Earlier this month, Mrs. Arriba and I were out of the country on vacation. On Sunday, we went to church services; I was pleasantly surprised to hear the choir sing one of my favorite songs, Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen. To me, it is perhaps one of the more perfect songs, combining spirituality, hope, and sadness in ways rarely connected. It was satisfying to get a sense of its universality by hearing it in a small island nation.
I first heard Hallelujah about 25 years ago on an album by Cohen, Various Positions. It is also on at least one other album of his, More Best of Leonard Cohen. For those of you not familiar with him, he is perhaps the greatest living songwriter. A Canadian, he has written a number of classic songs, but Hallelujah has probably been recorded by the most other singers. Probably the most famous versions are by kd lang (one of my favorites, the YouTube version follows) and Jeff Buckley. I prefer the original version by Cohen myself (also below), but I know a number of people find his voice grating. They are wrong, by the way. For an interesting bit of trivia, the song is played every Saturday night on the Israeli Armed Forces radio station.
Then 10 days ago, when familes were wrapping their presents, trimming trees, and hanging stockings, tragedy struck a small town in Connecticut, a town where Christmas will probably not come, at least this year. We all, particularly those of us with young children and grandchildren, share in the pain of so many senseless lives taken by a madman and his witless mother.
Here are the closing lyrics to the song:
I did my best; it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I learned to touch.
I’ve told the truth
I didn’t come to fool you.
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my lips but
Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays, Everyone.