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Versions of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' wear on singer-songwriter

If you want a hallelujah out of Leonard Cohen, stop singing his song.

The classic Hallelujah has been recorded almost 200 times, covered by everybody from Jeff Buckley to Bob Dylan to Swedish metal band Pain of Salvation. You heard it in Watchmen, and Rufus Wainwright's version showed up in 2001's Shrek. It kept Jason Castro alive on American Idol in Season 7. And it recently was sung by Alexandra Burke on Britain's X Factor, hitting No. 1 in Britain and Ireland.

Enough already, the singer-songwriter told the Guardian earlier this year. He has asked for a break from any new versions. "I was 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," Cohen said. "I think it's a good song, but too many people sing it."

Cohen worked for years on the song, which first appeared on his 1984 album Various Positions with nary a shrug. There are lots of different versions of the lyrics, with themes of sex, temptation and adultery. Biblical references to Samson and Delilah, too. Incidentally, if you noticed Hallelujah during a sex scene in Watchmen, you actually heard Cohen's version, a rarity.

Despite Cohen's protests, we sure hope he's getting some extra royalties from all this. One of the reasons he's touring after a long hiatus is because his former manager reportedly took off with a huge chunk of his money.

Who knows, maybe an upcoming film or reality show can light a fire under another one of his classics, like Suzanne, Bird on the Wire or First We Take Manhattan. We'd sing hallelujah to that.

Cohen's show is at 8 p.m. Monday at Carol Morsani Hall at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. Tickets start at $19.50. (813) 229-7827; tbpac.org. (Note: This show was moved from the St. Pete Times Forum. Call the listed number for ticket questions.)

Kelly Smith, Times staff writer. Information from Rolling Stone was used in this report.

Versions of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' wear on singer-songwriter 10/14/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 5:30am]

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