Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song (2021) - full transcript

HALLELUJAH: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song is a definitive exploration of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen as seen through the prism of his internationally renowned hymn, Hallelujah. This feature-length documentary weaves together three creative strands: The songwriter and his times. The song's dramatic journey from record label reject to chart-topping hit. And moving testimonies from major recording artists for whom Hallelujah has become a personal touchstone. Approved for production by Leonard Cohen just before his 80th birthday in 2015, the film accesses a wealth of never-before-seen archival materials from the Cohen Trust including Cohen's personal notebooks, journals and photographs, performance footage and extremely rare audio recordings and interviews.

♪ Yeah, I've heard that
There was a secret chord ♪

♪ That David played
And it pleased the Lord ♪

♪ But you don't really
Care for music ♪

♪ Do you? ♪

♪ Well, it goes like this
The fourth, the fifth ♪

♪ The minor fall
The major lift ♪

♪ The baffled king composing
Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

The word
"Hallelujah," of course, is so rich.

It's so abundant in resonances.

People have been
singing that word

for thousands of years,

just to affirm our
little journey here.

♪ 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... ♪

I just love the whole song

'cause it seems to me to sum
up so much of what Leonard is.

This relationship with God

that he struggled
with so much...

He's taking one part Biblical,

one part the woman
he slept with last night.

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

He expresses that
being alone with the divine

is what can redeem us.

He was
always a spiritual seeker.

And that gave him a dimension

that most rock stars
couldn't even fathom.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelu...

♪ ...jah ♪

It's nice of you to greet
my records so warmly.

You've been doing
this for a long time.

Oh, yeah.

They always suggest writers

and I always say, "Get
Larry Sloman to do this,

he's the only one who gets it."

In some respects,
I was Patient Zero

in this virus that
became "Hallelujah."

So four years ago,

I'm sitting in your house

and what amazed me was
when you showed me your books.

The documentation of these songs

and how these songs go
through this amazing process.

Especially with a
song like "Hallelujah."

I mean, book after book
after book with verses.

Well, I always thought
that I sweated over this stuff.

But I had no idea what
sweating over this stuff meant

until I found myself
in a shabby room

at the Royalton Hotel,

trying to finish "Hallelujah"

and not being able to finish it.

And I remember being in
my underwear, on the carpet,

banging my head
against the floor,

and saying, "I
can't do it anymore."

"It's too lonely,
it's too hard."

Do you think everybody takes
this much care with a pop song?

You know, you can't
begin to understand "Hallelujah"

without investigating
the long, winding path

that got Leonard to a place

where he could
tackle a song like that.

I-I mean, Leonard didn't
really even start writing songs

until he was about 30.

This month, a new
book was published in Canada,

the titleBeautiful Losers,
the author Leonard Cohen.

There are those of the audience
who know Leonard Cohen

perhaps primarily as a poet.

His eyes through my eyes
Shine brighter than love

O send out the raven
Ahead of the dove...

Leonard, in
fact, wishes not to be a poet

but a kind of modern minstrel.

He's become very excited
by the music of the mid '60s.

And recently, his joys
and sorrows of living

have come forth
as simple, beautiful

and sometimes sad songs.

Let's listen to one of them.

♪ It's true That all
the men you knew ♪

♪ Were dealers who
said They were through ♪

♪ With stealing every time
You gave them shelter... ♪

That was the very
first time he sang on television.

The novel was coming out.

And then they said,
"He's going to sing too."

And we said, "Oh, sure. Why not?

And then we'll talk
about the novel."

You must admit that, for
other people looking at you,

Leonard Cohen,
the poet, the novelist,

the scion of a Jewish
family from Montreal,

pop singer and
writer of pop songs...

All of these things, um,

they may certainly add
up to Leonard Cohen,

but they do look
rather complex at first.

Well, I think, that, uh,
you know, the, um...

The borders have... Have
faded between a lot of endeavors,

like the poet or the singer.

All those kinds of expression,

I think are completely

They don't mean anything to me.

It's just a matter of
what your hand falls on.

And if you can make what
your hand falls on sing,

then you can just do it...

I didn't
know him very well then.

I didn't know whether he
would hang in there with it.

After all, I knew, and
everybody did know,

that he came from a
wealthy family in Montreal,

that he'd grown up
in a lot of privilege,

and was he a dilettante?

Was he going to
drop this and say,

"Maybe I'll study
law"? Or whatever.

♪ And leaning On
the window sill ♪

♪ He'll say one day You
caused his will to weaken ♪

♪ With your love and
warmth And shelter ♪

♪ And then taking
From his wallet ♪

♪ An old schedule of trains ♪

♪ He'll say, "I told you when
I came I was a stranger" ♪

♪ "I told you when..." ♪

I came down to New York

and I visited some
agents, and they'd say:

"Turn around, kid, aren't
you too old for this game?"

I was 32 at the time.

And I didn't have
very much success

in getting the ear of anyone.

Please welcome with me

a great songwriter,
poet, novelist and friend,

Leonard Cohen.

So, Judy,
how did you and Leonard Cohen

wind up on this stage together?

Oh, my...

Well, Leonard
came to me in 1966,

and he said, "I can't sing
and I can't play the guitar,

and I don't know if this
is a song." And then he...

He sang me "Suzanne."

And I said, after he finished:

"Well, that is a song and
I'm recording it tomorrow."

It's a great thing,
because I had played it

for somebody in
Montreal, and they said:

"No, there's a lot
of songs like that."

♪ Suzanne takes your hand ♪

♪ She leads you to the river ♪

♪ She's wearing
Rags and feathers ♪

♪ From Salvation Army counters ♪

♪ And the sun pours
down Like honey ♪

♪ On our Lady of the Harbor... ♪

It was on an
album of mine calledln My Life.

And "Suzanne" was the one
that kind of drove it over the top.

So I said, "Well, you can't
hide in the shadows anymore.

You have to come
sing in public."

And I had a date here.

And, uh, it was a big
fundraiser for WBAI.

Everybody was here, I think
Jimi Hendrix was on the show.

It was a whole bunch of people.

Judy kind of
talked me into doing this.

She invited me out on
stage, and I started singing,

and the guitar was
completely out of tune,

and I was scared anyways.

So rather than
humiliate myself, I left.

He said,
"I just can't do this."

And he walked off the stage.

Terror. Ha-ha.

Sheer terror, and
everybody loved it.

I mean, they all love
you when you fall apart.

You know, they have...
They get so excited.

♪ You want
to travel blind... ♪

So I came back with him,

and then we finished
"Suzanne" together.

♪ For she's touched
Your perfect body ♪

♪ With her mind ♪

The audience was
generous. It was just nerves.

So that was the first time,
and after that, you know,

he became known for his
voice and singing his own songs.

- Standby.
- Okay.

Just a sec.

I think you're starting
a little slow, Leonard.

- Right.
- Standby, please.

There was a friend
of mine that said,

"John, there's this
poet from Canada,

he's a wonderful songwriter,
but he doesn't read music,

and he's sort of very strange.

I don't think Columbia would
be at all interested in him,

but you might be."

So I listened to this guy and...

Lo and behold, I thought
he was enchanting.

John Hammond brought
Leonard Cohen to see me and...

I do remember that meeting.

Maybe it's our common Jewish
ancestry, but I related to him.

And John said,
"Leonard is an original."

Take four.

That he's a poet and
that he will make his own way

in a special way
that's unique to him.

Just a sec. Leonard,
excuse me. That's over 20 seconds.

I don't think the
introduction should be more...

No, I wasn't
thinking of it that long.

I just want to get into it
before I started singing.

I didn't have it, in
terms of an introduction.

Take five.

He was Leonard Cohen.
No one walked in his path.

He didn't walk in
anybody else's path.

Bravo, Leonard.
Would you like to listen to it?


People are always telling me:

"Why don't you do something
like you did two records ago?"

I just don't want
to repeat myself.

To me, the only
really exciting thing

about the work is
finding new forms.

So I will keep on
trying to find new forms.

I met Leonard in Montreal...

in 1972.

I was performing in
Montreal at the Hotel Nelson,

and it was like a happening.

Everyone in town was there.
The place was exploding.

We were there for a
week, and it was sold out.

They were lined
up around outside.

And this quiet guy comes over

in a black suit
and stands there,

one hand in his pocket.

We started talking, he
was very complimentary

about how exciting
the music was.

Would I be interested

in talking with him
about recording?

I said, "I'm heading back
to my place in New York."

"Well, I'll come down."

I was 22?

I was unknown.

But we hit it off.

And he played me
some great songs.

And immediately I sensed
that these songs were different.

Leonard's songs
felt cinematic to me.

♪ I remember you well ♪

♪ In the Chelsea Hotel ♪

♪ You were talking so
brave And so sweet ♪

♪ Givin' me head ♪

♪ On an unmade bed ♪

♪ While the limousines ♪

♪ Wait in the street... ♪

And right away, I said:

"Boy, we could record
these and sort of drape them

in a dream, like every
one is a vignette of life."

And he sort of liked that idea,
so within a couple of months,

we recorded, I guess it
was eight or nine songs.

♪ I asked my father ♪

♪ I said "Father,
change my name..." ♪

This wasNew
Skin for the Old Ceremony.

It was the first thing
that I did with Leonard.

♪ Covered up with fear and filth
And cowardice and shame... ♪

In terms of the actual
musical style of the record,

a great deal of it is
due to John Lissauer.

He's a very young man

and certainly the most
interesting musical mind

that I've come
across in many years.

♪ Lover, lover, lover
Lover, lover, lover ♪

♪ Come back to me... ♪

We finished the record

and put together a
band and went on tour.

It was a small band,
just the five of us.

And we did a lot of cities.

We did all of Europe.

And then, after we toured
for about nine months or so,

Leonard asked me if
maybe I'd like to co-write

an album with him.

I said, "How do
you want to do it?

You want to sit around together,

or do you want me
to take your poetry

and essentially
set them to music?"

And he said,
"Well, let's do that."

And he said, "I'm gonna be
in L.A. for a couple of weeks.

Why don't you come join me?

We'll go to the Chateau Marmont,

get a couple of
rooms and write."

♪ I came so far for beauty ♪

♪ I left so much behind... ♪

So I flew out there,
and he had a piano in the room.

We came up with six songs.

It was gonna be an album
calledSongs for Rebecca.

It was thrilling.

We had rough
vocals on everything

and arrangements on everything.

It was in pretty good shape.

And he said, "All right,
I'm going to go to Hydra

for a couple of weeks.

I'm working on a book
of poetry, this and that...

I'll call you when I get
back, and we'll finish up."

And I didn't hear from him...

for eight years.

Hello? Leonard?

Yeah. Hi,
this is Larry Sloman.

I was a young reporter for
Rolling Stone Magazine in '74,

and I got the plum assignment
of doing a piece on Leonard.

Leonard? Yeah.

What's your schedule
gonna be like?

Let's make
a definite appointment

for tomorrow morning.

Do you get up
early, or do you...?

No, I usually sleep pretty late.

I'll tell you what, I'll probably
stay in Queens today

'cause I have my stereo
out at my parents' house.

Shall I call you or...?

I don't have a phone.

Tell me what time you get up.

I usually get up around 11.

So I'll probably get
into the city around,

let's say, 1:00 tomorrow.

Okay, I'll
see you then. Good.

I became
almost like an obsessive.

I mean, I literally stalked
him for three days.

And after the first
night of the first show,

went back to his hotel room,

just kept peppering him
with questions for two hours,

and he was so gracious.

He was, I think, 40 at the time.

He said, "Wouldn't
it be wonderful

if I could just
keep doing this?"

'Cause, you know, we never see

the mature man
chronicling his life.

He says, "It'd be great to hear
that experience on the stage,

and really, you know, my
goal is to become an elder."

Leonard was thinking about
those issues when he was 40

because he was
exploring his Jewish roots.

And in Jewish tradition, I think

you could start studying
Kabbalah when you're 40.

You have to wait till you're
40 to have that life experience

to be able to understand
Kabbalistic thought.

♪ Who by fire ♪

♪ Who by water ♪

♪ Who in the sunshine ♪

♪ Who in the nighttime ♪

♪ Who by high ordeal ♪

♪ Who by common trial... ♪

I was so touched as a child

by that kind of charged speech

that I heard in the synagogue,

where everything was important.

The world was
created through words,

through speech in our tradition.

♪ Who in these
realms Of love... ♪

When we were young,
Leonard would say very proudly

that his grandfather
could take a pin

and put it through the Torah

and know every word it
touched on every page.

♪ Who shall I say ♪

♪ Is calling... ♪

Leonard Cohen once
told an interviewer

that he was thinking
of changing his name.

When you're a famous
Jew, you change your name.

So that's the deal is, you
don't want to be too Jewish

'cause you'll get in
the way of your fame.

Have you ever
thought of changing your name?

Yeah, I was gonna change
my name to September.

I beg your pardon?

I was gonna change
my name to September

when I started writing
songs and singing them.

Leonard September?
No, September Cohen.


But Cohen is such
a standard name.

Yeah, well, September
is pretty standard too.

Not for a first name.

No. Well, I thought that, uh...

You know, I always
had this feeling

that new things are beginning.

And I thought that I
would change my name

and get a tattoo.

September is how you
say Elul to a non-Jew...

'cause Elul is the month of
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur.

This is... This is
the deepest time

when God's on the throne
and we're down here,

and we come to God
with broken hearts

and God's mercies heal us.

So I think he wanted to say...

Leonard Elul.

You know, Leonard,
the man who's immersed

in the world of
the month of Elul.

♪ Who by brave assent... ♪

When I was standing
beside my tall uncles in the synagogue,

and the cantor would
catalog all the various ways

that we've sinned and died,
that moved me very much.

♪ Who by his lady's command ♪

♪ Who by his own hand... ♪

When my father
died, after his funeral,

I found myself writing
some words to him.

Then I took one
of his formal ties

and I slit it open
with a razor blade,

and I put this little note,
this little poem into the tie,

and I buried it in the garden.

♪ Who by high ordeal... ♪

I think that was the first time

I ever used language
in a sacramental way.

♪ Who in your merry,
merry Month of May ♪

♪ Who by very slow decay... ♪

Unlocking the mysteries of life
was his primary preoccupation.

So if you had any
questions along those lines,

he was... He was
the guy to talk to.

I had been
working in Los Angeles

as a session singer,

and then Leonard invited
me to go on the road with them

for the Field
Commander Cohen tour.

I was the other singer
with Jennifer Warnes.

♪ Like a baby stillborn ♪

♪ Like a beast with his horn ♪

♪ I have torn... ♪

I was, you know,
very, very young.

But I came in and felt an
immediate warmth from Leonard.

So we spent a lot of time

talking about his
overall philosophy of life.

♪ I swear by this song ♪

♪ I swear by all That I
have done wrong... ♪

He was very attuned to human
suffering around the world,

even though he was
relatively comfortable in life.

And he was constantly aware

of everyone in the world
who isn't comfortable.

♪ I saw a beggar He
was standing there... ♪

When you see the
world and you see the laws

of brute necessity
which govern it,

you realize that the only way

that you can reconcile
this veil of suffering,

the only way you can
reconcile it to sanity

is to glue your soul to prayer.

♪ A pretty woman leaning
In her darkened door... ♪

He was really on a
quest to find his path,

his spiritual path, and
he tried a million things.

Well, I've been studying

with an old Japanese
gentleman for many years.

Roshi had a
Zen center over in Europe,

so he came out and he
rode with us on the bus.

There were
a lot of wonderful things

in my own culture,
my own training,

but always in the
back of my mind

was some kind of resonating
presence in my heart.

♪ I have tried... ♪

Some sense that there was
something that could be healed.

♪ To be free ♪

I remember once I was
musing on purgatory,

and I was fearful of it.

And he said:

"This is purgatory."

And he meant the whole scene,

what we're living.

And at the same
time, he would say

what an amazing
experiment this is.

We were very young then.

Even then, it was
about the brokenness

of the community that
we both had come out of.

They had a lot of rules.

You went to school,
you got married.

You had children, you lived
in a nice house in Westmount.

That was written for us.

This is a song based
on my extremely boring

and pathetic life at Westmount
High School in Montreal,

and it's a song that I
wrote a couple of years ago

with Phil Spector.

♪ Ooh-wah-ooh ♪

♪ Oh-oh, oh-oh ♪

♪ Ooh-wah-ooh ♪

♪ Oh-oh, oh-oh ♪

♪ Frankie Laine He
was singing "Jezebel" ♪

♪ I pinned an iron
cross To my lapel... ♪

I'd been hearing that Leonard

was going to record
with Phil Spector.

experience with Phil Spector...

That whole thing, I
think, was Marty Machat,

who was Leonard's manager
at the time, also managed Phil.

So he put them together.

I always got the
sense that Marty didn't like me,

I was too young, it was
something I just sensed.

Maybe Marty didn't like my hair.

And so when Spector came
along, he was a legendary producer,

he might have been the most
famous producer in the world.

It was record producer as star.

So I said, "Boy, I guess
they got the real guy."

"Enough work with this kid,

we're gonna get
the real pop ringer."

♪ I know you're hungry ♪

♪ I can hear it in your voice ♪

♪ And there are Many
parts of me to touch ♪

♪ You have your choice ♪

How did
you feel about the album?

Oh, the album is a disaster.

The songs are good, but Tina
Turner should have sung it.

Or-or Bill Medley.

And working with Phil
Spector was a little tricky.

Spector imposed his
"Wall of Sound" on Leonard.

♪ But don't go home
With your hard-on ♪

♪ It will only Drive
you insane... ♪

It had bombastic orchestration,

and a lot of people
thought that the music

was competing with the lyrics.

And, you know, with Leonard,
you gotta hear the lyrics.

That happened,
uh, at a curious time in my life

because I-I was
at a very low point.

My family was breaking up,

I was living in Los Angeles,
which was a foreign city to me,

and I'd lost control of
my work and my life.

I think the breakup

of his relationship with Suzanne

was a very painful process.

talk a little about "Gypsy's Wife."

In a sense, the song
was written for my gypsy wife.

♪ And where Where
is my gypsy wife? ♪

But, uh, in another way,

it's just a song about, uh,

the way men and women
have lost one another.

That, uh, men and women have
wandered away from each other

and have become
gypsies to each other.

♪ I said where... ♪

I've got to ask you about

because there was a
Suzanne in your life,

and she's the mother
of two children.

But you wrote a song
called "Suzanne,"

and someone told me today
that that was not about her.

No, I had written the song

before I met this
particular lady.

I guess I summoned her.

So it was another Suzanne?
It was another Suzanne, yeah.

♪ She says your
body Is the light ♪

♪ Your body... ♪

You have a
great reputation that goes before you,

and perhaps in your wake as
well, for being a ladies' man.

Is it well-earned?

You know,
I'm the last one to ask.

you're the only one I can ask.

♪ So where... ♪

I would have
jumped off a bridge for Leonard.

I would have done anything
because I adored him.

I didn't have a
love affair with him.

I mean, he was wonderful.


intelligent, mysterious,

I mean, once you're past 25,

you sort of know.

So I knew that.

I knew dangerous when I saw it.

♪ It's too early
For the rainbow ♪

♪ It's too early
For the dove... ♪

Leonard had a way
of putting women on a pedestal.

He, I think, saw women
as part of the path

to some kind of
righteousness or enlightenment.

♪ And there is no man ♪

♪ There is no woman ♪

♪ That you can't touch... ♪

We are irresistibly
attracted to one another.

We are irresistibly
lonely for each other.

And we have to deal with this.

And the other side of that is

the same appetite for
significance in the cosmos,

where each of us understands
his solitude in the cosmos

and longs for some affirmation
by the maker of the cosmos,

by the creator.

♪ Where is my
gypsy wife Tonight? ♪

One of the reviews
I was reading said that...

Leonard's whole
career has been pulled

between holiness and horniness.

So let's talk about women.

What was your first love?

- My first love?
- Childhood sweetheart?

Sixth grade? An older aunt?

You never change, do you?

I was 50 years old
when I'd first fallen in love.


I never knew
what it meant before.

I'm going to be 70 next year.

No way.Yeah.

It's not funny. Don't laugh.

♪ If you want a lover ♪

♪ I'll do anything
You ask me to ♪

♪ And if you want
Another kind of love ♪

♪ I'll wear a mask for you ♪

♪ If you want a
partner Take my hand ♪

♪ Or if you wanna
Strike me down in anger ♪

♪ Here I stand ♪

♪ I'm your man ♪

I feel that
when there is an emotion

strong enough to
gather a song about it,

there's something
about that emotion

that is indestructible.

When I asked
him, he said that he'd been working

two years already
on "Hallelujah."

Then he wrote a part
in Paris, you know?

When he was staying in Paris.

And a part in my house.

You know, he was often
starting with this song.

In the morning, first thing,

coffee, then working
on "Hallelujah."

I really love when Leonard's
doing a work that is really...

bringing you all
sort of emotions

and breaking your heart,

and filling your
heart after it's broken.

You know, I don't know,
it's just beautiful to...

To be able to hear such poetry

with such beautiful
music, you know?

Would he try verses out on you?

Asking me? No, he
was never asking,

but he was playing
in front of me.

But I was not really like
somebody at a concert.

He was working. I
was working a lot.

We were both working a lot.

So I'm part of that landscape.

I feel it like that.

You are just a person,

or you could be the dog
or the cat at the moment

where there was inspiration.

It's so mysterious.

"Hallelujah" is like a
symbolist poem, you know?

It's obscure. It's very obscure.

I always see "Hallelujah"

like a bird that is
flying in a room,

and sometimes touching
the walls of the culture.

It's like a... a riddle.

Ratso knows more than me.

Oh, yeah, yeah. Of course.

The last time we talked, we
were talking about "Hallelujah."

And this is something...

You've been working on this
for as long as I've known you.

Yeah, yeah, I've
been working on that song.

And I think I-I have notes
in my present collection

of-of notebooks.

Oh, okay, here, here.

"When David played
His fingers bled

He wept for every word he said

You hear him still

You hear him singing to you"

Endless variations.

Even here, it says:

"Baby, I've been here before

I know what rooms
like this Are for"

"Baby, I've been here before

I know this room
This crooked floor"

And "Baby I've been here before

I know this room
I've walked this floor"

I mean...

These are all the
"Hallelujah" songs.

Did he ever mention
how many verses he might've written?

For some reason, the
number 180 comes to mind.

It might've been 150,
but it was a lot of verses.

Sometimes I think
that I would go along

with the old Beat philosophy:

"First thought, best thought."

But it never worked for me.

There hardly is a first
thought. It's all sweat.

No, but, I mean,
you are kind of...

transmitting the experience...

or passing it along
to another generation.

What is the experience?
It's the experience of, uh...

of work...

and of failure.

And, uh...

You just try to lay it out
as accurately as you can.

I hadn't
seen him in eight years,

'76 to '84.

And so my Leonard
days were done.

Except in 1984, I
get a phone call.

"Hey, John. How are you?"

He said, "Do you want
to make a record?"

Going back to Lissauer
to produceVarious Positions,

that may have been occasioned by

the excesses of
working with Phil Spector.

Lissauer, the arrangements

were much more subtle
and much more elegant,

and it really, I thought,

brought out the nuances
of the lyrics much better.

It was very
surprising but oddly...

uh, comforting
at the same point.

I must have always
known that we weren't done.


Now, at this point,

he was in New York
on a semi-regular basis,

and he was staying
at the Royalton.

So he said, "Come
on up to my room.

I'll play you some songs."

So I'm in the Royalton,
and he's got his guitar out,

but he also has a little device
on his table in front of him.

Not quite as many
cymbals, but he goes...

I'm saying, "What is this?"

So I'm saying, "Jeez.

That's kind of like
Kurt Weill meets, um...

You know, it's Berlin in
the '30s or something."

And at first I thought that
he was sort of putting me on.

I mean, it's a Leonard
Cohen album, it's... It's, uh...

tactile and acoustic and
serious and deep and historic.

I said, "This electronic stuff,

that's just like a
post-disco thing."

I remember
studio sessions with Leonard...

and John.

I remember their relationship,

they were laughing a lot.

Leonard is very intense

but with no show-off of
the intensity, you know?

He's, like, producing this
incredible performance

without intending to
say, "Oh, look at me.

I'm going to do something
great and difficult.

Please, I want concentration."

It's a real creativity.

♪ Dance me
Through the curtains ♪

♪ That our kisses
Have outworn... ♪

Columbia had
asked that we do a record

that would put Leonard
on the American map.

And we had this
song, "Hallelujah,"

which was pop song-like,
and it reached out more.

It just had...

a more contemporary
possibility to it

than a lot of his stuff.

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

I could see how great it was.

And as soon as I sat at the
piano and we started to do...

Again, kind of a gospel 6/8
feel, which eventually is...

And my favorite spot
is the big hole in the end

where it goes...

The last time
through it, really just,

you think, "Oh,
please do something."

♪ 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? ♪

When I first heard it,

it had the verses
that are on the record.

And that was it.

And I never, ever asked
him about his lyrics.

I didn't ever say,
"Explain this to me,"

or, "Does this have
two meanings?"

All the things that
people wanna know.

"Jeez, what did he...?"

♪ ...composing Hallelujah ♪

I wanted to be the audience.

I wanted to make of the lyrics
what they were to the listener.

I didn't want to know too
much. And I didn't want to...

I think it's insulting in a way

to ask someone
to explain his art.

It has to explain itself.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

We're all thrilled
with this record.

And there's so much to it.

There's three
unbelievably great songs

on this album, and I
said, "We've done it.

This is really good."

And I think Columbia
is gonna like this.

They're gonna be happy.

They had their anthem

and they had a pop
tune in "Dance Me."

And it had stuff that could
catch on all over the place.

And I said, you
know, "This is it."

And, boy, was I wrong.

Sit down, my friend.

Now, your album is
called Various Positions.

I know it's available
in England, I found out.

But why can't we
get it in America?

Columbia Records
didn't want to bring it out.

Why? What happened?

They have a transorbital
frontal lobotomy?

It was time to
present the record.


And they brought it into
the new head of Columbia,

Walter Yetnikoff.

Yetnikoff was not a Leonard guy.

And he pretty
much hated it, heh.

I visited the chief executive
of Columbia Records.


First of all, he
reviewed my suit.

Then he said:

"Leonard, we know you're great,

but we don't know
if you're any good."


That record album
never came out in the States, did it?

No, Columbia Records
refused to put it out.

Why? He said, "I
don't like the mix."

I said, "You mix
it, Mr. Yetnikoff.

If that's what's going to stop
you putting out the record,

you just mix it and put it out."

To me, that was so disgusting
and terrible and heartbreaking.

Yeah. Yeah.

TheVarious Positions
is the positions of the little will.

We sense that there is a will

that is behind all things.

And we're also aware
of our own little will...

to succeed, to dominate,

to influence, to be king.

And from time to time,

things arrange themselves
in such a way that

that tiny will is annihilated.

I remember
that he was crushed after that.

All his work that
had been so intense

and doing something so
precise and so beautiful,

and then they say, "Oh, no,
no. We're not interested in this."

It's horrible. It's horrible.

It was like The
Twilight Zone for me.

You do something you're
absolutely sure is one thing,

and someone else sees it...

as reversed as possible.

I said, "Boy, I must have
no sense of the music world...

to be this wrong."

And suddenly, everyone
thought it was wrong.

And Marty made me
feel that I had somehow

ruined Leonard's record career.

He walked in, thinking it
was the greatest thing ever,

and he came out
and it was my fault.

My record career with
Columbia was pretty much done.

So I basically stopped
making records with this album.

At some point, someone said:

"Yeah, you're not working
in this town again, kid."

To me, that
was such a Philistine move.

I mean, it-it just symbolized
everything that's wrong

with those assholes
who run music labels.

I don't think that the
rejection of an album

after it's paid for...

happens that often.

That's pretty extreme, yeah.

I have no idea why
Walter rejected it.

Obviously, the album
included one classic.

The work is done.

And it's really good, man.

It is impeccable.

The stuff's down
in black and white.

Whether it comes out
or whether it's seen.

I'm telling you, this
is all for the books.

I feel I have a huge posthumous
career ahead of me, you know?

My estate will swell.

My name will flourish...
I mean, you know.

Look, "Courage is
what others can't see,

what is never affirmed.

It is made of what
you have thrown away

and then come back for."

I don't think that
Leonard ever believed

that he was not any good.

I don't think he
ever believed that.

I don't think, no
matter who told him,

what titan of the
record industry told him,

or what sales figures
they could show him,

he would ever believe
that he wasn't any good.

♪ Now I look for her always ♪

♪ I'm lost in this calling ♪

♪ And I'm tied to the
roots Of some prayer ♪

I don't
think he would let anybody

destroy him in that way.

I think he always knew
that he was very strong.

♪ And the night comes
on And it's very calm ♪

♪ I want to cross over
I want to go home ♪

♪ But she says, "Go back ♪

♪ Go back to the world" ♪

The album eventually came out...

on some dipshit label
out of New Jersey.

It came out
in a very tiny company.

We had to scurry
around to find somebody

just to print the records.

Positions and "Hallelujah"

had gone completely
unheralded and unrecognized.

There's a lot of stuff
that's really good,

nobody really is
turned up to, you know?

Most of the things
that you're exposed to

are just the things
you hear on the radio.

Nobody heard
of "Hallelujah" at that time.

Except Dylan.

And Dylan was singing the
song in some of his concerts,

which was a
wonderful affirmation.

♪ You say
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
And the major lift ♪

I've had many conversations
with Bob about Leonard's work.

So "Hallelujah" is a
song right up Bob's alley.


Because it's, um...

Bob is another
spiritual seeker. Bob...

Heh, I mean, you know,
Bob is a spiritual chameleon.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

What impact
did Bob Dylan have on you personally?

The last time Mr. Dylan
and I met was at a café

in the 14th Arrondissement
in Paris, France,

a day after Mr. Dylan's
triumphant concert there.

It was a pleasant conversation,

a conversation that could
be described as "shop talk,"

in which we traded lyrics,

both of us astounded
at the other's genius.

I've heard a lot of
different versions of the Paris café.

One version of it goes that Bob

said how much he
liked "Hallelujah."

And Leonard said, "Yeah,

it took me seven years
to write that song."

I said it was a couple of years.
Actually, it was more than that.

But I was ashamed to tell him

exactly how long
it took, and then,

the conversation went on,

and I praised one of
the songs he wrote.

It was called "I and I" from
an album called Infidels.

I asked him how
long he took to write it.

He said, "15 minutes."

Bob was kidding.

He also once said that he
wrote the Lenny Bruce song

in the back of a taxicab.

There are
people that write great songs

in the back of taxicabs, but
my songs take a long time

to bring to completion, and I
don't know what the process is.

But I know that perseverance
is the essential element.

I love that.

I love the fact that he
worked hard for those words...

It-it, uh...

It makes us feel
better about ourselves.

Dylan was like, "Yeah, I
wrote it in the back of the cab."

It's like, yeah, okay, okay,
you probably did, but come on.

You know.

Come down to earth, you know.

Come down, stand among
us for a moment, you know.

It is a gift.

Of course, you have
to keep your tools sharp,

and you have to keep your
skill in a condition of operation.

But the real song,
where that comes from,

no one knows. That
is grace. That is a gift.

And, uh...

That is...

That is not yours.

If I knew where songs came from,

I would go there more often.

♪ If it be your will ♪

♪ That I speak no more... ♪

One time when we
really talked about creative process,

Leonard acknowledged there's
something called the Bat Kol,

which in the
Talmud is the, uh...

The feminine voice of God
that extends into people.

The Bat Kol arrives,

and if you're in her service,
you write down what she says.

And then she goes away.

So the baffled king is:

"I just wrote the secret chord

and I don't even
know how I got it.

But what I think I did is I made
myself open to the Bat Kol."

♪ If a voice be true... ♪

Refine yourself enough

that the Bat Kol
recognizes that you're open.

She arrives.

♪ I will sing to you... ♪

You speak.

She departs. And you polish it.

♪ All your praises
They shall ring ♪

Positions is the name of the album.

And at the same time, same
year, we haveBook of Mercy.

How didBook of Mercy come about?

It's a book of prayer.

♪ If it be your will ♪

♪ If there is a choice ♪

The songs are
related, of course.

I think everybody's
work is all of one piece.

♪ Let your mercies
Spill on all ♪

♪ These burning hearts in hell ♪

♪ If it be your will ♪

♪ To make us well... ♪

At one point, I think
you say, perhaps at more than one point,

you say, "Though
I don't believe."

I say that a couple of times:

"Though I don't believe,
I come to you now

and I lift my doubt
to your mercy."

♪ In our rags of light... ♪

That kind of
conversation with eternity,

oh, it certainly is deep
in the Jewish tradition

of questioning God.

And I think it's a
legitimate concern.

♪ If it be your will ♪

♪ If it be your will ♪

I guess it was 1988,

Leonard goes on tour and...

he starts singing "Hallelujah,"
and all of a sudden...

new lyrics.

Is there any verse

that actually no one
has ever heard of

that you could tell us?

There are. I don't know
how distinguished they are.

But there are a lot of verses
to the song "Hallelujah."

They go like this:

"Baby, I've been here before

I know this room
I've walked this floor"

♪ You see I used to live alone ♪

♪ Before I knew you ♪

I said, "Wait a minute.

We're not in the Old
Testament anymore."

♪ I've seen your flag
On the marble arch ♪

♪ But love... ♪

It's more secular.

It's like a completely
different song.

And I'm saying to
myself, "What the fuck?"

♪ It's a broken Hallelujah... ♪

You said some
interesting things about

the reason you rewrote
some of these songs

because you felt
that it was inauthentic

to write religious
songs anymore.

In and of itself,
there's nothing wrong with it.

It's whether you
can get behind it.

I had the King David song.

It was easy for me to
use that Biblical metaphor

until the time came when
I choked on the words

because it simply
wasn't direct enough.

♪ There was a time
You let me know ♪

♪ What's really Going on below ♪

♪ But now you never Even
show it to me, do you? ♪

♪ But I remember
When I moved in you ♪

♪ Yes, and the Holy
Dove She was moving too ♪

♪ Yes, and every single breath ♪

♪ That we drew was Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

I wanted to push the
song deep into the secular world,

into the ordinary world.

♪ Hallelujah, Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah, Hallelujah ♪

"Hallelujah" was a
word that you don't really get to use

without sounding too religious.

Leonard pulled that
word out of the sky

and pulled it down to the earth,

and made the word okay again.

And hip again and
usable again, you know?

Thank you so much, friends.

Fast-forward a couple of years

and I was hanging
out at Leonard's office,

and his then-manager

told me that, uh, they
were doing a tribute album.

It was going to
be a tribute album

to Leonard calledl'm Your Fan.

Could I suggest
people to be on it?

And I had worked for
years with John Cale,

writing lyrics with John.

And John loves Leonard's work.

So I said, "Yeah,
Cale would be perfect."

♪ Sunday morning... ♪

We welcome
John Cale to the studio today.

One of the founders of
the Velvet Underground,

worked with Nico and Lou Reed,

and pretty much everybody
else you'd care to think of

during an extraordinary
50-year career,

at the forefront of innovation
in rock and pop music.

John Cale joins us.

One of the things I
thought we'd have to discuss

is the role that you played

in reviving Leonard
Cohen's "Hallelujah."

How did you cotton
on to the potential,

the power of
Leonard Cohen's song

long before other
solo artists recorded it?

Well, I remember
seeing Leonard doing it

at the Beacon in New York.

I hadn't heard it before,

and it just knocked me sideways.

So I thought, I could do
this as a solo piano thing.

This is an experiment.

This song was written
by Leonard Cohen.

♪ I heard there
was A secret chord ♪

♪ That David played
And it pleased the Lord ♪

♪ But you don't really
care For music, do you? ♪

I remember
John Cale covering that song.

I remember going,
"Wow, what a deep cut.

You've just picked a song
of Leonard's that I know,

but not a lot of
people know that tune."

Then I called up John and said:

"John, there's different verses.

There's the song
that's on the album,

and then there's the
song he's doing live.

See if you can
get all the verses."

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

Well, I got a ton of
verses that are really gorgeous.

But some of them I
couldn't sing myself.

Some of them were about religion

and reflecting
Leonard's background.

So I took the cheeky verses.

♪ There was a time
You let me know ♪

♪ What's really Going on below ♪

♪ But now you never
show it To me, do you? ♪

♪ I remember When
I moved in you ♪

♪ And the Holy Dove
Was moving too ♪

♪ And every breath We
drew was Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

The spareness of that
version was beautiful to me.

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

John has a real talent

for pulling away all of
the unnecessary stuff.

♪ Maybe there's a God above ♪

♪ But all I ever
learned From love... ♪

And it was great that
he was combining the spiritual

and the secular
versions of that song.

Cale really owned that song.

He really made it personal.

♪ It's not somebody
Who's seen the light... ♪

But again, that's
because, you know,

Cale's a guy like Leonard
who's been through the wars.

So, you know.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

I do not remember
the first time I heard "Hallelujah."

But I'm pretty sure

that the first time I
heard "Hallelujah,"

Leonard wasn't singing it.

I think I must have
heard Jeff Buckley?

The first version
of "Hallelujah"

I heard was Jeff Buckley.

Jeff Buckley.

I don't know, the Jeff Buckley
seems to be theversion

because I'm even
shocked sometimes,

even when you
go on the Internet,

and sometimes you see
people on television, they say:

"Now I'm going to sing
a song by Jeff Buckley."

And it's "Hallelujah."

Hi, I'm Mick Grondahl.
And I'm Jeff Buckley.

And you're watching
120 Minuteson MTV.

Jeff Buckley and "Hallelujah"

probably wouldn't
have come together

were it not for St. Ann's.

How did that happen?

Oh, heh.

By accident.

You know, "Arts at St. Ann's"

was a music theater series

in this important
landmark church.

And we were just starting
to do these multi-artist shows

that investigated
somebody's body of work.

And Hal Willner and I

were doing this
homage to Tim Buckley.

♪ You turn and run away ♪

Janine and I got in touch

with Tim Buckley's
manager, Herb Cohen.

He said, "You
know he has a son."

Or someone said, "He has
a son." I went, "Is he good?"

He went, "He's
better than his father."

♪ Let me sing a song ♪

I've always played music,

I just have never pursued
the music business.

I never sent a tape to
anyone or shopped myself.

And then the beautiful
people at St. Ann's,

they asked me to come.

And when he
walked into the church that day,

he was obviously the
type that you could put

in any situation to do anything.

You could just tell. It's
just an instinctual thing,

hearing him sing three
notes, watching him play guitar,

talking to him about the
different music he liked.

He was a magic man.

♪ Once I was a soldier ♪

♪ And I fought On
foreign sands for you... ♪

And then at the very end,

Jeff's guitar string broke.

So he sang it a cappella.

♪ Do you ever... ♪

And you could see the
full range of his voice.

♪ ...remember me ♪

Something had
been unleashed, you know.

So he stuck around.

You can be
heard performing live at the Sin-é.

Oh, yeah.

He came in looking for a gig.

And things developed
very quickly.

I believe it was Hal Willner,

actually, told him to come in.

He started playing once a week.

That was his workshop.

And he would just play
whatever songs he was learning.

He wasn't playing any originals.

I figured to
pick my favorite artists

and artists that move a lot
of people, or just move me.

Jeff would
play music for me a lot,

and it was a very natural thing

for me to share
"Hallelujah" with him

because we'd been doing projects

at St. Ann's with John Cale.

And I had heard John's
version of "Hallelujah,"

which I loved.

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

And somewhere in there, I
played John's song for him.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

"Hallelujah" is a
Leonard Cohen song.

♪ Yeah, but, baby I've
been here before... ♪

I do the John Cale version.

♪ And I've walked
This floor... ♪

I just learned it one
night before a gig at Sin-é.

♪ Before I knew you... ♪

It's a great song.

I wish I wrote it.

I didn't know the song.

I knew it when he sang it.

That was my introduction to it.

It was amazing, and
everybody knew it was amazing.

Everybody knew he was amazing.

So he's on his way.

So I brought the A&R guy,

Steve Berkowitz,
down there to see him.

The first time that I
heard about Jeff was...

Hal and I are walking
across St. Mark's Place.

He said, "Buckley's kid
plays in here sometimes."

And he points at this little
dusty club called Sin-é.

And, um, we looked in the
window and there he was.

After, like, one or two songs,
I just grabbed Hal by the arm.

"Am I hearing everything
I think I'm hearing?"

And he goes, "Yeah, you are."

which is so emotional and spiritual

and so open to feeling
and interpretation...

Good choice for Jeff Buckley.

Jeff was an instrument
of Leonard's and that song

to turn it into something else.

His guitar playing
on that is astounding.

People always talk about
his voice, which obviously...

But his guitar playing
is, like, crazy good.

I think,
musically, he made it his own.

Leonard wrote a beautiful song,

and then Jeff made it sound
like an angel was singing it.

♪ Your faith was strong
But you needed proof ♪

♪ You saw her
bathing On the roof ♪

♪ Her beauty in the
moonlight Overthrew you ♪

♪ She tied you To
a kitchen chair ♪

♪ She broke your throne
And she cut your hair ♪

♪ And from your lips
She drew the Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah, Hallelujah ♪

Jeff didn't
make it a better song.

It was already a great song.

You know, Leonard wrote it.

But he did elevate the
plateau of visibility for that song

to the rest of the world
in a more popular vein

and maybe a less forbidding way
than those dark, grumbly voices

of those older guys
who had done it,

whether it was Cale
or Leonard or Dylan.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

I did see him end
the show often with that song.

It was so effective.

It's just him.

♪ Hall... ♪

And it's very exposed.

♪ Hall... ♪

And he did make it sort
of overtly sexual, um,

which, I think, was
really fun for him to do.

♪ ... lujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

What was the question?

It was about Leonard Cohen.

Do you know
whether he's heard...?

I hope he never hears it.




I don't know.

To me, it sounds more
like a boy singing it.

Jeff didn't live to
see "Hallelujah"

becoming the song it did.

But after he died, of course,

a lot of people came to
his version of that song.

This song was
played by a gentleman that

is probably one of
my biggest influences

and a number of
other people's as well.

We owe a great debt
to Mr. Jeff Buckley.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

The question is,
if he hadn't died,

would that song have
taken the place it did?

To Jeff Buckley.


Is that what you're saying?

All right, what the hell.

For me, Jeff
Buckley's "Hallelujah"

is paramount to why
I sing and how I sing.

Hearing those lyrics
come out of his mouth

was the first time
it really got me.

I became immediately
obsessed with it.

I would put it on repeat

next to my head
when I'd go to sleep.

I had a little
boom-box CD player.

And just listen
to it all night long.

And it kind of informed a
lot of my dreams and visions.

It was what was causing me

to reconcile my faith and
my sexuality at the time.

It was what was helping me...

feel a part of that narrative.

♪ Well, darling I've
been here before ♪

♪ I've seen this room
I've walked these floors ♪

♪ You know I used to live
alone Before I knew you... ♪

It evokes some of the most
primitive human desires.

And it marries it with a concept

that so many of
us struggle with,

which is spirituality.

♪ It's a cold And
it's a broken ♪

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

Leonard Cohen somehow understood

that "Hallelujah"
wasn't a church song,

but that it was actually a
moment of realization that...

life can be desperately hard.

And for me, that was just
something I really wanted to say

every day to myself,

as I was going through
that phase of coming-of-age

and trying to understand, um...

what it meant to be
young, faithful and gay.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hey, Hallelujah ♪

Thank you very much!

You're watching
an in-concert profile of me.

I don't want to say
too much about myself

because most of you
don't know who I am,

and those of you who do
already know something

about my curious career
and my marginal presence

on the edge of the music
scene for the past 30 years.

One reason I've
hung around so long

is it takes me four or
five years to do an album.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Maybe there's a God above ♪

♪ As for me All I ever
learned from love ♪

♪ Is how to shoot at someone ♪

♪ Who outdrew you... ♪

I had a great
sense of disorder in my life,

of chaos, of
depression, of distress.

I had no idea where
this came from,

and the prevailing
psychoanalytic explanations

didn't seem to
address the things I felt.

♪ A broken Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

At a certain point,
I'd finished the tour,

and I'd been drinking a lot,

which became progressively
more distressing.

And I didn't see much more
future in show business.

♪ Hallelujah, Hallelujah ♪

♪ I did my best I
know it wasn't much ♪

♪ I could not feel that is
why I learned to touch ♪

You've been spending
a lot of time outside of Los Angeles.

That's right.
There's a Zen monastery

that I've been living
at on Mount Baldy,

about 6500 feet up.

I visited him up at Mount Baldy.

It was a primordial rock pile.

It was not a comforting place.

Well, Zen practice
isn't comforting either.

It's, uh... It's
not for the meek.

It's a rigorous life.

It's designed to overthrow you.

If it isn't a
matter of survival,

of life and death, of
healing or sickness,

then I don't think
anyone in their right mind

would undertake
this kind of training.

So it's almost
like medicine for you, then?

Well, it's a very
careful and precise investigation

into the self that
was urgent for me.

If you're sitting in
a meditation hall

for four or five hours a day,

you kind of get
straight with yourself.

So this is not on the level
of a religious conversion.

It's closer to
science than religion.

Do you
find it inspiring as a writer?

I think it's like peeling
away the layers of the onion,

which is the process
I've always used

in writing anyways.

You keep discarding the stuff

that is too easy or
too much of a slogan.

Yeah, this kind of
practice is valuable,

but there's no guarantee
that any kind of training

or environment or situation
results in a good song.

He told me that
when he sat in Zazen,

he was writing songs.

That's not exactly
what one would think

you're doing in Zazen.

In Zazen, you would
clear your mind.

♪ The birds They sang ♪

♪ At the break of day ♪

♪ Start again ♪

♪ I heard them say ♪

♪ Don't dwell ♪

♪ On what has passed away ♪

♪ Or what is yet to be ♪

Why did you leave Mount Baldy?

I felt I'd been
there long enough,

and I found myself
saying to Roshi

that I think it's time to go
down the hill for a while.

♪ The Holy Dove ♪

♪ She will be caught again ♪

♪ Bought and sold ♪

♪ Then bought again ♪

♪ The Dove is never free... ♪

♪ There is a crack ♪

♪ A crack in everything ♪

♪ That's how the light Gets in ♪

♪ That's how The light gets in ♪

"Hallelujah," you
know, obviously had wings,

but what was the thing
that really broke it?

When was the
first movie version?

It was just Cale,
then Buckley...

And then...

then Shrek. Shrek.

So Shrekreally broke it.

I have not seen Shrek.

And I actually just need
to check, is that a cartoon?

♪ The years start comin'
And they don't stop comin' ♪

♪ Fed to the rules And I
hit the ground runnin' ♪

♪ Didn't make sense
Not to live for fun... ♪

This was the first of its kind.

They weren't traditional
fairytale characters.

And the music was different.

It just reflected our
comedic aesthetics and...

what would keep us,

keep our butts in a
seat watching a movie.

And I'd been a fan
of Leonard Cohen

since the early '90s.

♪ I heard there was
A secret chord... ♪

I came across him
throughl'm Your Fan,

and John Cale's
version of "Hallelujah."

I just played that over
and over and over again.

And one of the first
jobs I was given,

as a newer director
on the movie,

was "figure this moment out."

♪ Baby, I've been here before ♪

♪ I know this room
I've walked this floor... ♪

It's just this interesting,
complex mix of feelings

that you don't often
see in a family movie.

But we all agreed we loved it.

And Aron Warner,
our producer, said:

"Okay, that's great.
Go figure it out."

So I worked with the lyrics,

trimming down the song
to edit out the naughty bits

and get the song down to,
you know, a couple of minutes.

What are the naughty bits?

Oh, "Tied
you to a kitchen chair,"

and all of the
very personal lyrics

that had to do with the specific

sexual aspect of
the relationship.

And we trimmed down choruses

and then re-storyboarded
to that version.

John Cale asked
me for a bunch of lyrics.

Is his in Shrek or is
that Rufus Wainwright's?

That's a good question.

I think it's Rufus's.

What's interesting
about my relationship to "Hallelujah"

is that I didn't
know the song at all.

I didn't know Jeff
Buckley's version.

I didn't know Leonard
Cohen's version.

♪ I heard there was
A secret chord... ♪

But what occurred was that I
was on DreamWorks Records,

and DreamWorks was
also making the movieShrek.

And there was some
kind of backroom deal...

that was struck between
the powers that be

at the animation studio
and the record company.

So I recut John Cale's
version in the studio,

assuming that it
would be in the movie.

But then they came
back to us and they said:

"Unfortunately, the filmmakers

have decided to keep
John Cale's version in."

'Cause they thought his voice
matched Shrek more, heh-heh!

Yes, it was rejected
for the movie.

And that was just me.

Sorry, I'm really sorry.

I love John Cale's version.

John Cale is one of my
all-time favorite artists,

but I can see how there's
more of a kind of Welsh,

sour quality, which I could see
would work better with Shrek

than my gorgeous, you
know, 22-year-old tenor.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

Look, I love Rufus
Wainwright. He's fantastic.

And it's a beautiful,
beautiful version.

But it always felt
too young to me.

It felt like someone's
first heartbreak.

♪ Baby, I've been here before ♪

♪ I know this room And
I've walked this floor ♪

♪ I used to live alone
Before I knew you ♪

So I just put my foot down.

But the caveat that was arranged

was that my version
would be on the soundtrack.

Shrek. Music
from the original motion picture.


♪ Hallelujah ♪

And as the years went by,

watching any of the
talent shows on TV,

somebody would sing it

and somebody would
play it with a ukulele.

And it was always the,
you know, Shrekversion,

the shortened version that has
all the naughty bits taken out.

So just give us a
little background,

why this song for Lee?

I like him as a person.

And I wanted him to do something

which shows that he's got
the potential to be a great artist.

That's why I chose this
song, I love this song.

Singing live for your
votes, here's "Hallelujah."

♪ Baby, I've been
here Before... ♪

♪ I've seen this room And
I've walked this floor... ♪

♪ I used to live alone
Before I knew you... ♪

♪ Now I've heard there
was A secret chord that... ♪

♪ And it pleased the Lord... ♪

♪ Maybe there's a God above... ♪

♪ All I've ever
learned From love... ♪

♪ Is how to shoot somebody
Who outdrew you... ♪

♪ Hallelujah
♪♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah
♪♪ Oh, Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah
♪♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

That was just...

I mean, seriously, incredible.

- Thank you, Simon.
- You've gotta win.

If you want the winner's single
to be released by Alexandra,

you have to vote for her.

Leonard Cohen,
let me ask you about "Hallelujah."

It took on a whole new
energy this past Christmas.

It appeared Number
1 and Number 2

on the UK bestseller charts.

And your version from
1984 was also in the top 40.

What did you make of that?

Well, of course,

there were certain ironic
and amusing sidebars,

you know, because the
record that it came from

wasn't considered good
enough for the American market.

It wasn't put out, so there
was a certain sense of

a mild sense of revenge...

that arose in my heart.

What is
the magic of "Hallelujah"?

I don't know.

You know, one is always
trying to write a good song and...

like everything else,

you put in your best
effort, but you can't...

command the consequences, so...

Of course, I was happy
that the song was being used,

but I think people ought to
stop singing it for a little while.

- Leonard was kidding.
- You think?

Yes, yes. You know...

I mean, I think
he was tickled pink

that everybody and their
sister were singing this song.

♪ You don't really care
For music, do you? ♪

♪ It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth ♪

♪ The minor fall... ♪

What a song can do
when it gets out into the world,

despite its challenges, is
really, really fascinating.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

"Hallelujah" really
beat the odds

in that it's its own thing now.

It's its own person,
and it has its own life.

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

People love it for their
weddings and their engagements.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

And their dark times.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

It always feels like
every time you hear the song

that something big
has just happened.

You don't just hear the
song and pass by the song

and move to the next song.

I love that it doesn't
matter if you're agnostic

or Christian or
Jewish or whatever...

There's parts of the
song that apply to you.

And they're all right,

none of them are wrong.

I'm going to try something here.

This could go bad.

I was at Red Rocks,
and earlier in the day,

I was listening to a mix.

And by chance, Jeff Buckley's
"Hallelujah" came on my iPod.

I had never played the
song, but I had a little slot

that was kind of a
question-mark slot on the set list.

I didn't say anything
to the band beforehand.

They didn't know
I was gonna do it.

♪ I 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 ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

What I didn't anticipate,

'cause I'm still pretty
new to this song,

I didn't anticipate the
way the crowd would react.

I mean, there are 10,000
people between two rocks

in-in what looks
like a cathedral.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

And for me, that was
one of those nights that,

when it's all said
and done and all over,

I'm not gonna remember
a lot of things, probably,

but I'm going to remember
singing "Hallelujah,"

night one at Red
Rocks, no doubt.

And I'll remember the
people, and I'll remember...

the way they
responded to the song.

It was...

just like being in church.

♪ In my secret life... ♪

So where are you now?

You know,
nothing's over till it's over,

but I find myself in
a graceful moment.

So the depressions that
you suffered from very much

in your earlier days?

They've lifted.

They've lifted completely.

♪ I saw you this morning ♪

It's not so much that I...

♪ You were moving so fast... ♪

I got what I was
looking for, but the, um...

the search itself dissolved.

It sounds like
you had an amazing moment of clarity

or revelation or whatever.

It wasn't as dramatic
as that, there were no bright lights

but something did happen,

and God knows I
want to celebrate it.

But I certainly know

that any analysis
of it would be futile.


♪ And we're still making love ♪

♪ Oh-oh-oh-oh ♪
♪ In my secret life ♪

♪ In my secret life ♪

♪ I smile when I'm angry... ♪

We were working on new material.

So he was coming
over to my studio and...

One day he came
over and he said:

"You know, I went to the
ATM and there's no money.

I've been ripped off."

I want to
make sure I've said this clearly,

you found out that
your business manager

had basically stolen
all your money,

the money that had been made

from selling your
song publishing,

and your retirement funds.

That's true.
Yes, that's the way it was.

He really turned
everything over to his assistant.

He signed everything off to her.

She could do anything she
wanted with everything that he had.

Something that...

apparently is very dangerous.

It was enough
to put a dent in your mood,

you know what I mean?

Is there a feeling that,

"Now I better get back to work?"


But I joke about the
economic pressures.

I really did have to get
back to work for that reason,

but there's also
another kind of pressure.

You know, 70 is
indisputably not youth.

I don't say it's
extreme old age,

but it is the
foothills of old age,

and that urgent invitation
to complete one's work

is very much in my life.

And it's more urgent than
the economic necessity.

That the two coincide
is just a coincidence.

Great talking
to you. - Yeah!

I haven't spoken
to you for a long time.

I remember last time
we talked, you were worrying about

what was a dignified
position for an old guy like you,

going from coffee shop to
coffee shop with your guitar?


So are you gonna, uh, tour?

I may because it's a
good solution to old age and death.

Just play till you
drop. - Right.

And you keep your work alive,

and your chops
get better and better.

It's a matter of
establishing priorities.

So Leonard came out again.

But I think he was...

kind of apprehensive

in how, you know,
he'd be received

'cause it'd been so long.

He wasn't at all confident
that it was going to work.

And that's why we started
the tour in a very small venue.

You know, even when I
was in the monastery at Mount Baldy,

there were times when
I would ask myself:

"Are you really never going
to get up on a stage again?"

The idea of performing
was always unresolved.

I don't mean to suggest
I'm not at all anxious.

But fortunately,
this band is so good.

We jelled in the rehearsal hall.

We rehearsed for a long time.

An unusually long time.

Three months, I think.

Leonard really
honored his audiences.

He said every night
before the show:

"We're gonna give you
everything we've got."

♪ Now my friends are
gone And my hair is gray ♪

♪ I ache in the places
Where I used to play ♪

♪ And I'm crazy for love ♪

♪ But I'm not comin' on ♪

♪ I'm just paying
my rent Every day ♪

♪ 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 27 angels From
the Great Beyond ♪

♪ Yeah, they tied me
To this table right here ♪

♪ In the Tower of Song ♪

It's been a long time
since I stood out here.

It was about, uh, 14 years ago.

I was 60 years old, just
a kid with a crazy dream.

♪ 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, I hear
These funny voices ♪

♪ In the Tower of Song ♪

Don't stop.


Thanks so much, friends.

It's been a real privilege

and honor to play
for you tonight.

And then, of
course, it just grew from there.

They kept booking concerts
and they kept being sold out.

It was like, "Oh, okay,"
and we just kept going.

This isFresh Air,
I'm Terry Gross,

back with Leonard Cohen.

The great songwriter and
singer is back on the road,

doing his first
tour in 15 years.

♪ When they said ♪♪ They said ♪

♪ Repent ♪♪ Repent ♪

♪ Repent ♪♪ Repent ♪

♪ I wonder what they meant ♪

♪ When they said ♪ ♪ They said ♪

♪ Repent ♪♪ Repent ♪

♪ Repent ♪♪ Repent ♪

One of the
remarkable things about Leonard

is how much he throws
himself into whatever he does.

♪ Of the ancient Western... ♪

Look at him, close to 80.

People his age are more worried

about getting to the
early-bird dinner special.

♪ And a white man dancing... ♪

I mean, Leonard is on-stage

for three hours
jumping up and down,

and skipping off at the
end of a three-hour set.

Here we go.

What have you
learned being back on-stage

for the first time in 15 years?

Learned? I... I don't know,

it's hard to teach an old
dog new tricks, as you know.

I don't know if I've learned
anything, but I've been, um...

I've been grateful
that it's going well.


you never know
what's gonna happen

when you step on the stage.

♪ 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? ♪

The only way you
can sell a concert

is to put yourself at risk.

And if you don't do
that, people know,

and they go home with a
feeling that they liked the songs,

but, you know, they prefer
to listen to them at home.

♪ Hallelujah... ♪

But if you can really stand
at the center of your song,

if you can inhabit that space

and really stand

for the complexity
of your own emotions,

then everybody feels good.

The musicians feel
good and you feel good

and the people
who've come feel good.

♪ Well, your faith was
strong But you needed proof ♪

♪ You saw her
bathing On the roof ♪

♪ Her beauty and the
moonlight Overthrew you ♪

♪ She tied you To
a kitchen chair ♪

♪ She broke your throne
And she cut your hair ♪

♪ And from your lips ♪

♪ She drew the Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah, Hallelujah... ♪

When people hear "Hallelujah,"

it must be something
so universal.

It's really, really powerful.

Now, that's a big deal.

We don't get to be involved
in very many things that...

hit people as
strongly as that does.

♪ Well, maybe
There's a God above ♪

♪ As for me, all I ever
learned From love is ♪

♪ How to shoot at
someone Who outdrew you ♪

♪ But it's not a cry
That you hear tonight ♪

♪ No, it's not some pilgrim ♪

♪ Who claims To
have seen the light ♪

♪ It is a cold And
a very broken ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

I was doing my
first-ever solo show at Coachella,

and I remember looking
at the lineup and going:

"Oh, my God! Leonard Cohen."

Seeing Leonard Cohen felt
like a beautiful, holy moment,

to be outside with all of
those people watching him.

It was a church moment.

You get this feeling
of having a modern prayer.

I think that's why people were
coming to the shows so much

because they were
getting that feeling.

Even how he thanked everybody,

everybody in the crew,

and all the different
jobs that people did

to put together the show.

It was like an
instruction manual

on how to be in the world.

It's like you can be this
good, you really can.

♪ I did my best It wasn't much ♪

♪ I couldn't feel ♪

♪ So I learned to touch ♪

♪ I've told the truth ♪

♪ I did not come here
To Coachella to fool you ♪

♪ And even though... ♪

People who
respond to him in the way they do,

and they respond to him
all over the world, of course,

are responding to
something that is different.

You're getting things that
are so deep and so resonant

in your own spiritual journey,

that you are
benefitting from his.

And that's of course
the highest compliment

to a poet or a songwriter.

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

Leonard closed his
2009 tour with an emotional concert

on September 24th at the
Ramat Gan Stadium near Tel Aviv.

It was three days
after his 75th birthday.

Leonard made a plea

for Israeli-Palestinian

then raised his hands

and gave the
priestly benediction.

So, dear friends...

God bless
you. Good night, friends.

I think it was
Tennessee Williams said:

"Life is a fairly
well-written play

except for the third act."

The beginning of the
third act, in my case,

seems to be very,
very well-written.

But the end of the third act,
of course, when the hero dies,

that, generally speaking,
from what one can observe,

can be rather tricky.

Should I read a couple of these?

"Ducking away to write
and write feverishly,

if two words a day
constitutes a fever."

"Many pressing concerns,

but ignoring most of them
in favor of a finished lyric."

"Not interested
in anything else,

and this interest
fairly fragile also."

"Another beautiful day."

It's the broken Hallelujah.

♪ I don't need a reason ♪

♪ For what I became ♪

♪ I've got these excuses ♪

♪ They're tired and lame ♪

♪ I don't need a pardon
No, no, no, no, no ♪

♪ There's no one left To blame ♪

♪ I'm leaving the table ♪

♪ I'm out of the game ♪

♪ I heard there was
A secret chord ♪

♪ David played
And it pleased the Lord but ♪

♪ You don't really care
For music, do you? ♪

♪ Well, it goes like this
The fourth, the fifth ♪

♪ The minor fall
The major lift ♪

♪ The baffled king
Composing Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hal... ♪

♪ ...lelujah ♪

♪ Hallelujah ♪

♪ Hallelu... ♪

♪ ...lujah ♪

You look around and you see
a world that is impenetrable,

that, uh, cannot
be made sense of.

You either raise your fist,

or you say, "Hallelujah."

I try to do both.

♪ You got me singing ♪

♪ Even though the news is bad ♪

♪ You got me singing ♪

♪ The only song I ever had ♪

♪ You got me singing ♪

♪ Ever since the river died ♪

♪ You got me thinking ♪

♪ Of the places we could hide ♪

♪ You got me singing ♪

♪ Even though the world
Is gone ♪

♪ You got me thinking ♪

♪ That I'd like to carry on ♪

♪ You got me singing ♪

♪ Even though
It all looks grim ♪

♪ You got me singing ♪

♪ The Hallelujah hymn ♪

♪ You got me singing ♪

♪ Like a prisoner in a jail ♪

♪ You got me singing ♪

♪ Like my pardon's
In the mail ♪

♪ You got me wishing ♪

♪ Our little love would last ♪

♪ You got me thinking ♪

♪ Like those people
Of the past ♪

♪ You got me singing ♪

♪ Even though
The world is gone ♪

♪ You got me thinking ♪

♪ That I'd like to carry on ♪

♪ You got me singing ♪

♪ Even though
It all went wrong ♪

♪ You got me singing ♪

♪ The Hallelujah song ♪

♪ Singing the Hallelujah song ♪