The Top 10 Most Popular Hallelujah Renditions on Youtube.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jun 12, 2010
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The most beautiful word: Hallelujah.

The most beautiful song, originally written and sung by none other than Buddhist, and Ladies’ Man, Leonard Cohen.

“And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand right here before the Lord of song, with nothing on my tongue but ‘Hallelujah’.”

It’s, as I say, a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion…It’s a rather joyous song. I wanted to write something in the tradition of the hallelujah choruses but from a different point of view…It’s the notion that there is no perfection—that this is a broken world and we live with broken hearts and broken lives but still that is no alibi for anything.

On the contrary, you have to stand up and say hallelujah under those circumstances.

~ Leonard Cohen

Then, most memorably, sung by a young man who would, tragically, stay young forever, who would breathe out at the beginning of the song, and finally, never breathe in again. This was the version I first go to know, when, five years ago, my designer Pam Uhlenkamp and I played it again and again in her second floor flat just off downtown Boulder, as we worked endless days and night putting together an issue of elephant.

And, then, most famously, by Rufus Wainwright, a version that made it into Shrek, the blockbuster children’s fave movie.

I heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do ya?
Well it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who out drew ya
It’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not someone whos seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Here are the top ten most popular versions, as picked by We the People across the World, on youtube. The only editorial privilege I’ve exercised is selecting the top 10 that have kept some of the original heartache and space within each word…there are many pop, casual, speedy, shmaltzy versions that exhibit breathtaking vocal range and a decided lack of heart. Fuck ’em.

Skip to two minutes in—a surprisingly chill-inducing version, given the context:

The most popular version, surprisingly. The blonde man (?) has an amazing voice:


American Idol Hallelujah, not my fave:

With lyrics:

The man himself. Those lyrics, from that voice. The original:

I love Rufus:


Imogen Heap:

Regina Spektor:



Bonus: Walk the talk show gets classical.

Double bonus: Waylon talks with Ram Dass.

Adele’s Humorous “Hello” with Jimmy Fallon & The Roots.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


66 Responses to “The Top 10 Most Popular Hallelujah Renditions on Youtube.”

  1. Andrea Jenison says:

    First heard this song while watching the "West Wing". I started to cry…just like that. Recently heard it performed at a children's Xmas concert by a very talented member of the school. Made the difficult trip to get there during a New England snowstorm completely worth it.

    Probably one of the most beautiful songs ever written as well as complex with meaning on so many levels. Always be grateful to the man who created this amazing song.

  2. SireneB says:

    Yep! Totally agree.

  3. Keith says:

    My wife and I were very lucky, we got passes to see the rehearsals for The Junos in Winnipeg. We got to see K.D. rehearse this song… to a crowd of about 150 or so…. I still think that being in that huge arena, with just a small crowd and the artist made the moment more….. well, just more. LOVE her version!

  4. Paula says:

    How could you leave out KD Lang's version?

  5. Gae says:

    Fully agree with you Brent.

  6. Wonderful blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring

    writers? I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m

    a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with

    a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?

    There are so many choices out there that I’m completely overwhelmed ..

    Any ideas? Many thanks!

  7. Michael Pahl says:

    I came across this version – don't know who she is and who the guitarist is but it's haunting me –

  8. Toni says:

    Cohen and Buckley do it for me.

  9. Anna says:

    Tehres a version THE BEST EVER
    you should add and give it your attention 😉

  10. Theresa says:

    Was disappointed not to see K.D.Lang in your "10 Most Popular" as she did a beautiful version honoring Lenard Cohen!

  11. Sue says:

    This is my favourite version ever. I watched this broadcast live, and it was made all the more astonishing by the fact that it was an early morning performance on Australian breakfast television :

  12. kate peters says:

    kd lang does an amazing version as well.

  13. elephantjournal says:

    Yes, definitely my favorite! ~Travis

  14. John says:

    Thank you very much. My favorite song. Enlightening interview you did with Ram Dass. Thank you for that, too.