Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Leonard Cohen

Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)

Written and first recorded by Leonard Cohen (1984).
Hit versions by k.d. lang (US #61/CAN #2 2004), Epsen Lind (NOR #1 2006), Rufus Wainwright (ROCK #34/UK #97 2007), Jeff Buckley (recorded 1994, released UK #65 2007 |US #102/UK #2 2008), Alexandra Burke (UK #1/IRE #1/EUR #1 2008), Justin Timberlake & Matt Morris (US #13/UK #91 2010), Pentatonix (US #23/GER #1/SWZ #7 2016).
Also recorded by John Cale (1991), Allison Crowe (2003).

From the wiki: “‘Hallelujah’ was written by Canadian poet-singer Leonard Cohen, and was originally released on his album Various Positions (1984). Achieving little initial success, the song found greater popular acclaim through a recording by John Cale, which inspired a recording by Jeff Buckley. It is considered as the ‘baseline’ of secular hymns. Cohen wrote around 80 draft verses for “Hallelujah”, with one writing session at the Royalton Hotel in New York where he was reduced to sitting on the floor in his underwear, banging his head on the floor.

“His original version, as recorded on his Various Positions album, contains several biblical references, most notably evoking the stories of Samson and treacherous Delilah from the Book of Judges. Following his original 1984 studio-album version, Cohen performed the original song on his world tour in 1985, but live performances during his 1988 and 1993 tours almost invariably contained a quite different set of lyrics, with only the last verse being common to the two versions. Numerous singers mix lyrics from both versions, and occasionally make direct lyric changes; for example, in place of Cohen’s ‘holy dove’, Canadian-American singer Rufus Wainwright substituted ‘holy dark’, while Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe sang ‘Holy ghost’.

Suzanne

First performed by The Story Clovers (1966).
First released by Judy Collins (1966).
Hit versions by Noel Harrison (US #56 1967), Herman van Veen (NETH #4 1969).
Also recorded by Leonard Cohen (1967).

From the wiki: “‘Suzanne’, written by Canadian poet Leonard Cohen, first appeared as the poem ‘Suzanne Takes You Down’ in Cohen’s 1966 book of poetry, Parasites of Heaven. As a song, it was first performed by The Stormy Clovers in 1966 and then recorded by Judy Collins, appearing on her 1966 album In My Life. It was later released by Cohen on his own debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen (backed by The Stormy Clovers).

“In 1967, Noel Harrison’s version — the second released cover of the song — entered at #125 on the Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart in late September 1967, entering the Billboard Hot 100 at #86 on October 28, peaking at #56 on November 25, 1967. (Cohen’s version would be released in December 1967.)

“In 1969, Herman van Veen’s Dutch-language version entered the Dutch Top 40 list in April 1969, peaking at #4 in May.”

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