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February 24, 2013


Hallelujah is one of my favorite songs ever.

I came to it in an unexpected way. A friend sent me a YouTube vid of some people in Italy giving out "Free Hugs." The piece was edited to show that passerby were at first amused and suspicious, then slowly started hugging and being hugged back, and then everybody hugging everybody else.

What lifted the vid from "hey, pretty nice" to something that made me cry watching it was the soundtrack. After some digging, I found out the song was "Hallelujah," sung by Alexandra Burke. I got a bit obsessed, did searches for and listened to so many, many covers of the song. Then sang it myself, frequently (when alone at home, so no one but the cats heard my wavery quavery rendition).

One of West Wing's most heart-wrenching scenes - the one where the Secret Service agent CJ has been crushing on is killed, just before they were supposed to go on a date - played "Hallelujah" as CJ sits on a bench and slowly breaks down into tears.

It pains me to think of Christianists taking this wonderful, powerful song and bowlderizing it to suit their priggish fancy. Doesn't Leonard Cohen still own the rights? Don't they have to get his approval - not for rewriting it, but for publishing and performing it?

A blog post about one of my favorite songs and one of my favorite books!

I do like Rufus Wainwright's version, but I prefer Kate Voegele's rendition. I would say that her version is very similar to Wainwright's, but I really like female vocalists.

As to Melkor, one thing he has in common with the Christian Right is that he came from a place of wanting his Father's favor. Melkor didn't hate Iluvatar, he just wanted to be the favorite, and he was ashamed when his Father didn't like his improvisation. Likewise, the Christian Right loves God as they understand Him. There's a lot that they miss (e.g. "Do not pray in public as the hypocrites do" and "Whatsoever you do to the least of My people that you do unto Me") but they are (mostly) sincere. Their adoration for the Terminator Jesus at the end of Left Behind shows a sincere confusion over why the Father hasn't smote the rest of the world. They really think that they're the only ones serving the Father.

Leonard Cohen sings it himself. Best.

Now, I don't agree with Jessica that "Hallelujah" is The Best Song Ever, but it's certainly one of the best.

/head explodes

Axiology is fickle, but goodness gracious.

They really think that they're the only ones serving the Father.

This is one of the reasons why I have distaste for those professing their faith is the One True Christianity. Religion is, for me, a very personal thing.

I don't think God wants us all to behave as prophets until he chooses us for that, and that's just not the nature of it, at present and at any recorded time in history.

Serve. Maybe at some point you will be called on to point out people's sin for them, but for now: serve.


There was some brouhaha in Norway recently over this, but in the other direction.

"Tenn lys!" ("Light candles!") is an advent candle-lighting song written for a Children's TV show in the eighties. It has three fairly secular verses about compassion and love and fighting for justice and such, and the final verse is explicitly Christian. It's become very popular.

Some people in the Heathen's society (a more militantly anti-Christian offshoot of the Humanist association) took offense and published a "censored" lyric in a songbook for their members. A parish board member in Oslo responded by writing a Christianised version of "Til Ungdommen", ("To the young"), a rousing idealistic humanist song by the late communist Nordahl Grieg. Both are taken down now.

In general this is nothing new. Lots and lots of psalms are "liberated" drinking songs, and I have a couple of old Teetotaller songbooks with new lyrics for drinking songs - the authors explicitly wanted to preserve positive aspects of a culture they wanted to abolish. Union songs and Worker's songs were often "stolen" the other way.

With the possible exception of copyright and respect for the artist, there's no reason to go hating for stuff like this. Leonard Cohen the Buddhist Jew is alive and well, if he took offense at this he could have stopped it. That he hasn't I see as evidence he's a sensible person after all.

Wise words, Slart.

Walker Percy wrote something along those lines (I can't find the quote at the moment; there are several -- in his non-fiction, and placed in the mouths of his fictional characters as well), pointing out self-effacingly that it wasn't for him to be a prophet, despite the prophetic tone ascribed to his work by his readers.

Finding out Olasky is rewriting Cohen is like finding out the Swedes in Ikea's Swedish meatballs have been replaced with horse meat.

Horse meat is all very fine in its place, but I find ground Swede to be easier on the digestion.

Olasky .... Olasky, wasn't he one of them Ivy League Commie Marxists (Yale) a long time ago that the One True Ted Cruz Harvard grad was yammering on about?

Marxist, not in the Groucho or Harpo sense, but more Chico, grifting the marks with one hand while the other hand fumbles with the chorus girl's bodice?

Harold K.: Very interesting comment.

Jose Canseco rewrote the theory of gravity recently, too.,0,2427129.story

His point being that if gravity's force was less, as it was in prehistoric times, according to his calculations, that fly ball wouldn't have plonked him as hard in the noggin in the famous vid.

I'm not sure about his views regarding how less gravity would have affected Mark McGuire's home run totals, but he may come up with a unified theory one day.

There's an audio outtake from a 1964-65 recording session of Paul McCartney singing "Scrambled Eggs", with fully fleshed-out lyrics describing a range of breakfast comestibles ("Scrambled eggs, oh how I really loved your legs"), before he decided to bowdlerize the song into "Yesterday".

if olasky wants 'better' songs, for whatever definition of 'better' floats his boat, he should write his own and leave leonard cohen the hell out of it.

leaving aside the religious aspect of it, his (olasky's) work, like virtually all agitprop literature and art, is crap.

i wonder if he asked cohen's permission to parody his work? it's not legally necessary, but it is considered good form.

leaving the religious aspect in, what slarti said.

russell, do you really think Olasky would use the term "parody" for what he did?

My suspicion is that he thinks he was merely making some improving tweaks. Editing, if you will -- as every editor feels he is making little changes, which make a work better without changing it materially.

Didn't Olasky write the words to George W. Bush's theme song -- "Compassionate Conservatism"?

One of Ayn Rand's party tricks back in the Greenspan/Brandon days was to down a beer in one gulp and then belch out the lyrics to the original version of the song, which rhymed f*ck off with jagoff in the chorus.

As I recall, the second verse went something along the lines of "A pretty young lass once aristotled, that the poor are better throttled than coddled."

You don't get the joke without the belching.

Bush's and Olasky's contributions to the later version amounted to emphasizing the downbeat for improved danceability and the release of a music video of Bush practicing his compassionate smirking.

russell, do you really think Olasky would use the term "parody" for what he did?

probably not initially, he appears to believe he's single-handedly redeeming the popular culture for the kingdom of god.

if he hears from cohen's lawyers regarding copyright infringement, however, 'parody' will begin to seem like a really good way to characterize it.

dude should write his own songs and leave off bollixing up other people's.

or, better yet, not write songs at all.

So that song wasn't written just for Shrek? Interesting...

Axiology is fickle, but goodness gracious.

Hear hear; I can apparently stand to live in a world where some people like Leonard Cohen, but wondering aloud whether this stuff is the best evar or just close to it is a bridge too far people.

Maybe at some point you will be called on to point out people's sin for them

two men say they're Jesus. one of them must be wrong.

since supernatural entities do not use cryptographically-strong signature verification protocols, nor even the services of notaries public, there's no way to say who has been 'called' and who hasn't. if you say you have, who can dispute it? how could i prove you wrong? if i say i can, i'm asserting my knowledge of supernatural entity X is greater than yours. but that's unprovable, also.

religion: baffling logic for millennia.

"Didn't Olasky write the words to George W. Bush's theme song -- "Compassionate Conservatism"?"

I think I first heard that phrase in 1999 or thereabouts, before I knew anything about Shrub and I liked the sound of it. I wouldn't have voted for him or the concept, but I liked the idea of people arguing about the best ways to help the poor and really being sincere about it. That's what politics should be about.

Chris Hayes mentioned on one of his shows recently how liberals tend to idealize conservatives who are no longer in power--we (or some of us) say things like "Reagan was much more pragmatic" and now we've even got people looking back at Bush II with nostalgia--he wasn't anti-immigrant, he discouraged Islamophobia , and now I'm talking about how I liked the sound of compassionate conservatism.

Well, I still think Bush is a war criminal and should be living his life out in prison, but rhetorically at least I preferred his "compassionate conservatism" to this new meme of the 47 percent, where the Republicans don't even pretend to have anything other than contempt for the poor. It does show a downward trend.

As for compassionate conservatism in practice, it didn't amount to much, except maybe for that massive spending increase for fighting AIDS in Africa (or so I've heard--I didn't follow the issue closely.)

wj, 'parody' as a scholarly term (outside its original context of Greek theatre) means just the retexting of a tune. Bach did a lot of it (best known example: he reused the music of a princely birthday celebration piece and made it the the basis for the opening chorus for the Christmas Oratorio). At his time it was only allowed of course to reuse a 'secular' work for a 'sacred' purpose, not the other way around.
The concept that parody means a mocking is a new one.

I have chtulhufied quite a number of sacred songs personally.

Hartmut, I am familiar of a lot of re-use of songs. Especially in what we call filk songs. In fact, I've written new lyrics myself for a number of them. But the idea was to recycle the tune for a generally unrelated subject.

But the only way "parody" is used today (at least in the US) is as something that would be close to the original, but tweaked so as to make a mockery of it. That is what my comment took as the meaning, and what I would have expected Olansky would have read in the word.

In US copyright law, parodies of copyrighted songs are permissible under fair use.

If Olansky decides to pursue his new hobby and characterizes what he is doing as a parody of the original, he's all set.

Otherwise, he will need to cut Mr. Cohen a check.

He can be the 2 Live Crew of the evangelical community. It's a niche, I'm not sure anyone else is working that territory, so there may be some opportunities there for him.

It's another one of these cases where scholarly and popular meaning of a term have almost completely separated. In popular use it can be applied far more widely (not just to songs and even to music without text) but in a much narrower sense (restricted to humorous use).
Idol, cultists are adoring
OT: Jesu, joy of man's desiring (after BWV 147)
T: Original German: Martin Janus(1661), English: Robert S. Bridges (assumed)
M: Johann Schop, arranged by Johann Sebastian Bach(1723)

Idol, cultists are adoring
Pedestal of stone so green
Likeness of the soul devouring
Tentacled and scaly Thing
Spawn of Stars of flesh not mortal
Step now through the opened portal
Take Thy seat in Your old town
Deep Ones shambling round Thy throne

Through the ages we were hiding
Had to shun the light of day
But the cult in Thee confiding
Did in secret victims slay
In destruction we('ll) take pleasure
Your's is madness without measure
After sleeping for aeons
Come again into your own

me so holy

So, who holed you?

Hartmut, sneaking that comment in between mine and russell's totally ruins the comic timing.

I have to partially correct myself. It seems that the term 'parody' developed its different meanings independently in and outside of the musical realm. Outside music it carried the 'mocking' aspect from the start (in acient Greece) while in the musical context the humorous connotation only entered the frame in the late 18th/early 19th century and did not supplant the neutral meaning before the 20th.

I'm very partial to kdlang's version.

I hate it that a relious nut is trying to hijack the song for his own propaganda. Ugh.

I don't like atheists taking the religion out of a song, either.

It's not fair to the artist who composed the poetry to have someone come along and rewrite their poem to have a different message They should write their own damn poem if they have something they want to say!

I have nothing to say, I do poetry and parody just for the evulz ;-)


Squids wha hae
OT: Scots wha hae

Squids wha hae till now been mute
Just been whale and human food
Don the kilt grab pipes and flute
Sing our battle song
Now's the day and now's the hour
We'll no longer hide and cower
No one hence shall us devour
Do us any wrong

Octopus and cuttlefish
Will no longer serve as dish
And for those who still so wish
Of our wrath beware
Let's together proudly hail
Never will our struggle fail
Calmar union shall prevail
Firmly we declare

We all share a common fate
Tentacles be ten or eight
Never counted they who ate
Us with sauce or fried
Pibroch sound through sea and reef
Man, you better do believe
Do us harm, you'll come to grief
By our rules abide

Vampire squids from hell now creep
Architeuthis in the deep
Wake the Kraken from his sleep
Squidkind will not yield
Rise now for the time is ripe
Tartan squids of any stripe
Lead our host the foe to wipe
Off the battlefield

Harald K: "Lots and lots of psalms are "liberated" drinking songs"

A truly despicable act that should be denounced by all alcoholics, coherently or not. Thor should smite their teetotaller asses.

And another variation (also to the tune of Men of Harlech):

What's the use of wearing braces?
Hats or spats or shoes with laces?
Vest or pants you buy in places
Down in Brompton Road?

What's the use of shirts of cotton?
Studs that always get forgotten?
These affairs are simply rotten --
Better far is woad!

Woad's the stuff to show men.
Woad to scare your foemen.
Boil it to a brilliant blue,
And rub it on your legs and your abdomen.
Ancient Britons never hit on
Anything as good as woad to fit on
Neck or knees or where you sit on.
Tailors be ye blowed.

Romans came across the channel
All dressed up in tin and flannel.
Half a pint of woad per man'll
Clothe us more than these.

Saxons you can save your stitches,
Building beds for bugs in britches,
We have woad to clothe us which is
Not a nest for fleas.

Romans keep your armor;
Saxons your pyjamas.
Hairy coats were made for goats,
Gorillas, yaks, retriever dogs and llamas.
March on Snowdon, with your woad on,
Never mind if you get rained or snowed on.
Never need a button sewed on.
Bottom's up to woad!

My version of that song is:

Cultist Men
Tune: Men of Harlech

Hail, oh Great Old One Cthulhu
Hear the cultists call out to you
Tell us what perversions to do
For your swift return
Stranger take it as a warning
Here we are the rites performing
Drums we/are beat from eve to/till morning/straight on till morning
Bright the fires burn
Hear he victims crying
Soon they will be dying
See us in our loathsome dance all earthly law defying
Hail Cthulhu, Lord of R'lyeh
Come in haste and without delay
Here to taste some/feast on human filet
Brought by cultist men

May the cultists rant and rave
While Cthulhu's in his grave
Mankind seems completely safe
But that will not last
Soon will come the great transition
When fulfilled is the condition
Stars are in the right position
Like in distant past
Sea and earth are shaking/quaking
Cthulhu is awaking
Cyclopean buildings through the ocean's surface are breaking
For the Lord of devastation
Filled with anxious expectation
Waits a special delegation
Of us cultist men

Woe, ye cultists, thou art fools
Don't you know you are just tools
Where one of the Old Ones rules
Humans have no place
All your hopes will be in vain
Feel but agony and pain
When you're mercilessly slain
By the elder race
Wake up from your dreaming
Now will start the screaming
From earth's face each tiny trace of human race they'll be cleaning
Like your victims you will howl
When the shoggoths vile and foul
Start to rip and disembowel
You the cultist men

I always took Cohen's song as an observation of the many wonderful and dreadful things we really mean on the many different occasions we utter the words "I love you" (for which "Hallelujah" is a placeholder).

Gotta put in a plug for my favorite performance of this song: kd lang, the live version. Incredibly powerful.

Nice article about the song here.

I gotta say, to me Buckley's version represents something so otherworldly that all the other renditions seem slightly banal.

I must say, I had never imagined that "Hallelujah" would be the perfect song to accompany a vid about fighting the evil spawn of Johnny Winter, but it does seem to work.

But, c'mon, guys, the best cover is John Cale's.

I thought this version proved how universally cool the song is:

This version via Sullivan:

Not great, but awesome anyway

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