Versions of Hallelujah: A definitive list in the making

So today history was made, as Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah went in at No 1 (Alexandra Burke) and No 2 (Jeff Buckley) in the Christmas charts in the UK, and with the original version at No 36. Some of us tried to make the Buckley version No 1, tried and failed, failed gloriously; remember it made No 2 on download sales alone, unlike Alex’s version.

It was worth it: from what I’ve gathered so far, it looks as if Leonard Cohen will earn over $2m in royalties from the week’s sales, with more to come. Given that he’s 74, given that he was allegedly cleaned out of his savings by his erstwhile business manager, that he sued her, Kelley Lynch, and won $9m in damages, that he has apparently not collected a red cent from her since; given all this, one could surmise he’s not rolling in it. So the money’s going to come in useful. [Yes, he’s under new management since!].

With the song so much in the news, I kept hearing that there were over a hundred versions of the song recorded; not as many as for Suzanne, but a substantial number anyway. Now I believe that the Buckley version is outstanding; Cohen is rumoured to have told Buckley’s mother that once he heard Buckley, he never needed to sing the song again. But that does not mean that other versions are awful, there are many different treatments, each to their own. I thought there must be a definitive list: but when I looked around, I could not find one.

So I thought I’d build one up and put it on Wikipedia, with as much detail as possible. Could you take a look at the list below and help me crowdsource this task? I promise to take all the inputs and load it up over the holidays, as a labour of love. If one of you would prefer to do it instead, be my guest, just let me know.

  1. Jeff Buckley
  2. Leonard Cohen
  3. John Cale
  4. KD Lang
  5. Gord Downie
  6. Daisy Chapman
  7. Espen Lind, Askil Holm, Alejandro Fuentes, Kurt Nilsen
  8. Rufus Wainwright
  9. Nora Foss al Jabri
  10. Regina Spector
  11. Bob Dylan
  12. Willie Nelson (Ryan Adams and the Cardinals)
  13. Alexandra Burke
  14. Imogen Heap
  15. Katherine Jenkins
  16. Anthony Michael Hall
  17. Kathryn Williams
  18. Allison Crowe
  19. Happy Mondays
  20. Diana Vickers
  21. Fall Out Boy
  22. Bono
  23. Blake
  24. Il Divo
  25. Barrel House Mamas
  26. Patricia O’Callaghan
  27. Bon Jovi
  28. Christina Marie
  29. Dresden Dolls
  30. Damien Rice
  31. Sheryl Crow
  32. The Junebugs
  33. Tony Lucca
  34. Elisa
  35. Chris Botti
  36. Clare Bowditch (Australian)
  37. Eric Beverly
  38. Erik Flaa
  39. Euan Morton and Denise Summers
  40. Arooj Aftab
  41. Gavin de Graw
  42. Jack Lukeman
  43. John Jerome
  44. Kate Noson
  45. K’s Choice
  46. Late Tuesday
  47. Lucky Jim
  48. Macbrolan
  49. Ari Hest
  50. Street to Nowhere
  51. Jennifer Terran
  52. Brandi Carlile
  53. Jay Clifford
  54. Gord Downie (Tragically Hip) duplicate
  55. Steffen Brandt and Tina Dickow (in Danish)
  56. Ulf Lundell (in Swedish)
  57. Enrique Morente (Spanish, flamenco style)
  58. Brigyn (in Welsh)
  59. Espen Lind, Askil Holm, Alejandro Fuentes, Kurt Nilsen duplicate
  60. Nosfell and Jane Birkin
  61. Susanna and the Magical Orchestra
  62. Kevin Max (DC Talk)
  63. Alex Lloyd (Australian)
  64. Eugenio Finardi (in Italian)
  65. Blue Jupiter
  66. Myles Kennedy
  67. Lincoln Brewster
  68. Alpha Rev (Casey McPherson, Austin)
  69. Sara Gazarek
  70. Jennifer Scott
  71. Peter Joback (in Swedish)
  72. Kermit
  73. Zach Wiedeman
  74. Birchwood Band
  75. Blumfeld (in German)
  76. Michael McDonald
  77. Glenn Hansard (The Frames/The Swell Season)
  78. Jason Castro
  79. Kate Voegele
  80. David Bazan
  81. Zach Condon (performs as Beirut)
  82. I Am The Lost Sea
  83. Karen Ann
  84. Noam Peled (Israeli)
  85. Naomi Hates Humans
  86. Christine Collister
  87. Amanda Jenssen
  88. Paramore
  89. Advent Children
  90. Krystal Meyers
  91. Lucy Lawless
  92. Alter Bridge duplicate, same as Myles Kennedy
  93. Martin Sexton
  94. Pain of Salvation
  95. Amanda Palmer
  96. Tim Minchin
  97. Phil Wickham
  98. Vocal Line
  99. Sharon Janis
  100. Robin Olson
  101. Popa Chubby
  102. Rea Garvey
  103. JLS
  104. Eoghan Quigg
  105. Lisa Hordijk
  106. Tangerine Dream
  107. Bobby Andonov

I stopped at 100, I am sure there are many more. I’ve taken care to make sure that all versions that predate 1984 and therefore couldn’t possibly be the same song are removed from the list, whether it’s from Handel’s Messiah or even from the Deep Purple one. Similarly I’ve excised all of the Lordi and other Hard Rock variations that are unrelated to the Cohen one. There is a rumour that Prince once recorded it, but I have not been able to find anything to back that up; there is evidence that he sang it but none of his recording it.

Incidentally, I spent some time going through a number of sites on the web to get this far. So if you want to listen to any of the versions, you’re best off visiting these sites first: here, where there’s a fine post on the subject, here, where there’s a good discussion,  and of course YouTube.

[My thanks to for the silhouette image].

38 thoughts on “Versions of Hallelujah: A definitive list in the making”

  1. You are a man of many talents, but I appreciate your passions… especially since I love both Leonard and Jeff, and have long dreamed of them reaching the widest possible audience. Is this a new aspect of The Long Tail?

  2. Gordon, what I realised is that my “taste” in music has a lot to do with where I was brought up, the people I spent time with, the music that was made during my “formative” years. And so the Buckley version wins hands down for me.

    Similarly, if she had won, I would have gone out and bought the Diana Vickers version immediately. Because it did something for me.

    In the same way as opensource software tends to get nationalisation and customisation done more effectively and more quickly than commercial software, there was a part of me that suspected that there is a use for Norwegian, Swedish, Hebrew and Spanish versions, for different styles and treatments. So what if I thought Buckley was best? I do not speak for the world.

    The joy of the web is that we can put people in touch with the version they really like, and with a little bit of luck and a following wind they might even buy it. Which will make Cohen some money. Which he needs.

  3. Thanks Squeezyboy, thanks Matt, taken the Happy Mondays version out, as you say nothing to do with Cohen. One less to document in detail.

  4. The best version of hallelujah is the one sang round a fire (inside and outside) with a guitar, or piano and shared with friends. Competency doesn’t necessarily matter (and the chord sequence is dead easy)

    No matter how many versions have been recorded, the definitive version is subjective, and is surely the one you produce yourself in an intimate moment with loved ones.

    And thanks to the web for making it so easy to find tab and lyrics. Now I just need an eInk display so that I don’t have to sit in front of a backlit screen to read them…

  5. Thanks for the comments and the link, the Thousand Covers one has a wealth of information. Needs to be on Wikipedia, so that nobody owns it, everyone can use it, anyone can improve it.

  6. the best one is number 7 on your list – it should be number one Espen Lind, Askil Holm, Alejandro Fuentes, Kurt Nilsen have done the best version i have ever heard

  7. #88 – Paramore’s version doesn’t seem to be Leonard’s song, just same title.

    BTW, thanks for this list. It’s helping me put together a compilation CD (or as I get further down the rabbit hole maybe more) for my Dad who loves this song.

  8. I’m gonna have to say I love you for making this list.
    However, Fall Out Boy’s version is not the same. And it’s actually called Hum Hallelujah.

  9. i heard a version of it once, no different, but it was sung by someone who had a very gruff voice. if i had to sterotype id say it sounded like a black blues singer. like a bb king or something (but it wasnt) and i cant for the life of me figure out who it was. i heard it on a tv show/movie but again idr what it was. its driving me nuts. let me know if you come across a version that sounds like a blues singer (the music is the same, its just the voice thats different. ie. its not a blues version of the song)

  10. I love the Jeff Buckley, Leonard Cohen and John Cale versions. But kd lang? her version is positively catatonic. I wish that for just one time she could stand inside my shoes – she’d know what a drag it is to hear her.

  11. There’s a wonderful underground/Youtube band that does a cover, the woman that sings it is truly amazing, you can find them by looking up either Vektormusic or Skeye. I guarentee it’s worth looking up and adding to the list.

  12. I need to know what version of “Hallelujah” / Alleluia was sung by the Klopmann monastery choir in the Sound of Music.
    (It appeared on the movie for a brief 18 seconds)
    It’s a beautiful one.

    (It was not composed by Rodgers & Hammerstein)

  13. While Jeff Buckley has always had my favourite version of this song, Rufus Wainwright is right up there too.,THEN I heard Gord Downie’s version. I love his voice and am a huge fan of The Tragically Hip and his solo work. When I discovered he covered this song, it became my mission to track it down to own. So far, I don’t have a good version, but I am still looking.

  14. Hey JP, did you ever learn anything about Alex’s question on the Klopmann Monastery Choir version of “Hallelujah”? I’d be very interested in knowing about that, too.

  15. If anyone can find this version of hallelujah, that would mean the world to me. Its the most beautiful version ive ever heard. Ive been trying to find it for years. Heres a link

    Its mostly a male singer, with a little bit of a gospel chior sound at the end.

  16. Add these two beautiful intsrumental renditions to the list:
    1. Chris Botti and Mark Whitfield’s duet version of this, from the DVD In Boston.
    2. Jake Shimabukuro’s ukulele version from the album “Peace Love Ukulele”

  17. LED’s (Elley D) version is out of this world amazing. I expected to see it on your list. The day I came across it, I played it 38 times on my work computer with 4 of my co-workers in surrounding cubicles demanding “again” each time the song ended. I never thought anyone could top JB but this girl’s version is friggin fabulous. You can google Elley Duhe Hallelujah and the YouTube link will pop up. She put the song to a video tribute for Buckley. My co-worker just pointed out it was uploaded on the anniversary of his death. Wonder if she planned that. xoxo

Let me know what you think