I’m working on some media for my upcoming new radio program, Crossroads Radio. As a part of my duties, I am sifting through numerous film and music clips looking for samples I can use in the show. If anyone ever questions the wisdom of musical and film artists, I can tell you that you really need to do some research.
One of the best examples I have worked on comes from Leonard Cohen. I didn’t just discover his music tonight. I have listened to his music for a while, particularly his most popular song, Hallelujah. As I listen to it again tonight, I am reminded of the powerful message in this song. Before you continue in this blog, I urge you to take a few minutes and listen to the best version of this song (my apologies to Leonard Cohen, but John Cale has the best recording of the song – and those who mention Jeff Buckley, you are crazy…his version can’t touch Cale’s).
Now that you have heard the song…here are some of the most powerful lyrics I have ever heard:
“Her beauty and the moonlight drove her through you.”
This is a beautiful sentiment. Imagine a beautiful woman bathed beneath the moonlight. Imagine the love of your life in this picture. As he says, this image drives straight through my heart. He has put into words a basic and primal emotion of man as he sees beauty.
“She broke your throne, she cut your hair, and from your lips she drew the hallelujah.”
This is an obvious reference to Samson in the Bible. But, let’s take it further. It speaks of betrayal. The woman in these lyrics takes the one thing that he entrusted to her. What is even more powerful is the exclamation of hallelujah. This word is an exclamation of praise for God. Imagine a woman bringing a man down so far as to force an exclamation of praise to God. This is on par with the trials of Job. The only words I could use to describe this kind of situation are the words of Cohen himself.
“Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.”
This is a sentiment that any of us who have felt the painful sting of heartbreak. These lyrics give us a painful and dark perspective of love. While most of us celebrate love, some people have this view that it only hurts us. Imagine an unfeeling declaration of love. A broken promise of praise. This is the cold and broken hallelujah that Cohen feels in this song.
“Maybe there’s a God above, but all I ever learned from love is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.”
This follows in the series of lyrics in this song that describe how painful love can be when someone is hurt. The end of the lyric is pretty straight-forward, but it’s the beginning that gives me pause. How many people do you think have questioned the existence of God because of someone who hurt them? Again, Cohen has tapped into a fundamental emotion that many of us have felt as we faced pain.
“And it’s not a cry you can hear at night, it’s not somebody who’s seen the light. It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.”
This is the end of the previous lyrics about being hurt by someone. It describes the fact that you can’t see this coming. How many of us are blinded by love? We don’t see the darkness in those we love until they hurt us. We don’t hear the warnings of others. We don’t see the light until it’s too late. When we finally understand the nature of the danger in which we have placed our hearts, it is too late. The promise is broken…the praise that we have given to God for our love has turned cold and unfeeling.
“I remember when I moved in you, and the Holy Dove was moving too, and every breath we drew was hallelujah.”
As a complete antithesis of the previous lyric, this is a beautiful lyric of love. I have talked about this lyric with my wife. We’re getting personal here so hold on…Sex is a part of almost every serious relationship. This is especially true with marriages. I have been married for almost four years, and have been with my wife for eight years now. During that time, there have been a handful of times that I could describe in the way Cohen does in this sentence. One of the most prominent would be right after I was married. There was an incredible amount of passion involved in that moment, but it went beyond passion. Every breath we drew in that moment was an exclamation of praise to God. I have never found a more beautiful, honest, and poetic description of what it means to feel true, passionate love for another person. I consider this one of the most beautiful lyrics ever written. I’m not ashamed to say that I get choked up thinking about the deep and fundamental need and love I have for my wife when I hear this. A feeling I believe any man who truly loves his wife should feel when he hears his emotions described in such a beautiful and poetic manner.
You can see that I find this song very powerful. This kind of beauty and power can be found in so many forms of art. Some find it in painting. Some in film. Some in music. Tonight, I also found incredible beauty in the song Time to Say Goodbye. I encourage each of you to find the beauty in your life. Find the song, the film, or the image that speaks to you. Use it to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and those who you love. After all…what’s the point of life if we aren’t enjoying it’s beauty?
If you are brave please feel free to post what you find beautiful, or powerful, and why you find it so. You never know what it could mean to a stranger.