'Hallelujah': The Story Of One Song's Ascent

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It’s possible that you might have first heard "Hallelujah" in its original form, on Leonard Cohen's 1984 album Various Positions. But it’s much more likely that you first encountered it somewhere else: Maybe in a small East Village pub, being sung by Jeff Buckley. Or at the Winter Olympics, being performed by k.d. lang. Or on the soundtrack for the animated film Shrek, sung by Rufus Wainwright. Or in a scene on TV drama The O.C., performed by Imogen Heap. Simply put: "Hallelujah" has, against all odds, become one of the most widely recorded songs in music history.

In a conversation with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, music journalist and author Alan Light explains the enduring popularity of the song in his book, The Holy Or The Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & The Unlikely Ascent Of Hallelujah.

This segment originally aired on Dec. 13, 2012.

Further listening:

Jeff Buckley performed along with guitarist Gary Lucas on New Sounds Live, hosted by Soundcheck host John Schaefer, on March 8, 1992. Listen to two tracks from that performance -- "Grace" and "How Long Will It Take?"

Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas - How Long Will It Take? - New Sounds Live

Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas - Grace - New Sounds Live