|Steven Page at Jack Layton's state funeral|
While listening to Steven Page sing Leonard Cohen's now iconic "Hallelujah," during the largely moving televised funeral last weekend for NDP leader Jack Layton, I began to recognize just how much this song has lost its meaning and much of its sting. Sung now with a solemn reverence, as Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" often is, "Hallelujah" is about as misunderstood as Randy Newman's "Sail Away." Written in 1984, Cohen conceived the song as one that combined invective with elegiac and religious meditation. "You're not on the stand when you're praying," he told me in an interview months before the song was released. "You can't come with any excuses. You don't have a deep belief in your opinion any longer, or your own construction of how things are. That's why you pray because you haven't got a prayer." You don't hear in these famous cover versions by Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, kd lang, or in Steven Page's recent rendition, any of that sense of doubt, the struggle between the profane and sacred, or even the naked fear of the singer being aware that despite being armed with prayer the world still remains the same.