There's a video making the rounds of an extremely moving and lovely rendition of Leonard Cohen's bittersweet classic "Hallelujah" performed for an autistic 10-year-old Irish girl. Her singing is wonderful, and all the more so because (according to the story) she wouldn't even read out loud before the special school gave her confidence and a voice to sing, and there she is standing out front.
I say this all so as to make clear I'm not a curmudgeon on this. But -- I greatly dislike the video. That's because, despite how articles wrongly describe it, it is NOT Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," but rather the lyrics were completely changed by a Christian rock band, and it's a totally different song, with a completely religious meaning now. Perfectly fine for song, but reprehensible to steal someone's copyrighted song and not only change its meaning, but change it 180-degrees. It's one thing to write parody lyrics, which is allowed by law, but this isn't a parody. They just wrote different lyrics and (I assume) recorded it.
I don't know if Leonard Cohen was aware of this altered-lyric and, if so, what he thought about it, or even tried to get it stopped. Perhaps he liked it, though I'd put a lot of money on guessing not, given that it subverts his song. Consider, for instance, that one of the original passages he wrote goes --
You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well really, what's it to you?"
Or the verse that comes near the end of the song --
Maybe there's a God above
But all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you
This is hardly an intent to write a moving paean to the glory of religion Given that Lenoard Cohen passed away only last month, he clearly can't react at this point to this video.
I really wish they'd had this endearingly admirable girl sing the actual song. It would have been glorious. As it is, SHE'S glorious -- the song is unfortunate. And hypocritical, praising its religion yet stealing someone's work. All of which is why I'm not providing a link to it. If one is interested, it no doubt would be easy to find.
To be clear -- since I wrote about this elsewhere, and got a few critical comments -- this is not about a wonderfully talented, noble child singing wonderfully, nor about inspiration nor about religion. It's about a professional band taking someone else's song, cutting the words, adding their own and, on top of that, completely changing the intent. That's not only irresponsible, but copyright infringement.
Making the real song itself easy to find, though, here's Leonard Cohen himself singing his classic, as the words are intended.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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