When I was a kid in Philly I had a classmate, Seth Cohen whose father was Leonard Cohen. They came from Michigan as I recall, and I believe Leonard had a Ph.D. in physiology.  (I was always partial to anyone named “Leonard”.)  But in subsequent years whenever I heard the name Leonard Cohen, it was associated with the Canadian songwriter who passed away last month at the age of 82.  His face was a synthesis of Dustin Hoffman and Leonard Nimoy and his most famous work (arguably) was Hallelujah. Although the song feels like it’s been around forever, it didn’t appear until 1984 when it was released on his studio album, Various Positions.

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
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
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

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 has been covered by over 200 artists, and this time of year reminds me of it perhaps because it has that “Chrismassy” choral sound but was written by a Jew whose Jewish background, according to Judy Collins, greatly influenced his music.

Leonard was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.  At the ceremony he finished his acceptance speech with the lyrics from Tower of Song which, ironically, he didn’t write – or perhaps that was the point.  [The song was co-authored by Anna Marly and Hy Zaret, born Hyman Harry Zaritsky who also co-authored Unchained Melody popularized by The Righteous Brothers.]

Well, my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I’m crazy for love but I’m not coming on
I’m just paying my rent every day in the Tower of Song

I said to Hank Williams, how lonely does it get?
Hank Williams hasn’t answered yet
But I hear him coughing all night long
Oh, a hundred floors above me in the Tower of Song

I was born like this, I had no choice
I was born with the gift of a golden voice
And twenty-seven angels from the Great Beyond
They tied me to this table right here in the Tower of Song

So you can stick your little pins in that voodoo doll
I’m very sorry, baby, doesn’t look like me at all
I’m standing by the window where the light is strong
Ah, they don’t let a woman kill you, not in the Tower of Song

Now, you can say that I’ve grown bitter but of this you may be sure
The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor
And there’s a mighty judgment coming, but I may be wrong
You see, you hear these funny voices in the Tower of Song

I see you standing on the other side
I don’t know how the river got so wide
I loved you baby, way back when
And all the bridges are burning that we might have crossed
But I feel so close to everything that we lost
We’ll never, we’ll never have to lose it again

Now I bid you farewell, I don’t know when I’ll be back
They’re moving us tomorrow to that tower down the track
But you’ll be hearing from me baby, long after I’m gone
I’ll be speaking to you sweetly from a window in the Tower of Song

The induction ceremony is well with watching and it ends, fittingly, with Damien Rice’s beautiful rendition of Hallelujah.



About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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One Response to Hallelujah

  1. doctuhdon says:

    “His face was a synthesis of Dustin Hoffman and Leonard Nimoy”

    Spot on , Len !

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