Christian Writer Ruins the Best Song Ever

I wanted to start this post with “Is nothing sacred?” but seeing as I write what I write about, I just couldn’t get past the irony.

I discovered Rufus Wainwright‘s cover of Hallelujah when I was a sophomore in high school. Because I am a regular person with ears, I immediately fell in love with it and used to drive around the suburbs in my Oldsmobile listening to it and feeling like this song got me. Over a decade later, I still just adore it.  In fact, I recently dusted off my keyboard and set about teaching myself the Wainwright version.  (It’s not going great, but my boyfriend is really enjoying hearing the opening melody 289 times in a row.)

My point being, this song is awesome.  It’s sad and beautiful and heartbreaking.  I’ve listened to several different versions since I started writing this post.

I am not about to do any kind of analysis of Leonard Cohen‘s lyrics, but look at this:

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

I mean… come on.  Beautiful.

Who could ever try to “improve upon” these lyrics?

Do you see what I am ramping up to?

Enter: Christian news site WorldMag.com‘s Marvin Olasky:

His thought? Not Christian enough. I guess it’s time to take a look at Olasky’s thoughts about the song.

Title:

Take every song captive.

Not a great start. Taking a song “captive” does not present such good imagery.

Subtitle:

Good singers, it’s time to capture Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’

*sigh* Here we go… The article begins:

Atheists don’t exist.

Come on, Marvin! This has nothing to do with the rest of your article!

Atheists don’t exist. Everyone believes in a god of some sort. Atheists even know that God exists. Chapter 1 of Romans tells us that, and so does a piece of lesser evidence: “Hallelujah,” a song written by Canada’s Leonard Cohen, initially released 28 years ago but decade by decade resonating ever more powerfully.

Oh, brother.

Let’s cut to the point of his article. Marvin decided that it was high-time to update Cohen’s lyrics because “great tunes should not be wasted.” So he is offering “the world some improved lyrics to ‘Hallelujah’”
Seriously, Marvin is Weird Al-ing Hallelujah.

Presented, without further commentary, are his new lyrics:

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, it pleased the Lord.
But You don’t love us for our music, do You?
Sin goes like this: The fourth, the fifth,
Adam’s fall, the major rift,
The baffled king neglecting Hallelujah.

Chorus: Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

Nathan said, “I see your lust.
You violate a soldier’s trust.
Your pride, your pomp, at night they overthrew you.
You steal, you kill, you get your way,
But God has said, your child will pay,
And from your lips He’ll draw the Hallelujah.”

Chorus: 4X Hallelujah

David prayed, “Have mercy, Lord,
You saved me from Goliath’s sword.
Yes, I lived for self before I knew you.
Now, more evil in your sight,
So I give up, I cannot fight.
Mine’s a cold and broken Hallelujah.”

Chorus: 4X Hallelujah

“Blood your hyssop, I’ll be clean.
Wash me so my sin’s not seen.
Give me of your Holy Spirit, will you?
Create in me a new, clean heart.
Give me now a strong, fresh start,
So every breath I draw is Hallelujah.”

Chorus: 4X Hallelujah

“You don’t delight in sacrifice.
You don’t excuse our secret vice.
You want from us a broken spirit, do you?
You’ve shown me what I did was wrong.
I’ll stand before You, Lord of song,
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.”
Chorus: 8X Hallelujah

Don’t feel like reading? No worries! Some people recorded his version!

Here’s one.

YouTube Preview Image

I made it through 33 seconds of that. And now my ears hurt.

(Thanks to Mary for the link!)

About Jessica Bluemke

Jessica Bluemke grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Ball State University in 2008 with a BA in Literature. She currently works as a writer and resides on the North side of Chicago.

  • baal

    More bricks and mortar for their parallel universe. I’m glad I don’t live there. The humor is awful, the songs undone and the grip on reality tenuous.

  • C Peterson

    Cohen is all over the board in terms of kooky spirituality and religiosity, but I’d think he’d have an objection to this. He lost a lot of money a few years back when an unscrupulous manager ripped him off. Maybe a nice lawsuit against this musical corrupter could bolster his financial condition a little.

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      I don’t think that a lawsuit would be successful. IANAL, but I believe parodies – and this seems to qualify – are protected works of art by law. (See Campbell v. Acuff-Rose.)

      • C Peterson

        This work is a joke, for sure, but no way would it qualify as a legitimate parody under copyright law.

      • baal

        Parody requires some element that you’re engaging in criticism or commentary. I have a hard time seeing the xtian’s religious purpose as one of parody. fwiw, in copyright law (which covers expression of ideas but not ideas themselves) parody is a subset of “fair use” defenses to claims of infringement.

        To the folks citing Campbell (aka the pretty woman case) please go re-read it first. It’s somewhat of an outlier and only went to fair use since Campbell failed to pay the mechanical license and could have done so to do a cover without the artist’s consent. We don’t know if this xtian writer has gone the open license route or would have to fall to ‘fair use’.

        • The_L1985

          All I can hear is the same garbage early-90′s garbage: “Our tribe is better! Instead of being betteer, we’re going to TELL you how much better we are!!!”

  • jimv2000

    I’m rather tired of people telling me what I believe in. Just because your view of the world includes gods doesn’t mean anyone else’s does. What your magic book says about the matter is irrelevant. ARgh!

  • http://www.facebook.com/susan.stanko Susan Stanko

    I think you just insulted Weird Al.

    • http://mittenatheist.blogspot.com/ Kari Lynn

      Yea. At least Al is talented…

  • http://www.odonnellweb.com/blog/ Chris O’Donnell

    I wonder if they paid proper royalties to use his music? It would be the Christian thing to do…

  • AtheistDiva

    I have the “joy” of living next to a Fairgrounds where the fundies have a music concert every May. This is why I’m used to hearing Christians corrupt perfectly fine rock songs by changing the lyrics. But then again, I also change lyrics I don’t like. But saying atheists don’t exist? That makes no sense at all.

    • Glasofruix

      We don’t exist because the magic book says so, see?

      • corhen

        my magic book says Christians don’t exist! therefore. PROOF!

        Ill Never understand that thinking.

  • Cincinatheist

    One of my all time favorite songs ever. Leave the song alone religionists! Music is subjective enough. Not enough God in it for ya? Just interpret more God. Don’t touch the lyrics.

    The only argument worth having over this song is who has recorded the best (for your money and in your not so humble opinion) version. I say it’s Jeff Buckley.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1389231549 Geralyn MacVittie

      I go with Leonard Cohen as my favorite with k.d. lang a close second.

      • Gus Snarp

        I just went and YouTube’d the k.d. lang version. That’s good stuff.

        • Ray

          To each his own, k.d. lang’s version grates on my ears. She drags it out too much and slurs the words.

          • blah

            Nothing against K.D.Lang. I grew up with my mom actually listening to her. But yeah, she swoops her notes too much for my tastes

    • Gus Snarp

      The song is so beautiful that it hardly matters who’s singing it, assuming they’re a decent singer. Not every song lends itself to being covered by a broad range of singers like that.

      I’d love to hear Shelley Segal cover it.

    • Makabit

      The thing that strikes me as strange is that the song itself strikes me as intensely religious. It certainly doesn’t gain in spiritual impact from being trashed by Mr. Olasky.

      • Clara

        Exactly. I’m a Christian, and I find Olasky’s violation of this song so wrong on so many levels. This level that you mention is just one of the most ironic among them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shadowmousey Stacy Garrison

    I disagree with you calling this a “Weird Al-ing”. Weird Al has respect for the original artists and has never knowingly redone a song without their permission. Also, Weird Al has a sense of humor. And taste. Also, I can listen to Weird Al without wanting to slam my head in a door.

    • Gus Snarp

      Well, it helps that Weird Al is actually really musically talented as well as funny. He puts on one of the best concerts I’ve seen.

      • Artor

        Agreed. Al is the most under-rated artist of our time. He is awesome, and completely under-appreciated.

        • Conuly

          At the bare minimum, he probably understands enough to know that minor falls and major lifts are descriptive of the music and nonsense if you randomly try to change them mid sentence.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1389231549 Geralyn MacVittie

      I agree with you. Weird Al is extremely talented and amusing. He found his niche and no one else can compare.

    • RobMcCune

      Good point, I doubt Weird Al has any grandiose agenda to capture and subjugate all music.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.peters.948 Joe Peters

    “Recapture” Leonard Cohen’s song? Recapture it from its writer, a cultural Jew who converted to Buddhism? Christian moron is a moron. But I would like to suggest that if you like the song, whether the Leonard Cohen, John Cale, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, or myriad reality competition versions, you should pick up “The Holy or the Broken” by Alan Light. It’s a slightly overlong but pretty readable story of “Hallelujah” over the years and it addresses the concurrent religiosity and sexuality of the song.

  • http://twitter.com/Matt_Crawford Matt Crawford

    Once upon a time the greatest music created tended to be religious. Now, even setting aside corruptions like this, new religious music is just wretched. Even if you don’t hear the words, it’s extremely mediocre stuff.

  • http://twitter.com/samgam Jackie McClanahan

    My mom once bought me a CD full of these sorts of songs, including rewrites of Story of a Girl and Barbara Anne, in an attempt to get me away from my “godless” music and whatever temptation such music might present. That seemed to work out well in the long run, eh?

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it was an ApologetiX CD. (Awful tripe.)

  • allein

    I didn’t realize the song was that old. Rufus Wainright is the first version I heard, as well. (Fun Fact: His recording is on the Shrek soundtrack, but it was John Cale’s version that was used in the movie.) I don’t think I’ve ever really listened to Buckley’s version.

    There is a live version by Tim Minchin (and some woman whose name I can never catch) that I really like, also. (If you google it there are several videos, but the one I’m thinking of is bookmarked on my home computer – I’ll have to come back later with a link.. The recording itself is not the greatest but it looks like it was at a party or something so there’s a lot of background noise.)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor
      • allein

        That’s the one! Thanks! :)
        Too bad I can’t listen easily on my work computer right now. :(

        • Artor

          Earbuds are your friend!

          • allein

            Yes but my computer setup tends to cause me to get tangled in the cord; it’s just more trouble than it’s worth. I’ll have to find Rufus on my ipod when I go to the gym later.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597605006 Mary Driftwood

      The original version appeared on the 1984 album “Various Positions”. But I prefer the version from Cohen Live which uses a different set of verses.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJTiXoMCppw

    • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

      Tim Minchin sometimes sings Hallelujah as an encore at his concerts. (He did at the second of the three of his concerts I’ve been to, in the dark. He had all the lights in the room put out and sang and played. It was beautiful.)

      TRiG.

      • allein

        I’ve seen another video, apparently during a break from filming something else. I soo want to see him live.

  • Gus Snarp

    So…Much…Wrong…..

    I think I’ll just go listen to the real song now. I love that it’s in the movie Shrek, because when my kids want to watch it over and over I can just close my eyes and listen…

    Next they’ll try to steal Imagine. Oh, wait…..

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597605006 Mary Driftwood

      Nah; next he’ll “improve” the Venus de Milo by adding a modest blouse and a gold crucifix necklace.

      • RobertoTheChi

        Ha ha ha! I snorted from laughing at that. Good one.

      • Pseudonym

        To be fair, arms wouldn’t hurt.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    Today I learned: I’m not a regular person with ears.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597605006 Mary Driftwood

      I am sad for you.

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

        Whoa, why?

        • Phil Cleaver

          Because you have no ears…

          • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

            No, man. I was asking Mary Driftwood. Anyway, I have ears.

  • Justin Miyundees

    Neglecting hallelujah. What pablum! This sentiment that things that go wrong can be blamed on those not muttering the magic spells is utterly infantile, counter productive and entirely stupid. How absurd the idea that a deity needs his ass kissed routinely and fervently is insipid. It’s flared up and ugly as shit – the idea that 20 children died because of “neglected hallelujah” is psychotic and well spread.

    Well, I retort! From the corrupt mindset that accepts an afterlife, Adam Lanza may well have seen it as a tender mercy to kill and send the children to heaven. I don’t know this, but it’s arguable and far more arguable than blaming those who refuse to rattle some bones in pious deference to an imaginary god. Alternately purveyors (and profiteers) of afterlives propose a better sublime existence for innocent victims along with the supreme insult that those that don’t join the choir are at fault for all the world’s ills. Blasphemy laws are a wisp away from that sentiment and I’m sick of it.

  • Spanish Inquisitor

    Proselytizing in any form is obnoxious. That’s why so-called Christian music grates on the ears. But stealing good music and using it to proselytize creates two strikes against this guy. One more, and I say we take him out back and stone him.

    • Pseudonym

      That’s why so-called Christian music grates on the ears.

      What frustrates the hell out of me is that it wasn’t always this way. There was a time, less than a century ago, when Christian music was the best music there was, and is still some of the best music ever. From Palestrina and Tallis, through Bach and Handel, Mozart and Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Fauré… right through to Vaughn Williams.

      Even John Rutter has gone saccharine in his old age. What the hell happened?

      Yeah, there’s John Tavener, Iona, and Glass Hammer. But it’s nothing like it used to be.

      I think what happened is that Christianity stopped seeing itself as high culture, and decided it needed to be relevant. Imagine if Philip Glass thought he needed to be relevant!

      • http://www.facebook.com/janeteholmes Janet Holmes

        What happened is that religion no longer had all the money. Only in the 20th century was it possible to make a decent living as an entertainer without currying favour with the church or the aristocracy, both of whom have a vested interested in keeping the population enthralled to superstition.

        • Pseudonym

          I think what actually happened was the baby boomers.

    • CelticWhisper

      No, no, haven’t you been paying attention? We’re not stoning anyone! Even if they do say Jehovah!

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        *throws stone*

        • CelticWhisper

          Oi! What did I just say?

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            *snorfle* Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    What I wonder is who will sing it this year on Ameican Idol.

    • allein

      I want to upvote this because it made me laugh, but I want to downvote it because the very idea makes me want to hide under the bed.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        To be honest when people have sung the orginal on American Idol they have always done a very good job but each year when it gets to the finals someone always sings it.

        • allein

          I just can’t stand American Idol. ;)

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

            Sadly I do watch it and I’ve enjoyed some of the singes a lot but this year might be hard to watch with that clown face woman as a judge.

            • allein

              My former roommate and I used to watch the audition rounds just for the trainwreck aspect but as soon as the actual competition started I would always lose interest. Now I live alone and it’s no fun by myself. (I do get sucked into America’s Got Talent and Dancing with the Stars, though.)

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

                I cannot watch DWTS, way to boring and AGT I’ve tried to watch but the judges are just annoying, same with The Voice. For unknown reasons though AI I can handle. Must be my alien blood :)

                • allein

                  The Voice is another one I watch the auditions but not the competition. There’s been a handful of songs I liked enough to buy on iTunes. This last season there was even a cover of a Britney Spears song that I actually like. DWTS gets worse and worse. But I start watching because there’s nothing else on and then I get sucked in. But when they start doing “all stars” I think it’s time to call it quits.

    • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

      It happens on the X-Factor too. (This is Mitch Benn complaining about it on “The Now Show” on BBC Radio 4.)

      TRiG.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        That was awesome. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Kataton

    For my money, the kd lang version is best. I think Mr. Cohen has said so himself.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597605006 Mary Driftwood

      Hers is very good. The worst version (at least until this week) is the live Bob Dylan cover (bootleg). I really wanted it to be good, but it’s just … not.

    • AxeGrrl

      I adore her version as well……but Jeff Buckley’s version gets my vote :)

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    I, too, love Rufus Wainwright’s “hallelujah” song.

    Another awesome one is “Glory Hallelujah” by Frank Turner. Definitely worth checking out, it is a triumphant song of rejecting faith.

  • Scott

    Cohen’s song is a copyrighted work. Being a copyrighted work it enjoys certain reserved rights. One of those rights is the right to create a “derivative work”. A derivative work could be a language translation of a song or a sequel to a movie. A derivative work can also be a re-write of song lyrics. Unless the copyright holder of this song has expressly granted you permission to create a derivative work, you (and all the other’s you have inspired) have just infringed on the copyright holder’s rights.
    He says, “Take every song captive. It’s become a minor hobby for me…” Guess what? There not your songs to take. Other artists created these works and only the copyright holder can give them away. Thou shalt not steal, sir.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597605006 Mary Driftwood

      Cohen also recently asked people to stop covering this song, possibly because so many American Idol contestants kept doing terrible versions of it.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        Some of those on AI did a good job with the song but it has also been sung by many on the X-Factor as well but I hope you are correct. I love the song but kept getting tired of it being sung on AI.

        • Gus Snarp

          Hmm, This may challenge my theory that the song is the perfect cover and any decent singer can do it well. But then, I’ve never seen those shows, so I wouldn’t know.

      • Phil Cleaver

        No, he recanted and said he’s happy it’s being sung.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Two words: Fair Use

      • Scott

        This is not fair use.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          Cite?

          • Trickster Goddess

            17 U.S.C. § 107
            Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 U.S.C. § 106 and 17 U.S.C. § 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

            (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

            (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

            (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

            (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

            The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

            His version uses the entire melody, so it is disqualified as fair use under section 3, and probably under section 1 as well if records it or performs it at paid concerts.

            On the other hand, it is simple enough to pay for a licence to use the music.

            • Pseudonym

              Just to be clear, it can be “fair use” to use the whole melody of a song.

              One example is if you are creating a parody of the song itself. (Parodying something else doesn’t count.) This is what Weird Al does. He pays royalties since his work is of a commercial nature, but he doesn’t legally need permission to create a derivative work.

            • http://www.facebook.com/people/Travis-Dykes/19217851 Travis Dykes

              My understanding was that you could copyright the lyrics, but not the tune. I could have been told that by someone that didnt know what he was talking about however.

              • ruth

                Tune are also subject to copyright. (IP is what I do for a living).

            • Randomfactor

              Parody is fair use.

              • ruth

                It is kind of amusing to think of the Christian rewrite as a parody. There is a good chance that it would not pass muster as a parody. Where is the ridicule of the original work? I don’t really see it.

                • Astraea_Muse

                  Your friend was incorrect. Both, together and separately, can be copyrighted. However, there are automatic licensing rules in effect for the music (e.g. not Cohen’s recording of it, but the underlying tune & lyrics.)

        • Joykins

          Oh come–parody is fair use; the fact that Olasky didn’t intend it as parody just makes the parody better: this is what Hallelujah would be like if written by someone with no subtlety or poetic aptitude at all.

    • Amakudari

      Is this true?

      As much as I hate to side with a presuppositionalist, I thought it depends on whether the derivative work is transformative. The “Pretty Woman case” held that a work is transformative and thus fair use if it “instead adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new meaning or message.” People tend to think that exception extends only to parody, but that’s only one example.

      Because the rewrite substantially changes the message (and is a commentary on the original), the market impact is minimal, and Cohen isn’t receiving compensation, IANAL but my best bet is that this would qualify for fair use, with the same true for those performing it for free.

      • Astraea_Muse

        The rule on parody is that it has to be parodying the underlying work, not using the format of the underlying work to make a different statement. So the Cat in the Hat format used for political parody = not OK. Pretty Woman resung to make fun of the woman and Roy Orbison = OK. This does not appear to address Cohen, or his song. I would say it would likely fail the parody test.

    • http://www.facebook.com/alicia.queen.5 Alicia Queen

      Though I completely agree that the “improvement” to this spectacular song is bewildering, I can’t help but disagree fundamentally on the issue of derivative copyrighting. I mean, I know that it exists, but I think there’s a little too much copyrighting going on. He’s not selling his new version he’s just adding to it – albeit shittily – which he does have a right to do. Freedom of speech applies to Christians too.

  • dats3

    I love Cohen’s version. I like the Rufus version and even John Cale’s version. But this guy… Oh Christ what a disaster.

  • LesterBallard

    You should have kept this to yourself.

    And I prefer the John Cale version.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597605006 Mary Driftwood

    My mother linked me to this article this morning. She’s a WorldMag reader and she knows how much I love Leonard Cohen. She asked me what I thought of this new version of the song. Leonard Cohen is my all-time favourite musical artist. No one else even comes close. I’m also a fan of the folk process, and I know people have been setting new words to popular melodies for centuries, if not millennia. But the arrogance of Olasky just takes my breath away. He really thinks he’s “improved” on one of the most beautiful and popular songs in the English language? On the bright side, there’s no fucking way in hell his version is going to catch on, so I guess in the end it doesn’t really matter.

  • RebeccaSparks

    I find it kind of funny that they removed references to Bathsheba and Delilah-but not funny haha, but funny as odd and sad. They’re Biblical stories, but they’re not really worshipful of God type stories, so they get left on the Christian cutting room floor.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597605006 Mary Driftwood

      I wonder what he would do with Cohen’s song “The Story of Isaac”? You want a song that’s critical of religion….

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UeQPAjpqfk

    • Christine

      I also notice that they removed the idea that praising God is all that is needed, personal success isn’t. Clearly not appropriate for Christian music.

  • Carpinions

    Some things just make you hang your wagging head in hand, in shame for humanity.

    Back during the Bush years, Olasky was passed off in the media as this conservative’s conservative with a strong religious bent. The guy was very soft-spoken, and all the hype around him implied he was extremely well read and intelligent, and basically the opposite of the 24/7/365 spitting mad hyper-conservative microphone suckers on AM radio.

    Then time passed, I became an atheist in the process, and a few years ago happened across a debate he had with Hitchens some time between 2006 and 2008. Olasky even moderated one of the Hitchens-D’Souza debates. If you haven’t seen this Hitchens debate, go to YouTube and watch it. After listening to Hitchens calmly savage (and frankly completely walk away with the debate from) the even calmer Olasky in a debate format, I was convinced Olasky is nothing more than yet another prop the Religious Right has used to make us all think they possess a lot more substance than they do. Olasky’s bubble popped with Hitchens’ mere presence in the room. Olasky’s arguments in the debate were basically “I used to be an asshole as an atheist, and now I’m not as a Christian”, which makes no sense. Skip ahead a few years and he’s trying his hand at the astro-turf tactic every Christian in the media has tried: Take popular culture and make it duller and dumber just so you can give your freaking god a bit more air time and appear to be making salient intellectual/moral points in the process. Every time I read about things like this, I must ask myself why men of their age and supposed intellect trouble themselves with musings fit for a 2nd grade classroom.

    And to correct the OP, the best version of Cohen’s classic is, in point of subjective fact, Jeff Buckley’s. It will demand at least 1 tear from you every play. Rufus did a pretty good job and is probably the second best rendition, but Buckley’s is Buckley’s.

  • blah

    I prefer this version myself that some friends of mine from college did :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1E-9Z8sFyRs

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    That. Was awful.

    I don’t even like the original song, but this… this butchery is unforgivable.

  • lokicleo

    Sarah Blackwood (from Walk off the Earth) and her brother Ian perform my favorite version of Hallelujah. Maybe this will help your bleeding ears..
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5M0LWiJuXc

  • Baby_Raptor

    I need some brain bleach. ASAP.

    Do they honestly think shit like this is helping their cause? it shows them for the complete hypocrites they are, not to mention their willful ignorance and hooting dick-holeness. I want nothing to do with that.

  • A3Kr0n

    I’ll listen to them now, but you exposed an old memory in me.
    Loudon Waineright III
    I saw him in a MASH episode once and had to have the album. It was flat, and said “33.3 RPM” on it.
    I Am the Way.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1Ron0wiJWQ&feature=share&list=PL04284ED39E5D6503

  • http://twitter.com/yjmbobllns Yojimbo Billions

    Well, since they can’t go back and ruin the greatest version, which is Jeff Buckley’s, then I don’t really care.

    This guy/site is just mad that r&b, soul, and funk (which led to hip-hop and dance music) improved upon gospel music.

  • orthodoxheathen

    Ugh. Nauseating all around. Olasky hasn’t convinced me that “atheists don’t exist,” but he has certainly convinced me that there are Christians without souls.

  • Ray

    It is utterly disgusting when religious people take this wonderful song and rewrite it for their own means. Cohen’s published version of this poem is only 7 or 8 verses and most performers pick the first and three of the others. In any case the song is about carnal love. The people who bastardize it hear only the chorus. I heard it sung at a Catholic funeral during the time when people paraded for the cannibalism ritual and it was all I could do to not walk out. I wish Leonard would take some of these plagiarists to court.

  • gandalfe

    Not Christian enough? Maybe that’s because Cohen is Jewish!

    Dipshit.

  • http://twitter.com/MidwestGuests Midwest Guests

    the original cover {the one in the movie “shrek” but not on the soundtrack} was by john cale. it’s my favorite.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DinEKqtCDkg

  • mama-d

    i am a christian. i bill myself as a renegade baptist. i understand that there are those of my ilk that feel the need to “fix” things, so as to not offend god. the thing is, i don’t think god is offended by this beautiful piece of music. and anyone with an education who hears it knows the wonder of the lyric matching the composition so deftly–this song is a piece of beauty, plain and simple. (when music movement matches the lyrics with intent, it is heartstopping in that moment one discovers it!) what we (and i mean “my kind”) need to do is appreciate artistry for what it is. we need to let it be. but, we have to also remember that this rewriting is not a new thing. our national anthem used to be a drinking song tune, before francis scott key got the bright idea of stealing the tune, and changing the words. there is nothing new under the sun, i fear.

  • ecolt

    So, in addition to having mind-blowing arrogance and self-importance this guy would appear to have no grasp of music. The original song says:
    It goes like this the fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah
    This idiot writer seems to have missed the fact that this is in fact what is happening in the music itself. It isn’t just poetic, it’s the actual song being described in musical terms. His re-write of these lines is completely nonsensical. “Sin” doesn’t go “like this,” the song he’s re-writing does! There is no “major rift” and the fall being described isn’t (just) a physical or spiritual one, it’s a musical one.
    This song has a ton of variations and alternate verses, but this hijacking of something so beautiful is not only unnecessary, it’s really poorly written!
    The stupidity, it pains me.

    • Drumlab

      I remember the first time I was learning this song on guitar and realized how the lyrics describe the song. Magical! Also, I favor Buckley’s version. Also really like the original because of the background singers.

    • Randomfactor

      “”Sin” doesn’t go “like this,” the song he’s re-writing does! ”

      And that’s a sin.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WalrusInc Ted Thompson

    Fuck this guy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    Return the favor….

    Oh come ye Non Faithful

    With your eyes wide open

    Oh come ye, oh come ye

    The future is ours

    Rise and be counted

    Show the world that we are here

    Rise up and raise your voices

    Rise up and raise your voices

    Rise up and raise your voices

    The future is ours.

    Probably best sung along to the Twisted Sister arrangement of that hymn ;-)

    • GC

      There’s more at Jerry Phillips’ Humanist Hymnal, http://webspace.webring.com/people/lu/um_6974/x_hymnal.html and at John Perkins’ Humanist Songs page, http://home.alphalink.com.au/~jperkins/HumanistSongs.htm .

      From the Humanist Hymnal:

      O Come, all ye faithful, sinful and despondent,
      O come ye, O come ye from Bethlehem.
      Come to your senses, Christ is but a fable.
      O come, let us ignore him,
      O come, let us ignore him,
      O come, let us ignore him, Christ the lord.

      Sing, choirs of humans. Sing in exultation.
      Sing, all ye citizens of earth, here and now.
      Glory to Man, to Nature, ever bountiful.
      O come, let us ignore him,
      O come, let us ignore him,
      O come, let us ignore him, Christ the lord.

      Reason, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
      Born of the powers in the mind of Man.
      End superstition, all that’s metaphysical.
      O come, let us ignore him,
      O come, let us ignore him,
      O come, let us ignore him, Christ the lord.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    That, is blasphemy.

  • slantrhyme

    This is why we can’t have nice things….

  • Michael

    It’s not a difficult song to filk. If you really have trouble getting that one out of your head then have something closer to what Weird Al would actually have made of it (but not as good) – no rights claimed, or deserved for that matter.

    I’ve heard there was a chocolate sauce
    That David made, and it pleased them all
    But you don’t really care for chocolate, do you?
    It goes like this
    A quart, a fifth
    a couple eggs, beat with a whisk
    It works quite well poured over Tiramisu

    Tiramisu, Tiramisu
    Tiramisu, Tiramisu

    Your flavour’s strong but you needed proof
    You saw her eating on the roof
    Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you to a kitchen chair
    She broke your bowl, and she cut your hair
    And from your fridge she drew the Tiramisu

    Tiramisu, Tiramisu
    Tiramisu, Tiramisu

    Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.
    I’ve seen your cooking the marbled cake
    Love is not a victory bake
    It’s a cold and it’s a tasteless Tiramisu

    Tiramisu, Tiramisu
    Tiramisu, Tiramisu

    There was a time when you let me know
    What’s really cooking in the stove
    But now you never make it for me, do you?
    And remember when I cooked for you
    The holy dove was cooking too
    And every dish we made was Tiramisu

    Tiramisu, Tiramisu
    Tiramisu, Tiramisu

    Maybe there’s a God above
    But all I’ve ever learned from love
    Was how to cook for someone who outcooks you
    It’s not a dish you can have tonight
    It’s not something that was made just right
    It’s a cold and it’s a tasteless Tiramisu

    Tiramisu, Tiramisu
    Tiramisu, Tiramisu

    You say I took the dish in vain
    I can’t even say the name
    But if I did, well, really, what’s it to you?
    There’s a blaze of light in every fork
    It doesn’t matter which you got
    The perfect or the tasteless Tiramisu

    Tiramisu, Tiramisu
    Tiramisu, Tiramisu

    I did my best, it wasn’t good
    I couldn’t filk, so I wrote of food
    I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
    And even though it all went wrong
    I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Tiramisu

    Tiramisu, Tiramisu
    Tiramisu, Tiramisu
    Tiramisu, Tiramisu
    Tiramisu, Tiramisu
    Tiramisu, Tiramisu
    Tiramisu, Tiramisu
    Tiramisu, Tiramisu
    Tiramisu, Tiramisu
    Tiramisu

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Oh, fuck you. Now I’m craving tiramisu.

      (Excellent filk, BTW.)

    • Catherine

      Oh, that is classy!

    • Deanna

      AWESOME!!! Oh, how I laughed!

      • Michael

        I find that when a filk starts growing in my head, the quickest way to get rid of it is to write the damn thing down and have done with it.

        Glad you enjoyed.

  • Chris

    Obviously the guy has no idea of what “the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift” mean.

  • Randomfactor

    I absolutely love the Wainwright version. Played it at my wedding…and my wife’s memorial service.

    Fuck this guy.

  • peter g

    If I may be so obvious to quote Hitchens, “Religion Poisons Everything” to be highly appropriate here.
    peter g

  • SeekerLancer

    What sacred act or object do I have to desecrate while not being smote by god to prove I exist?

  • http://bit.ly/glUAR7 Calladus

    When any Christian quotes Romans 1 at me as a reason why, “Atheists don’t exist”, I make sure that they understand all of Romans 1. Romans 1:18-32 is called, “The Condemnation of the Unrightious”, and it ends with:

    1:29 They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips,
    1:30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents,
    1:31 senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless.
    1:32 Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.

    So, let us get this straight. If you are admonishing me with Romans 1, then you must also believe that I’m wicked, full of malice, capable of murder. You believe that I gossip,commit slander, contrive evil, and can’t keep a promise.

    If you believe that Romans 1 is true, then you also believe that I, and anyone who agrees with me, deserves to just die.

    When I call people out on this, they start to splutter and walk back their statement. Snidely saying that I’m not REALLY an atheist is okay, but implying that I should just die is too far?

    And for those few who say outright that I SHOULD die due to my nonbelief, I ignore them. They’re batshit insane.

    • blah

      But you DO deserve to die. So do I though. THAT’S the point! We ALL deserve death!

      • http://bit.ly/glUAR7 Calladus

        No, no one “deserves death”. Although we will all die, some sooner than later.

        Christian history has shown that by using this passage, you can justify making sure that a heathen dies sooner than later.

  • JMBC

    I hope Cohen sues. Even though the song is old, perhaps he’ll still have standing since he still performs it.

    I was recently appalled to come across an on-line ‘version’ of Schiller’s great “Ode to Joy” with altered, christianized lyrics – so much for the “Daughters of Elysium.”

  • reynard61

    This is basically an example of someone being a reverse King Midas, except that everything they touch turns to shit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/angelia.sparrow Angelia Sparrow

    The rewrite is a paen to a sadistic deity. How any Christian can sing that, and still believe their god is love, I have no idea.

    “You steal, you kill, you get your way,
    But God has said, your child will pay,
    And from your lips He’ll draw the Hallelujah.”

    God will kill your baby and make you love him for it. Is there ANY other interp to that?
    Later he’s on about beat me bloody and break my spirit? Ergh…

  • Jackie A.

    This reminds me of when one of my poor, poor Sunday School teachers (she was only 19 at the time, trying in vain to wrangle a bunch of hyper-active first graders) who tried to change the words of Three Dog Night’s “Joy To the World” for a church pageant. It went something like this:

    “Jerimiah was a prophet,

    A spokesman for the Lord,

    He fortold the coming of Emanuel

    something something something…”

    I remember this because we were so horrible during the rehearsal process that she quit before the year was over. Ha!

  • Makabit

    This is the worst thing ever.

    I mean, ever.

    This is an affront to Leonard Cohen, King David and God.

  • Øistein

    In Norway we recently had a controversy about one our most beloved Christmas songs when it, although very christian in nature, got alternative lyrics from a humanist group. The song’s title is Deilig er jorden (the earth is beautiful(?)), and the English title is «Fairest Lord Jesus» or «Beautiful Savior».
    Seeing the horribilification of Leonard Cohen in the version mentioned in Hemant’s post, I almost came to understand the Christians’ anger over the change…

  • S.I. Rosenbaum
  • http://twitter.com/mycultlife Lisa Kerr

    Wow. That’s “special”.

  • http://twitter.com/sharideth Sharideth Smith

    Hey Christians (I am one), how about we just write our own good music and leave everyone else alone. How ’bout that? I’d really like that. Because this is just embarrassing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KarlEd Karl Jennings

    Well, one bright side of this tragedy is that I’m now going to listen to Rufus’s version, like 10 times, in order to get that crap out of my head.

  • Emily

    I’ve heard there was a secret song
    That Leonard Cohen wrote, and the world took on
    But you don’t know what the lyrics mean now, do you?
    You think you know
    The feel, the gist
    The kitchen chair,
    the King David bit
    Can a heathen really sing Hallelujah?

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    Your faith is week so you need proof
    You’re offended by what you cannot move
    An honest soul naked before its maker
    You tie it to a Christian chair
    You brake its bones, and you cramp its flair
    And with your lips you murder Hallelujah
    Why’d you murder, Hallelujah?
    Why’d you murder, Hallelujah?

    King David was a guy who
    Dreamed so big he touched the sky
    But you don’t care for heights much now, do ya?
    I’ve sung your song and it broke my heart
    Love is not about being set apart
    It’s an old song not one you can improve on

    You can’t improve on, Hallelujah
    you can’t improve on, Hallelujah

    There was a time when you led me on
    When I was willing to sing your song
    But now I know that God’s not working through you
    I remember when I sang with you
    The holy dove away he flew
    And now I sing with heathens Hallelujah

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    And if there is a God above
    Maybe like you he’s given up on love
    And is just looking for ways to show he owns you
    Loves’s not about who wins the fight
    It’s not somebody who has seen the light
    It’s a old and it’s a open Hallelujah

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    You say He took the name in vain
    He doesn’t even know the name
    But if He did, well, really, what’s it to you?
    There’s a blaze of light in every word
    It doesn’t matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    I did my best, to help you see
    What joins Leonard, you and me
    I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
    And even though I stole his song
    I hope that you will right my wrong
    Singing only the original Hallelujah

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah

  • Rain

    Enter: Christian news site WorldMag.com‘s Marvin Olasky:

    Hitchens debated him once. He took it easy on him for some reason. Possibly he felt sorry for him. Maybe Marvin Olasky is just a nice guy. Douglas Wilson was another guy Hitchens took it easy on. No idea why, since Wilson is a total arse. Possibly because he made a lot of money off of Wilson with DVD sales and debate tours and whatnot.

  • Kalone K. Baker

    God forbid anybody record a Christian version of a song called HALLELUJAH. Hmmm, where have I heard the word hallelujah before? Church.

    • Whirlwitch

      You missed the point of the article. Leonard Cohen, a non-believing Jewish man, wrote a beautiful and haunting song using Biblical imagery. The obnoxious twit in the article felt he could re-write the song to suit his own preferences, which is somehow justified because his preferences are supposed to be the right ones. It’s disrespectful to Cohen to try to over-write his work. There’s a reason Weird Al ASKS PERMISSION before writing parody versions of other people’s songs. And this is not parody, this is Olasky having the hubris to think he’s somehow correcting Cohen’s song.

      The word hallelujah is NOT exclusively Christian. No word that appears in the Old Testament is. Or were you not aware that nobody in the Old Testament, aka the Torah, could possibly be Christian? Even if that weren’t the case, Christians don’t own that word, or any word. Cohen used imagery from the faith tradition of his family because it worked with what he was trying to say, and he spoke from his own viewpoint, and he was fully entitled to do both things.

      If Olasky wants a Christian song called Hallelujah, he can go write an original work of his own.

  • Beastmode Echelon

    Even I as a Christian think this is just stupid, and sometimes makes me wonder how other Christians are so stupid. I guess the same way there are smart atheist, and dumb atheist. There’s stupid people everywhere! Anyway, this should be considered illegal, since he just completely changed the lyrics. It wasn’t meant to be a Christian song, dude! He’s a super-christian, I can’t stand super-christians. They’re the ones that go around yelling, “GOD HATES FAGS!” as a hobby. (Don’t agree with that, anyway) Seriously, some people just need to keep their editing to themselves.

  • Jane

    Personally. I love Leonard cohens original version. It’s absolutely amazing. I think bashing others is wrong. I’m a Christian. I love God. But god doesn’t judge anyone. Not even atheists deserve to be judged. We have freedom to believe as we please. The lyrics this man made into a Christian song… Actually isn’t that bad to be honest. If u want to sing a Christian tune to it. Then it’s pretty good. I just disagree with his bashing of non believers. But the song, is good. Of course the original is the best though.


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