Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is a great song. I often find it running through my head. I love how the lyrics are evocative without being literal, and the way the verses all have the same feel but are pretty much independent. I find myself half-making up new verses all the time. So did Leonard: apparently he wrote 80 verses for the song, whittling them down to the four in the final version.
Well, now I have hit upon a foolproof method for doing it myself, so here I present:
How to write “Hallelujah”
- Think of a word or phrase that rhymes with “hallelujah”.
- Drink a bottle of red wine while ruminating on your many unhappy love affairs.
- Write the verse around your rhyming word.
No one else has ever guessed
That I’m the one who knows you best
But I know that I don’t mean that much to ya
I press my glass against the wall
And every time I hear you call
Then I reply with my own hallelujah
Like Leonard, I’ve relied here on “ya” for the rhyme. He uses “fool ya”, “overthrew ya”, and actually he also uses “to ya” so mine is even less original than I first thought. But there must be more possibilities for rhyming with “hallelujah”, so:
It’s getting very late at night
And I don’t have the appetite
To eat the grapes you’re peeling for me, Beulah
And now with every passing hour
The fruit so sweet is turning sour
And now I’ll never hear the hallelujah
You joined a chorus at the church
And every day I’d come to watch
You practising your “do re mi fa so la”
I never told you my desire
To have you in my private choir
So you and I could both sing hallelujah
I’ve come up with a plan which is
To make some tasty sandwiches
With mayonnaise, tomato, corn and tuna
I’ll bring a basket to your door
We’ll spread a rug upon the floor
We’ll both say grace and sing a hallelujah
Maybe some of these rhymes are a bit outlandish: they don’t have the gravitas of the original song. They’re like an inferior Stephin Merritt rhyme (like Dakota/iota or blue/Camus or vivisection/affection). I confess I skipped the bottle of red wine for these ones; that’s probably why they’re not morose enough. Maybe they’d work better if you imagine Leonard’s voice singing them. No, actually I doubt whether he has ever sung the word “tuna” in any of his songs.
Anyway, if you want to try your hand at it, here are some “hallelujah” rhymes to start you off.
I wonder if Leonard used any of these in his 76 discarded verses.