- "Hallelujah" from Various Positions. It's been Covered Up a lot."And love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah"."I did my best, it wasn't much,
I couldn't feel so I tried to touch,
I told the truth, I didn't come to fool ya.
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah."
- The version by John Cale, used in Shrek, is particularly gut-wrenching.
- Alison Crowe sings a heartbreakingly beautiful version of "Hallelujah" as well.
- See Regina Spektor for her version.
- And Jeff Buckley for his version.
- And Voltaire for his.
- Add Axel Rudi Pell's version, in its own way.
- The apogee would have to the be the version turned out by the contestants and judges on The Voice in tribute to the Sandy Hook victims.
- Add Kate McKinnon's gut-wrenching version on the November 12, 2016 episode of Saturday Night Live .
- The most devastating of all may very well be the version that Chester Bennington sang for the funeral of Chris Cornell. It isn't just the fact that the song was done in tribute to a rock legend gone far too soon, but also that Chester himself committed suicide less than two months later.
- Another Cohen song would be "Stranger Song" from Songs of Leonard Cohen.And then leaning on your window sill
he'll say one day you caused his will
to weaken with your love and warmth and shelter
And then taking from his wallet
an old schedule of trains, he'll say
I told you when I came I was a stranger
I told you when I came I was a stranger.
- Heck, he tears up while performing it live! That's how tragic his songwriting can get.
- "Anthem" is also heartbreaking:"The wars they will be fought again
The holy dove, she will be caught again
Bought and sold and bought again
The dove is never free"
"Ring the bells that still can ring
- But the chorus of "Anthem" has been known to bring tears of an entirely different type:
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
that's how the light gets in..."
- "Bird on the Wire" from Songs from a Room, sad all the way through, but contains what is going to be L. Cohen's epitaph:Like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried, in my way
To be free
- Everybody knows the dice are loaded. Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed. Everybody knows the war is over. Everybody knows the good guys lost. Everybody knows the fight was fixed. The poor stay poor; the rich get rich. That's how it goes; everybody knows.Everybody knows the boat is leaking. Everybody knows the captain lied. Everybody got this broken feeling like their father or their dog just died.
- "I'll try to say, a little more - love went on and on; until it reached an open door - then love itself, love itself was gone."
- "Famous Blue Raincoat" from Songs of Love and Hate is widely considered to be one of the most depressing songs ever written. "And what can I tell you, my brother, my killer, what could I possibly say? I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you, I'm glad you stood in my way..."
- Pretty much the entirety of Jonathan Coulton's version, surprisingly.
- "If It Be Your Will" in its entirety, but especially: "Let your mercy spill on all these burning hearts in hell, if it be your will, to make us well."
- And especially when it plays in Pump Up the Volume, where it is played as a heartwrenching reaction to a suicide.
- "Tower of Song": With plentiful Gallows Humor.I said to Hank Williams, "How lonely does it get?"Hank Williams hasn't answered yet,But I hear him coughing all night long,A hundred floors above me, in the tower of song.
- The beautiful and epic "Death of a Ladies Man."
- "The man she'd wanted all her life was hanging by a thread/I never even knew how much I wanted you, she said..."
- "The Story of Isaac" from Songs from a Room, full stop. I was running, he was walking, and his axe was made of burning gold.
- "Suzanne" from Songs of Leonard Cohen... It's not even necessary to quote anything. The nostalgic lyrics with the melancholic guitar, the Jesus parable, and Cohen's background for the song. Just sad.
- "Are you the teachers of my heart?" "We teach old hearts to break."I was handsome, I was strongI knew the words to every songDid my singing please you?No, the words you sang were wrong.
- "Winter Lady" is a perfect marriage of bleak lyrics and bleak music. It's easy to see why Robert Altman chose it for the ending of Mccabe And Mrs Miller.
- The entirety of his final album You Want It Darker. Leonard knew his time was up by this point, and it's reflected here. Especially in the reprise of "Treaty" at the end of the album. If you weren't crying for the rest of the album, this will do it.I wish there was a treaty we could sign
It's over now, the water and the wine
We were broken then but...now we're borderline
And I wish there was a treaty...
I wish there was a treaty...
Between your love...and mine
- The title song, "You Want It Darker", bleakly accuses God of "want[ing] it darker" while recalling the Holocaust ("A million candles burning for the help that never came... They're lining up the prisoners/And the guards are taking aim/I struggled with some demons/They were middle-class and tame") and quotes the Mourner's Kaddish ("Magnified, sanctified/Be Thy holy name"). If that won't get you tearing up, there's also Leonard singing "Hineni, hineni/I'm ready, my Lord" two weeks before his death.
Tear Jerker / Leonard Cohen