Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was written in 1984 for the back side of an album ultimately rejected by that performer’s label.
“Hallelujah” began being covered in early 1990s by Jeff Buckley, a young singer-songwriter performing in the East Village, who recorded it on his only album in 1994, three years before he drowned, getting caught in a boat wake, in a river in Tennessee. Buckley’s version was considerably more emotional and his voice more sympathetic than Cohen’s. Buckley’s early and romantic death brought attention to the song, and one thing led to another.
Today, “Hallelujah” is one of the most-frequently-performed rock songs and a staple routinely used elegiacally in movies and television shows. It has been covered by large numbers of renowned performers, including Bono, Bob Dylan, U2, Justin Timberlake, Rufus Wainwright, and k.d. lang, and is used as a kind of secular funeral hymn around the world.
The song’s phenomenal rise to popularity has even resulted in a book study by Allen Light, The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah”
The Jeff Buckley version.