11/09/2008

A Broken "Hallelujah"

Michael introduced me to this stunning performance of Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" last night.

The lyrics of the song are somewhat complicated and contain a great deal of subtext which makes them open to interpretation.

While Cohen's original version, replete with Biblical references appears to be something of a celebration of the sensuality and sexuality found in the Bible it can also be seen as an indictment of the role of religion in turning both love and its physical expression into something ugly and dirty.

K.D. Lang sang the following version in 2004. It differs slightly from Cohen's original in a few areas.

Lang chooses to include the following lyric:

"But I saw your flag on a marble arch
Our Love is not a victory march
It's a calling and a broken Hallelujah!"

Later she includes this one:

It's not a cry you hear at night.
It's not someone who's seen the light.
It's a calling and a broken Hallelujah!"

I have no idea what Ms. Lang's interpretation of these lyrics might have been. Judging from her passion and soaring voice I think it means much, much more to her than most who sing it.

However, for me, it is the perfect song for the aftermath of Prop 8 in California and our own Prop 102 in Arizona.

What I read here is an indictment of the vanity of religion who seeks to define love for all.

"I saw your flag on a marble arch... our love is not a victory march." Could it be a reference to the banality of churches declaring their "love" and "God's Love" for others while working tirelessly to make people's lives more difficult and less fulfilling? Could it be a reference to the way the churches trot out our right to love whom we will and enter into a lasting relationship in order to "turn out the base" for right wing politicians?

Does "a calling and a broken hallelujah" allude to the fact that we are not allowed to participate in the public celebration of our love and relationships? That our "hallelujah" is stifled by the religious vanity whereby mere mortals think they do "God's Work" by denying others the right to love and have security and just as importantly the right to shout our loves from the rooftops?

Does Lang's version of this song, go much deeper than Cohen's celebration of the physical and its relation to the spiritual?

Could this version by K.D. Lang be both the lament and the call to action in this world of religious intolerance and interference in the right guaranteed to us under the Constitution and by virtue of simple human dignity?

You decide:

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