One of Leonard Cohen’s best-loved songs – Hallelujah – almost didn’t get released.
The song, which has been covered multiple times, featured on Cohen’s 1984 album Various Positions.
But despite its huge success, Cohen’s record label didn’t think the album was good enough.
According to Alan Light’s book about the song, CBS chief Walter Yetnikoff was unimpressed with the whole album. “What is this?” he is quoted as saying. “This isn’t pop music. We’re not releasing it. This is a disaster.”
Cohen, who has died at the age of 82, later told how he enjoyed a “mild sense of revenge” over Hallelujah’s success.
Asked about the song – which later took both first and second positions in the UK chart with different cover versions – in 2009, he told the Canadian Broadcasting Service: “The record that it came from … was called Various Positions (1984) – (a) record the label wouldn’t put out. They didn’t think it was good enough.
“It had songs like Dance Me To The End Of Love, Hallelujah, If It Be Your Will. So, there was a mild sense of revenge in my heart.”
The record was eventually released on an indie label but Hallelujah,which is said to have taken Cohen five years to write, was not put out as a single.
He once said: “To find that song, that urgent song, takes a lot of versions and a lot of work and a lot of sweat.”
Hallelujah has since been sung by artists including Bob Dylan, John Cale, Jeff Buckley and Bon Jovi and there are said to be around 300 covers of the song, which Bono – who also sang it – dubbed “the most perfect song in the world”.
It was featured in TV shows The OC and The West Wing and in 2001 a version by Rufus Wainwright appeared on the Shrek soundtrack.
And in 2008 Hallelujah became the first song in 51 years to take the first (Alexandra Burke) and second spots (Buckley) on the UK Singles Chart.