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on 7 March 2013
I approached this book with some caution. How could the author hold my attention when the subject was just a single song? Of course it helps that the song, with its haunting tune and its ambiguous 'grown-up' lyrics, is an evident masterpiece. But Alan Light keeps its story moving, debates the possible interpretations of the song's many verses and slips in fascinating biographical details about Cohen, Buckley and the host of other luminaries with connections to the song. It's a must-read for fans of Buckley and, especially, Cohen. If his reputation as a great poet and lyricist needed any enhancing – which it doesn't – this book does just that. An engrossing read from start to finish.
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on 13 December 2016
When Leonard Cohen passed away and his “Hallelujah” hit the US Top 10 for the first time, I commented “About time” to a friend. He directed me to the Revisionist History podcast of the same title. Not only was it a fascinating look at the different types of “genius” but it introduced me to the John Cale version (+++) and this fine book.

The podcast gives an excellent background to the history of the song and while this book covers much of the same ground, it provides much, much more detail. The book works as a biography of Cohen- particularly his later years- and, to a lesser extent, of Buckley. But is really is a “biography” of the song “Hallelujah” from its genesis with Cohen, its maturity through Cale and Buckley and its journeys since. Discussing many of the artists and versions of this song as well as critical reaction to them, realizing the worldwide power of the song can be a little overwhelming.

One thing I would recommend is to have the book open in another window or on a second device when reading. I wish I had looked at the appendix, etc first. There are links to a few versions of the song and a complete list of all version that you can copy and paste into a search engine to find. So you can easily listen to the version you are reading about. Now that is a great experience.

While this can be fascinating for fans, I think it is a great piece of musical criticism and a “must read” for musicians and musicologists.
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on 7 January 2014
Yes, this is a great book, written with remarkable détail and much love and admiration for the master of song-writing, after doing a tremendous amount of research. I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. It took me two weeks to finish reading because there is so much information to think about before starting each new chapter. Now for the first time do I have an understanding of the many meanings of this great song and its importance in the world of music.

This a documentory of the journey of "Hallelujah" and all those who in some way brought it to the light. I would have liked to have some pictures of the many people involved in this journey; it would have made a real difference in bringing this wonderful story to life.

Highly recommended for everyone who loves Leonard Cohen and his "Hallelujah", and for all those who need to learn more about "the most perfect song in the world" (Bono).
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on 14 July 2014
The Holy of the Broken - Alan Light ***

Ok, so I am a massive Leonard Cohen fan and have been for a long time. As anyone who is familiar with his music/poetry knows his song lyrics can be very ambiguous and complex. With this in mind when I came across a book that promised to delve into the meanings of possibly his most famous song, Hallelujah, I jumped at the chance and snatched it up.

Alan Light starts off the book very promisingly, deconstructing the song line by line and offering various opinions on what the lyrics could have meant. As part of his research he has contacted an impressive cross section of society. From music legends to journalists to religious leaders, all manner of interpretations are offered and discussed. Unfortunately the great man himself, although giving his blessing for the book, refused to be interviewed.

All this sounds like all a Cohen fan could ever want, so why have I only given the book 3 stars? Firstly, out of the 230 pages (excluding acknowledgements etc etc etc) that actually deal with the song and its various versions only around 50 of these pages actually deal with the song lyrics themselves. The last 80+ pages just gave the impression of reading a phone book, whereby anyone and everyone who has ever so much as hummed the tune gets a mention. Not only do we learn their names, dates recorded and chart position/youtube views but we are constantly told what lyrics of the song they chose to include in their own composition. While this was interesting for the odd few major recordings (Buckley/Cale etc) it began to become very wary and repetitive.

Secondly, even though the cover does claim to deal with both Cohen's version and Buckley's, I couldn't help but feeling that the original was overlooked somewhat. Not so much the lyrics but Leonard's Various Positions album version. For those of us out there that do not by an means see Buckley's COVER of the song as the definitive, all singing all dancing track, it can get slightly annoying the way in which the author constantly rebuffs the original. We are told on numerous occasions of Leonard's 'limited vocal range' that I think Mr Light may have forgotten that primarily Cohen fan's would be buying his book. Light does manage to attempt to convince the reader of Cohen's greatness as a lyricist/poet but I really feel that he fails to capture his greatness as a recording artist.

Anyway, I did manage to learn a number of facts about both the music world and the actual song of Hallelujah, but if I am perfectly honest I think I could have found these with half hour of free time and access to Wiki/Google, although it was handy to have them all collected on my behalf. Not a book I feel I would recommend (at least at the current price), but if you are a completest of all things Leonard then it may be worth adding this to your collection.
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on 25 June 2013
great read, a look into the journey of one great song from an Album track to world Domination. how the cber of a cover gave a song his second and much bigger life is a terrific study, that sets a new Standard.
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on 15 February 2013
Interesting look at one of the 20th centuries iconic songs. Must for Cohen fans and those who came to this song through later copies.
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on 19 March 2014
An interesting review of matters, but, ultimately, this turns into little more than a partial-list of those who have performed the song. That said, it's difficult to see what else it might have been.
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