The year 1984 was a pretty amazing time for pop music, with new releases by Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and Van Halen filling the airwaves. Amidst all that greatness came Leonard Cohen's Various Positions, which landed with a thud towards the end of the year. Interest in Cohen was so low that Columbia initially refused to even release it, figuring it wouldn't be worth the effort of printing copies and sending them to stores. Virtually nobody paid attention to a little song called "Hallelujah" that kicked off the second side of the LP.
Cohen, however, knew he had something special. He spent an unusually long time on the lyrics, obsessing over every word and going through 80 different drafts. When the Velvet Underground's John Cale asked him to send over the lyrics so he could cover it, he received a 15-page fax full of discarded verses. Cale cobbled together a new version of the song, which he recorded on the piano. It was that version that Jeff Buckley covered on his 1994 LP Grace, and slowly the song became an absolute sensation, covered so many times that Adam Sandler spoofed the practice at the 12/12/12 charity show at Madison Square Garden.
By now, people that have never even heard the name "Leonard Cohen" know "Hallelujah." It's become a modern-day hymn, performed everywhere from street corners to American Idol. Even people that feel they could go the rest of their lives without hearing it again get a lump in their throats when the spotlight hits Cohen at his shows and he begins singing, "I've heard there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord..."