compassion from the pulpit. My parents and those around me would smile and nod their heads. And while I know we were not all perfect people, we did our best to be good and to make a difference in the lives of others; which has been my mantra, going forward, my entire life. With that in mind, I have always felt worthy of every “Hallelujah”-calibre moment I have experienced…….and so should all of you, as well.

So, without further delay, here is Leonard Cohen, John Cale, Jeff Buckley, K.D. Lang, Rufus Wainwright and even, Choir! Choir! Choir!……all with their versions of the Cohen classic, “Hallelujah”. Enjoy them all or just the one you really like.

The link to the video for the song, “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Leonard Cohen, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Hallelujah”, as covered by John Cale, can be found here.

The link to the official website for John Cale, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Hallelujah”, as covered by Jeff Buckley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Jeff Buckley, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Hallelujah”, as covered by K.D. Lang, can be found here.

The link to the official website for K.D. Lang, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Hallelujah”, as covered by Rufus Wainwright, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rufus Wainwright, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Hallelujah”, as covered by Choir! Choir! Choir!, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Choir! Choir! Choir!, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #185: There Is A Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #185: There Is a Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths.

“There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” comes from The Smiths third of four albums, “The Queen Is Dead”. This was the album that saw The Smiths at their most successful, in terms of mainstream reach and acceptance. The song was written by Morrissey and arranged by Johnny Marr, who added strings to this song, which was a departure from how The Smiths usually recorded their songs. But, according to Marr, once they began playing the song live, he declared “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” to be his favourite song in their catalogue and the best Pop song he had ever heard, period!

Any discussion concerning The Smiths tends to always centre upon their wonderful ability to “see the unseen” when it came to writing literate songs about the lives of their fans. “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” touches upon themes of loneliness and redemption in the arms of a lover that strike a universal theme. This is especially evident in lines such as:

Take me out tonight

Where there’s music and there’s people

And they’re young and alive.

Driving in your car

I never, never want to go home

Because I haven’t got one

Anymore.

The inspiration for the song was the Hollywood movie, “Rebel Without a Cause” starring James Dean. Because Dean ended up dying in a car crash not long after this movie was made, there were many critics/fans who claimed that “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” was a song written about death and suicide. Consequently, it has become a song that is routinely played at many funerals; including that of Cranberries singer, Dolores O’ Riorden, who had covered the song just prior to her own death.

Live performances of “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” showcase Morrissey’s voice like no other song does. He sounds magnificent in every live version of this song I have seen. As well, the reaction of fans during this particular song is typical of the reactions of Arena-esque rockers, even though this song isn’t a particularly raucous song. There is just something tragic and emotional that resonates with so many when it comes to a song about feeling detached from life, with nowhere to turn and nowhere to go, the only hope of absolution being a ride in a car with a lover and, ultimately, the release that can only be found in such a glorious death. As the lyrics note:

To die by your side

Well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine.

The Smiths released their four albums in consecutive years, from 1984-87. The Queen is Dead came out in 1986 and contained an incredible mix of elements such as growing fame and influence, coupled with exhaustion from touring relentlessly, an increasingly political mindset (especially, from Morrissey) and the usual set of rising tensions that tend to be characteristic of many bands who have been in close quarters for too long together. The Smiths were twelve calendar months away from breaking up when they released “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”, which is regarded by many as their finest work. Let’s see if you agree.

Below, I will post the usual live concert video so that you can hear the rich timbre of Morrissey’s voice. I will, also, include a couple of cover versions, too, just to give you some idea of the universal appeal of this song and how well the song’s structure and lyrics hold up, even in the hands of others. For now, here are The Smiths with “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” from their album, “The Queen is Dead”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Smiths, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”, as sung by Morrissey solo, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”, as sung by The Cranberries, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “”There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”, as covered by Choir! Choir! Choir!, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for shining their light on the best music and artists from all round the world. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #381: I Will Follow You Into The Dark by Death Cab for Cutie (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #381: I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie.

Well, as you may know, the band, “Death Cab for Cutie” is based upon a song featured in The Beatles TV movie, “The Magical Mystery Tour”. *(You can read all about that here). The band was formed in the late 1990s and has released several albums that have been nominated for Grammy Awards in the Alternative Rock categories. The band is comprised of lead singer Ben Gibbard, Nick Harmer (bass), Dave Depper (keyboards, guitar and vocals), Zac Rae (keyboards/guitar)and Jason McGerr (drums).

The song, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” is Death Cab for Cutie’s biggest selling, and most well-known song of all-time. The song deals with Gibbard thinking about relationships and how they might extend beyond our living years, into the dark void of whatever happens after we die. It is a romantic song in the sense that it chronicles how the singer would search the Hereafter for as long as it took to find those he loved.

What really has helped Death Cab for Cutie establish themselves is the placement of their songs in well-known television shows. A song like “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”, with its theme of an everlasting love, was well-suited for angst-driven dramas in which it has appeared such as “90210”, “Scrubs”, as well as, “Grey’s Anatomy”. In each case, Gibbard’s lyrics, paired with the storylines of beloved television characters, helped create a greater sense of emotional depth for all involved. As such, Death Cab for Cutie were able to reach a vast audience who may never had listened to their song if not for having it be the soundtrack to the storylines of their favourites characters on tv. Smart marketing on their part.

So, please enjoy this acoustic ballad that soared to prominence because of TV. From a band who came into being because of a Beatles movie that appeared on TV, too. Here is, “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie.

The link for the video for “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie, can be found here.

The link for the video for when this song was used in the TV show, “Scrubs” can be found here.

The link for the video for when this song was used in the TV show, “Grey’s Anatomy”, can be found here.

The link to the video for “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Choir! Choir! Choir!, can be found here.

The link to the website for Death Cab for Cutie can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. A link to their website can be found here.