“Hallelujah” is a song written by Canadian singer Leonard Cohen, originally released on his album Various Positions. Achieving little initial success, the song found greater popular acclaim through a recording by the Velvet Underground’s John Cale, which inspired a recording by Jeff Buckley. It was that version that eventually created a huge cult around the song. Since 1991, “Hallelujah” has been performed by a wide variety of singers: over 300, and in various languages. Buckley’s version was not an instant hit, nor did Buckley live to see the full measure of the reception his recording would ultimately have; he died in 1997. The album on which it appeared did not go Gold in the U.S. until 2002, nine years after its release. In fact, like Cohen’s original, the Buckley version was not released as a single, until much later, and it didn’t chart until 2006, posthumously for Buckley.
In 2004, Buckley’s version was ranked number 259 on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. The same year Time called Buckley’s version “exquisitely sung,” observing “Cohen murmured the original like a dirge, but … Buckley treated the … song like a tiny capsule of humanity, using his voice to careen between glory and sadness, beauty and pain … It’s one of the great songs.” John Legend called Buckley’s version “as near perfect as you can get. The lyrics to ‘Hallelujah’ are just incredible and the melody’s gorgeous and then there’s Jeff’s interpretation of it. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of recorded music I’ve ever heard.”