While performing at the Forum de Montreal in Canada, a venue located in a city which just so happens to be the hometown of Leonard Cohen, the great Bob Dylan rolled out his first live performance of ‘Hallelujah’.
The relationship of both Dylan and Cohen was wonderfully profiled by David Remnick, who wrote a fantastic profile on Leonard Cohen in the New Yorker. In his piece, in Remnick details specific discussions between Cohen and Bob Dylan as the duo crossed paths multiple times after their initial meeting in the ’60s. Apparently, Cohen was in Paris at the same time Dylan was performing a headline show and had arranged to meet him backstage where a typically quizzical Dylan was particularly interested in Cohen’s hit song ‘Hallelujah’.
“How long did it take to write it?” Dylan asked. “Two years,” Cohen lied knowing full well that the process of forming that particular song actually stretched into five years.
In response, Cohen told Dylan: “I really like ‘I and I,” in reference to the song that appeared on Dylan’s album Infidels. “How long did it take you to write that?” Cohen then asked.
“About fifteen minutes,” Dylan replied.
Fast forward to July 8th, 1988, and Dylan’s ‘Never Ending Tour’ was showing no sign of slowing down. After performing ‘Hallelujah’ in Montreal—amid rumours that Cohen was actually in the crowd watching—Dylan kept the song in his locker for special occasions only.
However, just one month after the show in Montreal, Dylan and his band arrived in Los Angeles to play a show at the Greek Theatre armed with ‘Hallelujah’ as part of their setlist. “When people talk about Leonard, they fail to mention his melodies, which to me, along with his lyrics, are his greatest genius,” Dylan once said of Cohen. His gift or genius is in his connection to the music of the spheres,” Dylan added.
“That song ‘Hallelujah’ has resonance for me,” Dylan later told the New Yorker. “It’s a beautifully constructed melody that steps up, evolves, and slips back, all in quick time. But this song has a connective chorus, which when it comes in has a power all of its own. The ‘secret chord’ and the point-blank I-know-you-better-than-you-know-yourself aspect of the song has plenty of resonance for me.”
Below, enjoy live auto of Dylan’s rendition of ‘Hallelujah’ taken from his performance at the Greek Theatre, Los Angeles.