Never be the same

How many out there actually write most of their stuff sitting in front of a computer? And when I say write I don’t mean putting the words down on paper. To me that’s not writing. It’s just transferring the finished product onto paper; the final non-creative stage of the writing process.

I did none of that on the Friday just gone, but according to my way of seeing things I was writing all day long. Let me tell you about my Friday in detail, and trust me, there will be a point to this in the end.

On Friday I prepared lunches and cakes for morning and afternoon coffee for a two-day course that started on Saturday. Since I was scheduled to work at my normal job outside our home both Saturday and Sunday, I needed to prepare as much as possible of the course food on Friday. So, I made a Russian mushroom soup with cream and garlic, to be served with garlic bread. Delicious, if I may say so myself. To give the people on the course a choice, I also made a tomato soup a’ la Närpes. A Town close to where I come from in Finland. That soup is to be served with olives and feta cheese, and yes, I find this one delicious too.

When that was done, I made an onion pie to be served with baby potatoes and a fresh salad today, Sunday. After that I started to concentrate on desserts. I baked four dozen mince pies for Saturday and for afternoon coffee I made a chocolate swiss roll that I filled with banana and cream and I also covered with cream. Between doing the cooking and baking I’ve also washed some clothes and vacuumed the house, walked the dog etc.

You would be forgiven if you now were wondering what this can possibly have to do with lyric writing? Well, a couple of weeks ago, I saw a photo of a painting from a friend’s first art exhibition. I’ve seen the painting many times before and I absolutely love it. It is beautiful, sad, strong with both darkness and hope shining through in the motif. Anyway, seeing it again, I immediately got a twinge of an idea for a song lyric inspired by the painting, but that was all. The twinge made me believe there could be a good idea developing, but I also knew I had to leave that little seed of an idea to do its own thing. I couldn’t talk about it or even consciously think about it. I had to give it time.

On Friday while cooking, which is another creative outlet I truly love, the idea from that little twinge started to develop. First, I got the name of the song, and it will be called “Never be the same”. I also realised it will be a Christmas song, which surprised me, but in a happy way. After that I got the frame work and after that possible sentences of the chorus started to appear.

I suppose this writing process started, because I was so happy and relaxed whilst getting on with my cooking and baking, so I had time to communicate with my subconscious where the seed of this song lyric had been quietly taking form for a couple of weeks.

It probably won’t be that long before I can show you the finished product, because my writing process is quite quick most of the time after I have got this far.

I just wanted to share this with you, because what I’ve just describes is what I like most about creative writing. It is the weird and wonderful ways a story just appear when I’m in the middle of doing things that seem to be as far from writing as they possibly could be.

It may not be the “recommended” way of writing, but hey, it works for me and I will continue to write stories and song lyrics inside my mind while multitasking with one domestic chore or another, for as long as it works. If it means sitting less hours in front of a screen it can only be good in my book.

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

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How to choose a subject or story

I like getting asked questions, that makes me find out more about how I react and why I react as I do. Yesterday, I was asked if I would be prepared to change the angle of a song lyric of mine and have the song the lyrics features in, redone and reproduced with that new angle. I have heard brilliant productions form the place the friend that asked me, is using, so obviously I would have been curious to find out how the result from a production like that would sound, but still I never even considered the change. This particular song lyric is so very special to me and I know that it can be interpreted in many different ways already, the way it is written, so changing it is not an option for me. The only change I could do, and feel both the song and lyric could gain from is to add a bridge, but we’ll see what happens.

 
Sometimes you must just follow your heart and even more importantly your gut. I can still remember how I felt when this particular lyric came about. It just appeared, late one evening and what I wrote about has become even more important to me during the last twelve months, so to change the whole meaning of my lyric would be absolutely impossible. Even the thought of it made me feel sick in my gut. I did change the chorus quite a bit when the lyrics became a song, and I can totally see why those changes were necessary. I can also see how those changes made the chorus much better, but that is not the same thing as changing what the story is about deep down.

 
I sometimes wonder if I would need to use my head more than I do when writing, so I would write lyrics more user friendly for the business. I have already reined myself in an awful lot since I started. Back then I was out to prove that it is possible to take any subject matter and make it into a popular song. I still feel it should be like that, but I have also learned that in reality that isn’t so. Still, if it is a lyric, where I know the words really touches people, I will stand my ground, because if the words in a song can move people to tears in the right way, it must be right whatever the story. This also means it will work as a song in some genre. Maybe not for the younger listeners, but I’m not sure I’m able to write lyrics for that generation anymore anyway. Some things maybe accidently written sometimes, but not consciously or planned. I can only draw from my own experiences through the years when writing and logically that means that my kind of writing and my way of thinking should appeal better with middle aged people.

 
Going back to this particular lyric I was asked if I would consider changing, I have to say I am so grateful for the experience the collaboration gave me the first time around. It forced me to accept that changing my lyrics can be a good thing and this started a totally new journey for me from where I now have changed a lot of my old lyrics and, in my opinion, made them better thanks to that change. None of the changes have been about changing the story though. I’ve just changed words. While writing this, I’m realising that I don’t think I ever would change the angle or storyline in my lyrics, because most of them come from my gut and personally I never override what my gut tells me to something my head wants to do. At least not when writing. I much prefer to write a new lyric with the story line in question if that ever would be the case.

 
I don’t know how you, out there, choose your stories when writing lyrics. Do you just write from your gut or do you let your head rule what comes out on the paper? Which ever way, I wish you all a good, creative week.

 

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Writing is healthy for us!

Today I feel I want to share this blog below with you all. I saw it on the UK Songwriting contest’s homepage and it confirms what I have instinctively known for a long time. Writing makes me happier and healthier. It doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I write. To me it doesn’t matter if the health factors are proven by science, I would continue to write even if that wasn’t the case. Still, maybe these scientific findings will give someone out there the nudge to finally pick up the pen and just let the words flow.

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!

 

Åsa

SCIENCE CONFIRMS THAT SONGWRITING IS GOOD FOR YOU

The act of creative writing, and songwriting in particular, has more benefits than most people realize.

The benefits are far reaching, affecting us both physically and mentally, and the interesting thing is that the quality of the writing has nothing to do with it. Just the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits and it doesn´t matter if anyone else reads your lyric or hears your composition, or if it is a commercial success or not. Just writing it is enough. The many benefits documented by researchers include long-term improvements in mood, reduction in stress levels, a reduction of depressive symptoms, lowered blood pressure, better lung and liver function and an improved immune system with fewer illnesses.

A major study at the University of Sidney (by Karen Baikie and Kay Wilhelm) on emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing discovered just how much time spent writing is needed to make a big difference. And its not that much. They say that although the more time spent writing the better, just 15 to 20 minutes of writing on three to five occasions over the course of their four-month study was enough to make a real and noticeable difference.

Another amazing finding is that writing can even make physical wounds heal faster. A study in New Zealand found that if medical biopsy patients wrote about their thoughts and feelings for just 20 minutes for three days in a row before the biopsy their wounds healed more quickly than the people in a control group. Other studies have shown that people with asthma who write have fewer attacks than those who don’t, AIDS patients who write have higher T-cell counts and cancer patients who write have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life.

So what exactly is it about writing that makes it so good for you? Well, researchers are generally agreed that the important thing is to express your own personal, traumatic, stressful or emotional events in your writing and composing. It seems that this is the key and it is this expression of personal events and trauma that leads to improvement in physical and mental health.

One well known researcher in this area is James W. Pennebaker from the University of Texas, Austin, USA. He is a leading authority on expressive writing and health and he says; “When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals they often experience improved health. They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function.” Pennebaker and others believe that the act of expressive writing distances people from the upheaval and trauma in their lives and allows them the space to creatively step back and express and evaluate their personal dramas and tragedies. They stop obsessing unhealthily on those events and instead they focus on turning this into a positive creative outcome. This leads to lower stress levels, a more positive outlook and an improvement in general health.

The good news is that you don’t need to be a famous or successful songwriter to get these great benefits. You just need to write! As a songwriter you probably already know that writing songs goes deeper than, well, just writing songs. We all instinctively know when we write that there is more going on at a deeper level. But now it has been confirmed by science. Every time you write a lyric or poem that expresses your feelings and your inner self, or compose a piece of music that expresses and contains a part of you, you are acting as your own personal therapist and doing your physical and mental health a huge favour. If you are a songwriter you are certainly doing something right. Keep on writing!

The International UK Songwriting Contest is now open for entries at www.uksongwritingcontest.com

Best wishes,
The UKSC Team

Remembering “The kids from Fame”

When I started this blog, I gave myself permission to now and again indulge in my personal favourites when it comes to music. So far, I haven’t done too much walking down memory lane, but today I will stride a few blocks down that specific, pink tinted path, and I would be very happy if you decide to join me.

 
It doesn’t happen very often, but now and again, you are exactly at the right age, at the right time and have the right interests to become totally hooked into a specific TV programme. This happened to me in the early 80s with the series “The kids from Fame”. The series went on for five years (six seasons) and I think I saw most of the episodes. “You got big dreams. You want fame. Well fame costs, and right here is where you start paying. In sweat!” For a few years that sentence blared out of the speaker (note speaker, not speakers) on the telly at home on Sunday evenings. I remember my dad watching too. My dad and I shared most things that had to do with music and he was never scared to delve into the music from my generation even if he himself, among many other genres, was a Sinatra and Bing Crosby man. I also bought all the sound track LPs that were released with the songs from the series, LPs which I totally wore out.

 
A few years back I stumbled upon the series again on a TV channel concentrating on nostalgia, but after having watched half an episode I decided that time had past both me and the series by, and I preferred to keep my involvement with “The kids from fame” safely anchored inside my memory to the time when it was all perfect.

 
The wonderful thing with music is that it rarely goes past its sell by date. This is true for the music from “The kids from Fame” too. Yes, some of the songs I got my fill for my whole life time just because I played them so much back then, but most of them I still love. This is especially true of the lyrics, which I surprisingly still know by heart. I will select some of my favourites that I feel can still hold their own some thirty years later, and share them with you here today.

 
I start with “Life is a celebration” written by Rick Springfield. I like his version too, but I heard it with the kids from Fame first. I love the lyrics in the first verse:

 
I was lost on a winding road
I thought that life had nothing left to give
Then you came and showed me that just to live
Was the greatest gift of all

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KyE_28H5oQ&index=1&list=PL27938203EC0C548A

 

My second choice is a song called “Songs”, and the reason I’ve chosen it, is that it so perfectly explains why I love music and songs so much. The song is written by Dennis Scott and in the TV series Jimmy Osmond made a guest appearance and performed the song together with Erica Gimpel (Coco in the TV-series). I have, on purpose, put in a clip of the song that starts with the intro of the TV series because those first notes still give me goose bumps when remembering the joy the 14 year old version of me felt, in having yet another 50 minute episode of TV-gold in front of me.

 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKGW1OeuMhg&list=RDLDAOM3KKJjE&index=19

 

 

The third song I’ve chosen is called “Lay back and be cool” written by Enid Levine. I’ve chosen it, not only because I like to song, but also because it is performed by my favourite in the TV series; the late, great Gene Anthony Ray, who was one of the few cast members to be involved both in the film Fame from 1980 and later the TV series. As a teenager I couldn’t take my eyes of the character Leroy Johnson and watching this video now, I realise that some things never change. Gene Anthony Ray was a brilliant dancer who oozed with charisma. Enjoy!

 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEDln4g6KFA

 

 

My last choice in this self-indulgent blog is a song called “Starmaker” written by Bruce Roberts and Carol Bayer Sager. I’ve chosen to finish with this song because most of the “kids” play a part in it and both the video and the song shows the essence of what the TV-series was about; hope, dreams, togetherness, support for each other etc. It was just perfect telly once upon a long time ago!

 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTM1Mo6IVR4

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Imagine

Imagine the world without the song “Imagine” by John Lennon. It isn’t easy however hard I try.

 
I have gone back to my favourite website at the moment, www.songfacts.com and found that “Imagine” is the number one lyrics of today’s top 10. I will share the song facts about this wonderful song with you. One fact that I found amusing, since this particular fact makes me realise I wasn’t totally off the mark doubting the English grammar of that sentence when I heard the song as a teenager back in Finland. This is the fact; “According to Yoko Ono, who controls the rights to John Lennon’s music, the most frequent request she gets comes from musicians who want to record this song but change the “No religion, too” lyrics – a request she has always denied.”

 
A good thing to keep in the back of my mind if any critics or judges tells me off for not being grammatically correct!

 
Enjoy the song facts!
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

 

Lennon was asking us to imagine a place where things that divide people (religion, possessions, etc.) did not exist. He felt that would be a much better place.

 
This song is a strong political message that is sugar-coated in a beautiful melody. Lennon realized that the softer approach would bring the song to a wider audience, who hopefully would listen to his message.

 
Lennon took the sole songwriter credit on this track, but later said that his wife, Yoko Ono, should have been credited as well, as he got the initial idea from her book Grapefruit, which is a book of instructions with things like “Imagine the sky crying…” or “Imagine you’re a cloud.”

 

“I was a bit more selfish, a bit more macho, and I sort of omitted to mention her contribution,” he told the BBC. “If it had been Bowie, I would have put Lennon-Bowie… I just put ‘Lennon’ because she’s just the wife and you don’t put her name on, right?”

 

On June 14, 2017, the National Music Publishers’ Association announced that Yoko would finally be added as a songwriter for “Imagine.” This took place at a ceremony where Yoko was given the Centennial (song of the century) award for her contribution, which was followed by a Patti Smith performance of the song.

 
Some people have wondered if Lennon included a message in the video for this song as well. In the video, Lennon is dressed as a cowboy and Yoko Ono is dressed as an Indian squaw. This could be a kind of message about all cultures getting along.

Suggestion credit:
Adam – Dewsbury, England, for above 2

 
Lennon wrote this on a brown Steinway upright piano. In 2000, George Michael paid over $2 million for the piano that Lennon wrote this on, and then returned it to the Beatles museum in Liverpool. John’s piano has since been “on tour” to various world locations promoting peace.

 
Churlish listeners had a problem with the “no possessions” line, finding Lennon hypocritical since he was so well-off. Yoko Ono addressed this in a 1998 interview with Uncut, where she stated regarding her husband’s intentions: “He sincerely wished that there would be a time when all of us could feel happy without getting too obsessive about material goods.”

 
A sidewalk mosaic spells out the word “Imagine” in a section of Central Park dedicated to Lennon. The area is called “Strawberry Fields,” and is located across from Lennon’s apartment where he was shot.

 
This was not released as a single in the UK until 1975, when it hit #6. Shortly after Lennon’s death in 1980, it was re-released in the UK and hit #1. It was replaced at #1 by Lennon’s “Woman,” marking the first time an artist replaced himself on top of the UK charts since The Beatles followed “She Loves You” with “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
This is credited to The Plastic Ono Band, the name Lennon used for some of his recordings after leaving The Beatles. Ringo Starr played drums on this and Klaus Voorman played bass.

 
On September 21, 2001, Neil Young performed this on a benefit telethon for the victims of the terrorist attacks on America. Almost 60 million people watched the special in the US.

 
At a 2001 tribute special to Lennon, Yolanda Adams sang this with Billy Preston on organ. Preston played keyboards on some Beatles songs, including “Get Back.”
Oasis used the piano intro on their 1996 song “Don’t Look Back In Anger.”

 
In 2002, this came in #2 in a poll by Guinness World Records as Britain’s favorite single of all time. It lost to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.

 
This has been covered by many bands, including Our Lady Peace, and a vastly toned-down version by A Perfect Circle. Jack Johnson recorded it for the 2007 compilation Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.
Suggestion credit:
Jeffrey – Victoria, Canada

 
This song plays a role in the movie Forrest Gump. Gump (played by Tom Hanks) appears on a talk show with Lennon, talking about a place where there are “no possessions” and “no religion.” It’s implied that Gump gave Lennon the idea for this song.

 
Some speculate that this song contains backwards messages. With a keen ear and large imagination, you can barely make out the words “people war beside me” when reversing the line “Imagine all the people.”
Suggestion credit:
Spencer – Los Angeles, CA

 
On September 13, 1980 Elton John did a free concert in New York’s Central Park, ending it with this song. This performance was three months before Lennon’s untimely death; before playing the song Elton said, “This is for a dear friend of mine who doesn’t live too far from here, so let’s sing it loud enough for him to hear it” (Lennon lived only a few blocks from that part of Central Park). The flamboyant Elton performed the song wearing a Donald Duck outfit.
Suggestion credit:
Chris – Philly, PA

 
Lennon said this song is “virtually the Communist Manifesto.” That’s usually the last we see of the quote, but Lennon added: “even though I am not particularly a communist and I do not belong to any movement.”
Suggestion credit:
Adam – Mechanicsburg, PA

 
This song returned to the Hot 100 three times in the late 2000s, thanks to cover versions by Jack Johnson (#90, 2007), David Archuleta (#36, 2008) and The Glee Cast (#67, 2009).
The jazz musician Herbie Hancock recorded this as the centrepiece to his Imagine Project. His version features Jeff Beck, P!nk, Seal, India.Arie, Konono N°1 and Oumou Sangaré.

 
According to Yoko Ono, who controls the rights to John Lennon’s music, the most frequent request she gets comes from musicians who want to record this song but change the “No religion, too” lyrics – a request she has always denied.

 

 

So, does this mean you can record any song, but you need special permission to alter the lyrics? Essentially, yes. Alex Holz at the music licensing and royalty service provider Limelight explained to us: “Artists can be afforded ‘some’ leeway in adapting a track to your band’s style (so long as you don’t alter the fundamental character of the work), though lyric changes/alterations typically require direct permission from the publisher as a derivative work. Every songwriter/publisher/song is unique and requirements vary.”
This was the last song played on WABC before they switched from a Top 40 format to talk radio. Based in New York City, WABC was for decades the top AM radio station in the country. They debated long and hard to decide which song should be their farewell.
Suggestion credit:
Rob – Minneapolis, MN

 
A moving rendition of this song took place in Paris on November 14, 2015 at the Bataclan theater, where 89 people were killed by gunmen in terrorist attacks the previous night. The German pianist Davide Martello brought his grand piano to the theater, and played the song while crowds mourned outside the venue.

 

 

Over the next few days, Martello brought the piano to every location in Paris where the attacks took place, performing the song in tribute.

 
When Nike used the Beatles song “Revolution” in 1987 TV commercials, Yoko Ono joined the surviving band members in suing the company. In the court proceedings, it was revealed that Yoko appeared in a Japanese TV commercial for a telephone company where “Imagine” plays. According to court documents, she authorized use of the song and was paid about $400,000. The “Revolution” case unified the Beatles in their opposition to having songs used in commercials, especially since they didn’t control the rights – Capitol Records and Michael Jackson did.

 
At the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, four singers from that country performed the song, with each taking a verse. The singers represented a range of genres, including K-pop, with Ahn Ji-young of the duo Bolbbalgan4 performing along with Ha Hyun-woo of the rock band Guckkasten, Jeon In-Kwon of the rock band Deulgukhwa, and the solo artist Lee Eun-mi.

 

 

The theme of the ceremony was “Peace in Motion,” with a message of unity as athletes from North and South Korea entered under one flag.

 
Ben & Jerry’s, makers of “Cherry Garcia” and “Phish Food,” named an ice cream flavor after Lennon’s hit song in 2007. Retired since 2013, “Imagine Whirled Peace” was a caramel ice cream mixed with toffee cookie pieces and chocolate peace signs.

 

 

You can’t force it

You may or may not wonder where I disappeared to last week, but which ever it is I thought I’d tell you. I decided not to publish any new posts last week because my proof reader was visiting Portland, USA and I really don’t want to publish anything that hasn’t been proof read by a native English-speaking person. Even though the corrections get less and less the more blog posts I write, neither my pride nor my professionalism will allow me to publish anything that isn’t as free from mistakes as it can be.

 
Last time we “spoke” I promised you a new lyric built around our senses. I wanted to write a lyric where I described things seen, heard, tasted, smelled or touched by the main characters of that lyric. So, how is that going for me? Well, I do have a framework, but at the moment there is nothing unique about what’s in my head so unfortunately this project will have to wait a while longer.

 
One thing I never do is to try and force a song lyric that for one reason or another is having a difficult birth. Sometimes this happens because the idea isn’t that brilliant to begin with, but sometimes I just know there is something about an idea of mine that could be special. However, if I rush it, I will destroy it. The right words will come when it is time. Or, at least I have to put my trust in the feeling that says this is how it is.

 
Giving a lyric time to mull over inside me (in my subconscious) until it is ready, is not something I do very often these days. I have mentioned before that the majority of my early song lyrics were written that way and that when I finally wrote them down they stayed exactly as they were, because good or bad, this was how they had come to me and it felt wrong to change them.

 
Luckily, I’ve had some sense knocked into me since then, so now I use much more of a craft approach or work mentality. I chose a time, I sit down, and I write. Sometimes the result ends up in the bin, sometimes I go back to it the next day for tweaking and now and again I end up with something that makes me feel hopeful.

 
Still, once in a while I get this old, familiar feeling that there are some words that could be worth waiting for, that are mulling over in my subconscious. There is a difference now as before I would not have been writing anything at all in between getting this feeling and finally writing down the finished product. This meant there was hardly any writing going on. I wasn’t practising my craft at all. If I’ve learned anything this year, especially since starting my two blogs, it is that writing is a skill that needs to be practised every day. Just like anything else you want to get better at, you need to physically do a bit of it every day. Very few of us are able to live on lyric writing. Instead it is something we have to try and find time for in between jobs and everything else that life demands from us. Just a few minutes a day of physical writing can make a difference. It keeps the flow going and give us a focus. I think someone has said that a goal without a focus is just a dream. Personally, I want to keep my focus so that my lyric writing dreams can become a reality and not remain this beautiful, but unreachable dream of “someday”.

 
The cut off date of the first session of the big song writing contest UK SongwritingContest is very close now. The 7th of August is the last day to enter songs or lyrics for those who want to know the results of the entries at the end of this month. Personally, I have so far only entered two lyrics and a song where I have collaborated with the lyrics. My plan is to enter at least one, maybe two more lyrics before this first deadline. Waiting for the results until December seems a bit too long however quickly time flies these days.

 
It feels nice to be back blogging again. I know I was only gone for a week, but it has felt like an eternity. Good luck to anyone out there entering competitions at the moment. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Behind the song lyrics

It has always been a great interest of mine to find out the story behind song lyrics I really like, and also behind the various recordings of the songs. It’s amazing how often songs become popular, almost by accident. The same goes for songs that an artist really doesn’t want to record, but the record company more or less forces them to do so. So often these become major hits for the reluctant singer, but somehow, I don’t think they mind.

 
Today I’m going to share with you a bit of the story behind Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. The song was first made famous by Jeff Buckley and after that so many people recorded it. The song was used in so many films and TV-series that it basically was worn out.

 
Personally, I prefer the version of the master himself, i.e. Leonard Cohen. In the text I’m going to share with you I, as a lyric Writer, find many of the facts fascinating. Especially the fact that Cohen had written 80 verses to “Hallelujah” for five years leading up to him recording the song. When he finally recorded it in 1984 he chose the four verses he liked best. This fact made me realise I still have so much to learn and so much more personal effort I could inject into my writing. At the same time, we are all different and use different methods when working, but I do find it interesting to find out about how people I admire work and the story behind their words. I hope you do too.

 
I found this text on a website called http://www.songfacts.com

 

Arguably Jeff Buckley’s most famous work, “Hallelujah” was originally written and recorded by Leonard Cohen in 1984 on his album Various Positions. Cohen’s rendition was released as a single in Spain and the Netherlands but got little attention in the United States.

 

Jeff Buckley heard the song in the early ’90s and began performing it at his shows in and around New York City. He included it on his 1994 debut album Grace, but the song didn’t gain widespread attention until after Buckley’s death in 1997, which sparked renewed interest in his work. Many artists took note of “Hallelujah” and recorded their own versions of the song. Many of these covers found their way into movies and TV shows, popularizing the song across a wide audience.

 
The song is about a love that has soured and gone stale. Cohen used a lot of religious imagery, including references to some of the more notorious women in the bible. Here’s some lyric analysis:

“You saw her bathing on the roof, her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you” – Bathsheba, who tempted the king to kill her husband so he could have her.

“She tied you to her kitchen chair, she broke your throne and she cut your hair” – Delilah, who cut off Sampson’s locks that held his superhuman strength.

“But remember when I moved in you and the holy dove was moving too” – This could be a reference to the divine conception and Mary.

The lines referring to the immaculate conception can also be interpreted as having a sexual connotation: “And every breath we drew was hallelujah.”

 

 
Leonard Cohen explained: “Hallelujah is a Hebrew word which means ‘Glory to the Lord.’ The song explains that many kinds of Hallelujahs do exist. I say: All the perfect and broken Hallelujahs have an equal value. It’s a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion.”
Suggestion credit:
Roderick – Qingdao, China

 
Regarding the line, “The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift,” to which the chords played are: F – G – Am – F: It is clever the way that not only the chords line up in the lyrics and in the music, but also because the connotations themselves of “major” and “minor” add to the meaning of the song. The “fourth” is a major chord based on the fourth of the key Buckley is playing in. Likewise, the fifth is the major chord based on the fifth tone of the key. The “Minor Fall” corresponds to Buckley playing a minor chord based on the sixth of the key. “Major Lift” corresponds to playing the major chord on the fourth again.
Suggestion credit:
Gol – Gainesville, FL

 

 
The Bible makes reference to King David communing with the Lord and learning that certain types of music were more pleasing. The chords mentioned in the lyrics (that “David played and it pleased the lord) are often used in hymns.
Suggestion credit:
Mike – Perth, Australia

 

 
Leonard Cohen recalls singing this song to Bob Dylan the morning after Dylan’s concert in Paris on July 1, 1984. Cohen says they sat down at a café and traded lyrics, and that Dylan especially liked the last verse of the song (Cohen often tells the story of comparing songwriting technique with Dylan at this meetup: while “Hallelujah” took him years to write, Dylan told Cohen that he wrote “I and I” in 15 minutes). Dylan would later perform the song, singing it at two shows in 1988.

 

 
Cohen started work on this song five years prior to recording it on his 1984 Various Positions album, by which time he had 80 verses to choose from – he picked the best four.

When Cohen performed the song in concert, he often included some of the other verses he wrote, which made their way into various renditions of the song. Among those verses:

Baby I’ve been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s no complaint you hear tonight
It’s not some pilgrim who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a lonely Hallelujah

Performances of the song frequently mix and match verses to fit the occasion. This verse is often omitted:

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

 

 
John Cale, who founded The Velvet Underground, recorded this song for the 1991 Leonard Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan, and also included it on his 1992 solo album Fragments Of A Rainy Season. Jeff Buckley started covering the song after hearing Cale’s version.

 

Cale shaped his own interpretation after Cohen faxed him 15 pages of lyrics for the song, claiming that he “went through and just picked out the cheeky verses.” Cale’s version also appears in the 1996 movie Basquiat and on its soundtrack.

 

 
Buckley always closed his live shows with this song. Remarkably, his revved-up crowds became extremely silent.
Suggestion credit:
Kristy – La Porte City, IA

 

 
The melody has become a favourite in churches across America, where instrumental versions are often played by organists and bell choirs. Musically, it fits right in with traditional hymns, but the lyrics, although filled with religious imagery (especially the title), are rarely appropriate in this setting, since it is definitely not a worship song.

 

 

You will sometimes hear versions of the song with the lyrics altered for church performance. One such rendition was recorded by The Osmonds in 2015. It begins:

I heard about this baby boy
Who comes to Earth to bring us joy
And I just want to sing my song to ya

 

Larry Holder, the composer of “More Than a Child” and other worship songs, gave us his thoughts on the subject. Said Holder: “While there is Biblical imagery, it is not a worship song, in the common understanding. The music by itself is very moving, so I can understand someone wanting to use it instrumentally, although to me, it would tend bring to mind the lyrics (in my case, I’d start thinking about Shrek) which would actually be a distraction from worship.

It is interesting how someone came up with alternate lyrics for what the Osmonds sang, and that would definitely fit within a musical program at church at Christmas time in particular. (I have to presume permissions were obtained for such a derivative work to be written for such public use). I have heard that many of the hymns that Martin Luther penned actually used common melodies heard in the pubs of his day, so setting worship lyrics to secular melodies already well known has some logic to it.

There has been a lot of change in worship style, just in the past decade or so. I am a bass player in a praise band, in a church that not so many years ago was pretty much just choir, piano, organ (we actually have two services now, one traditional, one contemporary, which is not uncommon). It is easy to see how something contemporary but not purely originally worship music can become adapted and adopted into a contemporary worship setting. We sometimes walk a fine line between leading true worship and merely providing entertainment.”

 

 
Rufus Wainwright recorded this for the 2001 movie Shrek. Wainwright did not sing on the version used in the film (John Cale did), but his version is on the soundtrack. Wainwright recorded for Dreamworks, which also distributed the movie, and he had an album coming out a few weeks after Shrek was released. When the song appeared in Shrek, it was introduced to a very young audience, greatly expanding its appeal.
Suggestion credit:
Andy – Indiana, PA

 

 
A stark, a cappella version of this song by Imogen Heap plays during the season finale of the show The O.C. in 2006, accompanying a scene where the character Marissa dies.

Other notable uses of this song on TV shows:

Without A Trace on the first season finale episode.

The Fox series House, where It was used on the second season premiere episode “Acceptance.”

The final episode of the third season of The West Wing. The president and staff were attending an opera when CJ Craig’s (Press Secretary) secret service guard (and new love interest) was gunned down trying to stop a robbery.

The final minutes of the 2005 Nicolas Cage movie Lord Of War.

 

 
In 1986, Jennifer Warnes, who had been singing backup for Cohen since 1972, released an album of Cohen cover songs called Famous Blue Raincoat in an effort to draw more attention to him in America, where he was largely ignored. Warnes had a #1 single to her credit (“Up Where We Belong” with Joe Cocker) and was able to demonstrate the power of his songs on the album, which led to many other artists covering his songs, notably on the 1991 tribute I’m Your Fan.

Warnes arranged the choir and sang on the original version of “Hallelujah,” but she didn’t record it for Famous Blue Raincoat. In a Songfacts interview, she explained why.

“We thought it was too generic, and I wasn’t fond of the lyric,” she said. “I loved the chorus. I sang on it with him on the recording, because I knew what he wanted. He wanted a gospel choir. So that was easy.

But when it took off, I was kind of surprised, because I don’t think it’s one of his greatest songs. I don’t think it’s as cohesive as his other songs are.

But after Famous Blue Raincoat, the world was starved for Leonard Cohen, and they would take anything he put out. A lot of artists were looking for something that had a singable nature to it. Somebody hopped on it and there it was. It took off like a great big bird, didn’t it?”

 

 
Former Vibe and Spin editor Alan Light penned in 2012 a book titled, The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of ‘Hallelujah. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, he explained: “I attempt to explore the unprecedented path of this song – a protracted snowball effect that, over the course of several decades, has turned ‘Hallelujah’ into one of the most loved, most performed and most misunderstood compositions of all time.”

 

 
In March 2008, Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice performed this song during Leonard Cohen’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Afterwards he told Billboard magazine what made this track so special for him. Rice said: “There’s an amazing connection between sex and spirituality, and it’s something Leonard Cohen hints at in that song. It’s almost like a Buddhist master giving you a hint, but not the whole story. You have to take that hint and go sit with it.”

 

 
On March 4, 2008, American Idol competitor Jason Castro performed this song to rave reviews by the judges. Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell both said that they considered the Jeff Buckley version the best. As a result, Buckley’s “Hallelujah” hit #1 on Billboard’s Digital Downloads chart the next week. In the UK the renewed interest in this song created by Jason Castro resulted in the song returning to the UK singles chart at #74. It also reached the Top 20 of the World Singles chart.
Suggestion credit:
Bertrand – Paris, France

 

 
Singer/songwriter Kate Voegele covered this in episode 517 of the TV show One Tree Hill (“Hate Is Safer Than Love”). Such was the positive response to her version that its digital sales gave the singer/songwriter her biggest hit – it reached #68 in the US and #53 in the UK.

 

 
Buckley referred to his sensuous rendition as a homage to “the hallelujah of the orgasm.” He explained in a Dutch magazine OOR: “Whoever listens carefully to ‘Hallelujah’ will discover that it is a song about sex, about love, about life on earth. The hallelujah is not a homage to a worshipped person, idol or god, but the hallelujah of the orgasm. It’s an ode to life and love.” Buckley also admitted to having misgivings about his sensual version and he hoped that Cohen wouldn’t get to hear his version.
In November 2008, this entered the UK Top 50 for the first time, thanks to the BBC’s use of the track in a series of promotional trails for their iPlayer service.

 

 
The song is broadcast at 2 a.m. every Saturday morning by the Israeli Defense Force’s radio channel.

 

 
This song was the debut single for Alexandra Burke, the 2008 winner of the UK X Factor show. Her version broke the record for Europe’s fastest-selling download and topped the UK chart. Its success prompted renewed interest in Jeff Buckley’s rendition and as a consequence his version of Leonard Cohen’s spiritual epic reached #2 just behind Alexandra Burke. It thus became the first song ever to hold down the top two slots on the chart simultaneously since Tommy Steele and Guy Mitchell’s versions of Singing The Blues were at #1 and #2 back in 1957.

 

 

 

It also prompted renewed interest in Leonard Cohen’s original version. As a result the Canadian singer-songwriter got a look in on some chart action, gaining his very first UK Top 40 hit at the age of 74.

 

 
Justin Timberlake performed this song on the charity telethon, Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief, which was held on January 22, 2010. He was accompanied by his cast-mate from The Mickey Mouse Club, singer-songwriter Matt Morris, on guitar and vocals.

Timberlake told MTV News that when he was asked to perform on the Hope for Haiti Now telethon, he knew exactly what song he was going to perform. “It’s always been one of my favorite songs,” Timberlake said. “And my artist Matt, we always kinda sing that song when we’re messing around in the studio with ideas. The way that it’s written can be interpreted many different ways,” he added. “But the emotion that comes through – the chords, the melody and also what’s being said in the song – it just kind of fit for the telethon.”
Timberlake’s version marked the first time this song entered the Top 40 of the US singles chart. The only previous time “Hallelujah” reached the Hot 100 was in May 2008 when Kate Voegele spent one week at #68 with her cover. The Voice contestant Matthew Schuler subsequently reached #40 in 2013 after performing it on the reality television singing competition.

 

 
The Canadian singer kd Lang recorded a version of this song on her 2004 album Hymns of the 49th Parallel. She has several times been chosen to sing the tune at major events, including the 2005 Juno Awards, the 2006 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on the occasion of Cohen’s induction into the Hall of Fame and as part of the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Vancouver, British Columbia.

 

 
Bono recorded a spoken word, trip-hop version of this song in 1995 for the Leonard Cohen tribute album Tower Of Song. Bono later apologized for this, stating, “There’s the holy and the broken hallelujah, and mine was definitely the broken one.”

 

 
After the song was used in the 2009 movie The Watchmen, Leonard Cohen agreed that it needed a break. He told The Guardian: “I was just reading a review of a movie called Watchmen that uses it, and the reviewer said ‘Can we please have a moratorium on Hallelujah in movies and television shows?’ And I kind of feel the same way. I think it’s a good song, but I think too many people sing it.”

 

So far “Songfacts.com

 

Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

Sad to waste it!

I saw a concert on TV a few days ago, where the troubled, but very talented Amy Winehouse was performing and, as always, I couldn’t help but think how much she left undone with her early departure from the world. I felt that she had wasted her life by being wasted a majority of the time.

 
The thought of Amy Winehouse’s life stayed with me during that day, but after a while I started to feel guilty for giving myself the right to judge her and say that she wasted her life. She has left so many wonderful songs behind and given so much pleasure to so many people through her music, but even though I can be allowed to feel that her life in part was tragic and that it is sad that it couldn’t have been longer; there is absolutely no way I can say that her life was wasted.

 
Having got that far in my thoughts, I decided to write a new song lyric in honour of all the bright shining stars from the creative world who have left us too soon when we look at their lives from a very human perspective.

 
I’ve called my new lyric “Sad to waste it”. I’ve used the same method again that I showed you last week, where I have written new lyrics to a well-known melody. This time I won’t tell you which song I took my inspiration from, because in fairness it doesn’t matter. The lyrics are totally independent from that song. Having said that; if you think you can figure out which melody my words are built on, feel free to guess. I promise to tell you if you get it right.

 
So, here’s my new lyrics written in honour of all the creative bright shining stars that passed away way too soon, often in sad circumstances, but who’s lives I’ve got no right what so ever to call wasted.

 
Take care until next time and Happy Writing!
Åsa

 

Sad to waste it

 

I saw a video today,
from a great gig, back in the day.
You seemed so happy, you enjoyed the crowd.
Your youth was vibrant, made you cool and loud.
And your talent was so rare, the world just paused,
stopped to stare.
Wasn’t it sad to waste it?

 

I always wonder what went wrong?
What made you struggle to stay strong?
When did darkness start to hang around?
How did you stumble and fall to the ground?
And when life turned dark, was there
someone you could call?
Before the fall?
cause it was sad to waste it?

 

Is there a deal a soul like yours,
must sign with our Universe?
To shine brightly and touch endless lives.
To have to suffer from a thousand knives.
When you close your door, and spotlights fade away.
Who can say?
But it feels sad to waste it!

 

They found you lifeless in your bed.
You over dosed, or so they said.
You were young, your life had just begun.
Many plans, so many songs unsung.
Was there anything, that someone could have done?
Help you move on.
Stop you becoming wasted?

 

Right now, the world’s a darker place.
Where your light burned, an empty space.
At the same time, you will never die.
Through your songs there won’t be a good-bye.
So, in one way you’ve found the way forward
That we are still looking for, behind each door.
Your life, was short, not wasted.
©Åsa Sandberg 2018