According to the most popular version of the story, when Leonard Cohen wrote "Hallelujah", he wrote about 80 separate verses src before paring down to the 4 he used in his studio recording.

He subsequently mixed in different verses in his live versions, and supposedly even send John Cale the whole set of 80 verses for him to pick from when recording his cover. Cale's version shares the first two verses but has three new one in place the original third and fourth.

Since then, almost everyone else who's covered the song seems to use Cale's verse selection. Even Cohen has supposedly taken to using those 5 verses for his own live shows. As such, I've only ever heard 7 of the claimed 80 verses (the original 4 plus Cale's 3 substitutes):

I've heard there was a secret chord...

Your faith was strong but you needed proof...

Your say I took the name in vain...

I did my best...

Baby I've been here before...

There was a time when you needed proof...

Maybe there's a God above...

Have any of the other verses ever appeared in a recording (by Cohen or anyone else), or published anywhere? Even unofficially, perhaps by someone who's heard Cohen perform live?

  • 1
    I can't find anywhere that has 80 verses, but 2 extra verses are found on the Various Positions album. Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 9:28
  • 2
    Don't forget the verse "There was a time when you let me know" Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 8:32
  • 3
    This article gives an explanation for 14 verses. rsrevision.com/hallelujah.htm Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 8:33
  • John Cale is the person to speak to - he's the one person who distilled the 80 verses down to his version. leonardcohenforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=8046 Commented May 22, 2018 at 12:46
  • I realize that this is an old thread and may be a newer version of the song, but there is a Christmas version out there on YouTube. Whether or not these "new" verses were actually written by Cohen himself, I have no idea...
    – Allan Fish
    Commented Dec 24, 2018 at 23:08

1 Answer 1


There have never been 80 verses published, by Cohen, John Cale or anyone else.

Whilst Cohen, like others, for example, Joni Mitchell, could adapt a song for live performances, some additional verses does not explain the repeated stories of 80 verses.

There is nothing to suggest in the index cards of the Leonard Cohen Manuscript Collection at the University of Toronto that there are "lost" versions of the song waiting to be rediscovered.

The likelihood is that, like Bob Dylan scaling "Like A Rolling Stone" down from 10 pages to 4 verses, so Cohen reduced a larger draft to his 5 verses. Whether he started with an initial draft of 80 verses, or he had worked on 80 verses in total during the evolution of the song, Cohen is, unfortunately, not here to tell us.

It could also be a myth that has grown with the the telling. It's easy to imagine when he was as faxing the lyrics, that Cohen told Cale that he originally had a longer version and, in pre-Internet days, the length of the song grew with each retelling and each interview.

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