Three versions of Hallelujah, and the spirituality of art and of administration

by John MacBeath Watkins

John & Edgar Winter
Apparently, someone decided the ideal use of Rufus Wainright's cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is as a sound track about a science fiction show in which the heroes battle what appear to be evil clones of Johhny and Edgar Winter.

Who on earth decided albinos are supposed to be evil, by the way? All I've met are quite nice.

I learned this in the context of someone re-writing Cohen's words to make them compatible with evangelical religion, in a post by one of my favorite bloggers, Dr. Science, at Obsidian Wings.

It seems the original words, written by one of the greatest lyricists of all time (and a Bu-Jew,) were not good enough. If you want to read Marvin Olasky's lyrics, follow the link above to Dr. Science's post, I'm not printing them (well, maybe one line.)

Of course, if you're not going to listen to Cohen himself intoning the lyrics in his usual despairing manner,  the best cover is John Cale's.

But why not take a taste of the real thing? After all, as the lyrics say, "it's not someone who claims to have seen the light, it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah." I am reminded of the the line from As You Like It:

AMIENS: It will make you melancholy, Monsieur Jaques.

JAQUES: I thank it. More, I prithee, more. I can suck
melancholy out of a song, as a weasel sucks eggs.
More, I prithee, more.

Cohen's lyrics are not a smug assertion that he has found The Way. It's about moments of doubt and pain in which we really need transcendence  Cohen's lyric, "The baffled king composing Hallelujah" is actually the opposite of Olasky's "The baffled king neglecting Hallelujah."

Cohen's baffled king responds to his troubles by composing Hallelujah, Olasky's is punished for neglecting Hallelujah. Cohen's spirituality is a searching and aspiring one, Olasky's is one ruled by authority.

I suppose what it really captures is the difference between art and administration.