by Jeff Buckley
I first heard this song my senior year of high school when a girl in my show choir wanted me to help her with it. This song quickly became one of my all-time favorite songs. I have 4 different versions of this song on my iTunes. Many artists have covered this song, including Jeff Buckley. Some of these lines linger with you long after the song is finished playing. This song is considered to be alternative folk (whatever that means). There are many references to the Bible.
In this song, Buckley uses the biblical references to show lustful love and love lost. He switches between biblical references often. Some of these images are concrete; others are more in-depth interpretations.
Well I heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth,
The minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composed it Hallelujah.
In the first verse, David is mentioned. David was a harp player; so, he obviously knew how to play chords and music. He is also credited with many of the psalms that were “pleasing to the Lord.” David was “baffled” when Nathan came to him telling him he had sinned. David then composes “Hallelujah” or a psalm expressing his guilt and giving glory to Yahweh.
Side note, if you know anything about music, most hymns are composed using the fourth and fifth chords. Also, the chords in the song actually line up with the words.
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to her kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
The first three lines refer to David seeing Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11. In this story, David first sees Bathsheba bathing. She was already married. David was king at this time. Bathsheba’s husband was in his army. At first, David tries to get her husband to sleep with her. Her husband refuses to leave David. David then sends him to the front line where he is killed.
The next three lines are referring to Samson and Delilah in Judges 16. Samson’s power was in his hair. He told Delilah his secret because he thought she loved him. Delilah deceives Samson. She has men cut Samson’s hair. This causes a truly tragic ending for Samson.
There was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show that to me, do you?
But remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah
In the first three lines, I think it is could refer to the lack of prophecies between the Old and New Testaments. The holy dove is a direct reference to the dove that came down to Jesus at his baptism.
Without the knowledge of these stories, the listener would have no clue what any of these references ment. Since there are so many references to the Bible, some claim that this song is “religious.” They have reason to believe this, but the artists who have recorded this song have said it is explicitly about sexual encounters.