Bob Dylan Covers Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

Leonard Cohen Sings “Hallelujah” To Bob Dylan

It’s a rather joyous song . I like very much the last verse. I remember singin’ it to Bob Dylan after his last concert in Paris. The morning after, I was having coffee with him and we traded lyrics. Dylan especially liked this last verse “And even though it all went wrong, I stand before the Lord of song With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah
– Leonard Cohen, from 1985 interview published in Paroles et Musiques

Dylan went on to be one of the first artists to cover “Hallelujah,” performing it twice in his 1988 concert tour.

Of course, no post about Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and “Hallelujah” would be complete without the anecdote, a classic in Cohen’s repertoire, about the contrast in the time required by Dylan and Cohen to compose a song. The story appears in several Cohen interviews. The following iteration is from Leonard Cohen, Los Angeles 1992, a section of “Songwriters On Songwriting” by Paul Zollo:

That [“Hallelujah”] was a song that took me [Leonard Cohen] a long time to write. Dylan and I were having coffee the day after his concert in Paris a few years ago and he was doing that song in concert. And he asked me how long it took to write it. And I told him a couple of years. I lied actually. It was more than a couple of years.

Then I praise a song of his, “I and I,” and asked him how long it had taken and he said, “Fifteen minutes.” [Laughter]

This video of Dylan covering “Hallelujah” appeared on YouTube yesterday with an audio track purported to be a live version of a 1987 Dylan performance. (While the YouTube introduction lists the date of performance as 1987, other sources agree with Wikipedia that Dylan first covered “Hallelujah” in concert in Montreal on 8 July 1988.) The cover also appears on “A Legend in His Time,” a collection of Dylan rarities, live tracks and outtakes.

Update: The live version of Dylan’s “Hallelujah” featured in this post has been removed for copyright violations. This version has survived since Jan 12, 2014. Thanks to Juanma Lopez Andreu, who alerted me to this upload.

Bob Dylan – Hallelujah
Video from Chad Nixon

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Other Bob Dylan Posts At Heck Of A Guy

5 Responses to Bob Dylan Covers Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

  1. Sadly, the cover has been taken down… for some reason, it violates Sony’s music laws, I guess.

    On a completely unrelated note, I love your blog — I followed a link on Anjani’s site to here only a week or two ago and, since then, have always come away thoroughly impressed with what I find. Your Leonard Cohen humour always cracks me up.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks for the kind words. Re the Dylan cover, I’m a tad surprised it disappeared since it was, purportedly, a live appearance and, in any case, it’s hard to figure how it would hurt sales for Dylan or the record company.

      • Who knows? Record companies seem to freak out about everything these days… I think it’s why a lot of artists are moving away from traditional contracts into situations with a lot more freedom – Trent Reznor, Tori Amos, Radiohead, etc.

        Speaking of Tori Amos, have you heard her cover of Famous Blue Raincoat? What do you think of it?

        • The Tori Amos cover of Famous Blue Raincoat is one of my favorites, and I know two Cohen fans who were first introduced to his music by her version of that song.

          • She’s one of my favorite artists of all time. If I could have a glass of wine with any two musicians, it would be her and Leonard.