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Bill Lamb

k.d. lang's Version of "Hallelujah" Highlights Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies

By February 12, 2010

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Canadian pop music royalty shone brightly tonight at the opening ceremonies for the 21st Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. One of the top musical highlights was a stunning performance of Canadian poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" by Canadian singer k.d. lang. She first recorded the song in 2004 for her album Hymns of the 49th Parallel. She also performed "Hallelujah" at the 2005 Juno Awards. In the past three years the song has taken on iconic status. In 2008 American Idol contestant Jason Castro delivered a performance that generated such interest in the song that Jeff Buckley's much admired 1994 recording of "Hallelujah" topped the Billboard Digital Tracks chart. Later in that same year X Factor winner Alexandra Burke topped the UK pop singles chart with her version and Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" hit #2. More recently Justin Timberlake went to #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his interpretation of "Hallelujah" from the Hope For Haiti Now telethon.

Earlier in the ceremonies top Canadian pop stars Nelly Furtado and Bryan Adams performed a duet on a song titled "Bang the Drum" written by Adams. Sarah McLachlan joined the parade of stars with a solo performance at the piano. In another powerful tribute to Canadian pop music, Joni Mitchell's classic "Both Sides Now" provided the backdrop for a moving aerial and dance performance. Finally, Anne Murray, one of the bestselling Canadian pop singers of all time, was one of the notable Canadian personalities chosen to carry the official Olympic flag into the stadium.

  • Watch k.d. lang sing "Hallelujah"

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Photos by Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

Comments

February 13, 2010 at 2:25 am
(1) UncG says:

Wow, kd lang, when I first saw her I was a bit disapointed, but 10 seconds into the song I had goosebumps and was getting emotional. How could I ever have forgotten what an amazingly almost perfect voice she has. This was THE high point for sure.

February 13, 2010 at 2:40 am
(2) Paul D says:

K. D. Lang was wonderful. She’s a wonderful woman, fantastic performer and such an incredible voice. I was fighting back tears, along with everyone else in the room.

February 13, 2010 at 2:43 am
(3) Julie from Oregon says:

KD Lang…Wow… Hallelujah like it should be sung…with heart! Fantastically moving!

February 13, 2010 at 2:50 am
(4) Angelina says:

Thank-you to K.D, Lang for doing such an amazing job singing Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah” Truly one of the most memorable moments of the 2010 Opening Ceremonies!

February 13, 2010 at 3:24 am
(5) Frosty427 says:

K.D. Lang
I agree ….her and the killer whales under the floor.
I first heard that tune on idol
I taped that on satellite just for that tune.
Awesome
I may even say tears

February 13, 2010 at 3:49 am
(6) Crystal says:

My interpretation is that Langs’ interpretation was both unimaginative and disrespectful. Anyone who has ever actually listened to (not just heard) the original Cohen masterpiece will agree her performance was in great contrast to the obvious lyrical lows and surrender within the writing. The song isn’t exactly meant to be used in this overly optimistic evangelical format.

At the Olympics, droves of world-class athletes faithfully sang along to the holy ghost and two distanced lovers getting it on, a song from his 1984 album Various Positions.

February 13, 2010 at 4:09 am
(7) FROSTY427 says:

Crystal,
Keep Your Nose in your ….WHATEVER
beautiful tune sung as it should be.
I’ve met Leonard Cohen here in Montreal…have you???

February 13, 2010 at 4:33 am
(8) Soleil says:

K.D. Lang was breathtaking and her “Hallelujah”was seamless! I bet Leonard Cohen smiled! I agree with you Frosty, “Awesome!” and yes, the whales were the other most beautiful surprise.

February 13, 2010 at 5:18 am
(9) Rob says:

That’s funny….Cohen himself said a few years ago that that her version was perfect, and that the song “could be laid to rest now”.

I guess that makes YOU the unimaginative one with the faulty interpretation.

February 13, 2010 at 5:46 am
(10) Sierra Dolly says:

In the United States, k.d. lang’s performance was censored by NBC in a manner that kept her away, as much as possible, from the eyes of American viewers. Compared to how NBC’s camera frequently returned for up close and lingering shots of Sarah McLachlan during her performance, the fact that lang was relegated to predominantly distant shots suggests that homophobia was behind the camera. k.d. lang is not only a gifted and popular singer, but also an out “butch” lesbian who wears ‘manish’ fashions. What she is and how she presents herself in public did not deter the producers and organizers of the opening ceremony from giving her a prominent role. Yet it was obvious from what Americans got on their television screens that NBC producers did not like what they saw and decided to conceal her homosexual identity as much as possible.

February 13, 2010 at 6:36 am
(11) Michael R. says:

Did you notice that the Ontario and Great Lakes portion of the show was completely skipped as was the scheduled performance of the Canadian super rock star band RUSH.

February 13, 2010 at 7:12 am
(12) tree says:

KD Lang WOW – THIS is the theme song of the 2010 Olympics.

Cohen’s lyrics elude to a mystical infusion of wisdom and strength gained by suffering a defeat. Stunning performance by KD. Brilliant choice and timing by the producers.

Yes NBC’s version was quite different. Lame interview with the Bidens. Continual cuts to their heavily endorsed red headed poster boy Shaun White. Not his fault really – talented border. I guess NBC needs money and its in their interest to popularize him.

Bryan Adams song was predictably lousy. Furtardo’s performance suffered due to her choice of footwear.

February 13, 2010 at 10:31 am
(13) Debi says:

I was also disgusted by NBC’s “long view” shots of KD, obviously homophobia to not give the viewers close-ups of her. This should be big news – and should make it clear to Americans that the media is not unbiased.

February 13, 2010 at 11:00 am
(14) PJ says:

K.D. Lang, great job! Sarah McLaughlin great job! Nelly Furtado & Bryan Adams should have stayed home. Nikki Yanofsky, sweet kid but when do we get to hear the National Anthem?

February 13, 2010 at 11:58 am
(15) Rosemary says:

Hey Crystal
Maybe you should turn up your hearing aid. The reason, whether many realize it or not, that so many were brought to tears and blown away by KD Lang’s interpretation is because of her subtle lows transitioning flawlessly to gut wrenching blow-outs of emotional devastation. I felt every word of that song as I am sure Cohen meant for it to be felt. The Olympics may appear on the top as an “overly optimistic evangelical format” in which this song is not appropriate according to you. But I have been watching the Olympics for 51 years and KD Langs rendition of Cohen’s masterpiece WAS a MASTERPIECE of expression for all those who have, over the past 100+ years, suffered and even died for the dream that is the Olympic Spirit.

February 13, 2010 at 12:04 pm
(16) Marcia says:

k.d’s performance was the hilight for me. The woman has amazing vocal control and the ability to sing with emotion, which draws people into her performance. I had goosebumps.

February 13, 2010 at 12:12 pm
(17) Paul says:

Rosemary, no one could articulate this better than you have just done.

February 13, 2010 at 12:16 pm
(18) barbara barnhart says:

I am 73 years young and I thought K.D.Lang’s version of Hallelujah was outstanding I loved it I would have loved for the camera’s to give us just one close up but never the less absolutely the high light of the ceremonies I am so glad and blessed that I stayed up to hear her. And Crystal you have problems .Would you rather have been watching some of these singers grabbing themselves in front of God and everyone like they do? Wake up Girl!!!

February 13, 2010 at 12:25 pm
(19) Rosemary says:

Hi Sierra Dolly
Good Catch!
It did not dawn on me until you brought it up. This is the 21st Century and people need to get over this moronic homophobic nonsense. My husband and I were, fortunately, raised by parents that taught us to see people as beings with souls, personalities, and character. NBC and all other media needs to get over themselves and stop treating US citizens like idiots. Grrrr! Ya got me good and mad now Sierra and I thank you for the eye opener.
Rosemary

February 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm
(20) Eric says:

I don’t know if I have ever been a more proud Canadian then I was last night… then k.d. lang started singing, if calling her performance “singing” does enough justice to how she moved the world with that rendition of “Hallelujah”.
The fact that Canadian television coverage went from long shots to close shots to go with the movement of the song and k.d.’s ups and downs was beautiful… and the fact that as Canadians we are mostly beyond sexuality as what defines a person also makes me proud to have been born and live above the 49th.

February 13, 2010 at 2:18 pm
(21) Scott says:

What a spectacular opening ceremony and K.D. Lang outdid herself with her Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah. My wife was to tired to stay up so we went to watch it on YouTube, but it was taken off by the IOC. It was also taken off of the NBC website as has any video of the opening ceremony. Who’s paying to put on the Olympic games anyhow?

Does anyone know where I can locate the video to watch online as I have exhausted my searching?

Thanks in advance.

Scott

February 13, 2010 at 2:36 pm
(22) sheri says:

For me the highlight of the opening ceremonies was definitely k.d. lang singing Hallelujah. It was magnificent, but I was so upset that they never showed an up close shot of her – shame on NBC! I’ve been a fan of k.d. for years and think she has been underexposed and under appreciated in the U.S. She’s an incredible talent and person and I can’t wait to hear her sing again.

February 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm
(23) KellyK says:

Jeff Buckley’s version is the definitive version. I find Lang’s to be whiny with a touch of annoying scoop. If you haven’t heard the late Jeff Buckley’s version, then you really haven’t heard “Hallelujah.”

February 13, 2010 at 3:58 pm
(24) KeKeRica says:

NBC’s refusal to let us see KD Lang was so obvious and could only be homophobia. We need to let the station know how wrong that is!

February 13, 2010 at 4:42 pm
(25) mfrost says:

flawless. – all the hype about no close ups….she would want the music to stand for itself. I believe…it was exactly the way kd lang wanted it. Bravo!

February 13, 2010 at 5:24 pm
(26) Sierra Dolly says:

“…she would want the music to stand for itself. I believe…it was exactly the way kd lang wanted it.”

Since no one (except lang) knew what k.d. lang may or not have wanted, it’s unwise to make such presumptions. However, this much is true: when singers take to a stage they do so to be SEEN as much as heard. The producers of the ceremony selected k.d. lang to perform the most poignant song of the evening before a VISUAL medium. Because of NBC’s fear of backlash from right-wing extremists, television viewers in the United States were denied the opportunity to also SEE the emotions that k.d. lang poured into her performance.

February 13, 2010 at 6:24 pm
(27) vancouver 12 says:

Is Vancouver preaching Christianity to the world now?
Religion has no place in Olympic! i thought the performance disrespectful to non christian nations participating in the games.
was there any better reason why Hallelujah was performed besides the fact that it was written by a canadian?

February 13, 2010 at 7:07 pm
(28) Joy says:

WOW! kd lang’s rendition of Hallelujah for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics was outstanding!

February 13, 2010 at 7:23 pm
(29) southofVancouver says:

Leonard Cohen, who wrote the song, is Jewish, not Christian, with bits of Buddhism thrown in. He spent 5 years studying in a Zen Monastery. His theme in this song, as in many of his others, is about finding a way to embrace joy in the midst of sorrow and loss. Another verse to the song ends: “And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the lord of song, with nothing on my lips but Hallelujah.” This song voices a universal theme and was particularly appropriate after the heartbreak early in the day.

February 13, 2010 at 7:50 pm
(30) david says:

Good ole Cyrstal, always there is a sad sack party pooper , if Cohen says KD does a great job interpreting his song thats good enough for me, I loved it.

February 13, 2010 at 8:09 pm
(31) Linda says:

I have followed k.d. lang’s work for well over 15 years, and agree with all of you regarding her nearly beyond-words talent and ability to move one to tears. i join you in protesting nbc’s sexist camera-work, as well as withholding footage from further public viewing. who, INDEED, is footing the bill? on a positive note, canada, you have reason to be proud!

February 13, 2010 at 9:21 pm
(32) annke says:

Regarding post (6) Crystal
Mr. Cohen himself has said nobody does his song better than k.d. lang. Just because you did not enjoy it Crystal, does not mean you can speak for Leonard Cohen.
Fact is, it is a great song and done well by Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright, as well as many others.
k.d. lang ‘s is my favorite.

February 13, 2010 at 9:35 pm
(33) Amazed says:

I also was ready to change the channel when KD Lang came on to sing because I had never heard her before. I was blown away…no other way to put it. I recorded her performance on my DVR and I’ve probably played it 25-30 times since last night. What an absolutely amazing voice and what an amazing song. I have never heard it before and I don’t think anyone could ever sing it as beautifully as KD. I am so moved by the way she gives her all to sing it. I’m listening to it right now as I write this…I will love this song with her singing it forever!!!!!

February 13, 2010 at 11:03 pm
(34) Zoran says:

Amazed can you please please please email me a copy? zap@suisse.at

February 13, 2010 at 11:05 pm
(35) Zoran says:

Can you please pass me a copy of your DVD, I’ll pay all your costs 661 458 2569

February 14, 2010 at 3:12 am
(36) The Widowmaker says:

K.D. Langs cover of Hallelujah was simply amazing. I’ve never heard this song sung so beautifully. This coming from a guy who’s not a believer. It even brought a tear to my eye. It’s also the first mp3 i’ve ever bought from itunes. My name is Shawn and I am Canadian.

February 14, 2010 at 3:27 am
(37) wendy says:

i thought the highlight was kd lang..great job, everyone i talked to said you are the best..im mad that they took it off the computer..same on you nbc. people need to see what a great person she is and the best ive ever heard anyone sing this song.i wish we could buy the single…

February 14, 2010 at 5:21 am
(38) Pablo says:

Hallelujah can be great and moving and yes I’ve heard it sung well in the past but KD Lang took it to another level and absolutely nailed every note and emotion in a truly stunning performance. Many performances during the opening were good but this is the only one that will remain memorable for years to come. Congratulations K.D. you brought such honour upon yourself and your fellow Canadians.

February 14, 2010 at 6:35 am
(39) Jan says:

Kd simply blew me away last night! What a voice and what a woman! I will forever remember her sublime rendition of Hallelujah. In Australia here she has many fans and admirers, but after this she will have many more.
‘Amazed’, could you also send me a copy of your recording? I too will pay all costs involved.
janangus@optusnet.com.au

February 14, 2010 at 8:14 am
(40) sleepyhead says:

I loved her performance so much. What an amazing voice this woman has. I can only imagine what it was like to be there hearing that live with the positive energy of all of those other people around you. For those of you wanting to watch it again but are having trouble finding a video, if you go here:

http://channelnine.ninemsn.com.au/vancouvercatchup/

and just type in “Lang” in the search, a video of the performance is still online.

February 14, 2010 at 9:14 am
(41) maritime girl says:

I’ve heard other renditions of this hymn, including Jeff Buckley’s, and have never had it move me as did KD Lang’s version showing such strength and emotion. As I sat in my living room listening to her, I felt greatness coming from the pain of loss and abandonment. As the athletes will feel the pain of years working for this moment to attain such victory, just as they feel the great loss of their comrad who has paid such a price. How more fitting for the olympics? After all, isn’t this event the culmination of years of work and determination looking toward this one moment to shatter the past for that ultimate great payoff? Dramatic you say? I am not an athlete, however I cannot imagine how utterly amazing it must be for those who have this chance to be competing at this great affair. I would love to have been there to see it all take place in person and especially Ms Lang’s stunning performance. And, yes, we all need a higher deity to pray to, otherwise we fool ourselves into thinking we have the absolute power. that would make you better than me, and that just isn’t so…..

February 14, 2010 at 3:09 pm
(42) ZOran says:

The IOC took down the video!! Who the hell do they think they are??? The athletes work and sweat it out for years and years so that they can compete against their fellow man in front of their fellow men and along comes a group of has-beens and no-bodies who dictate who can and who cannot enjoy the fruits of their labor, including the opening ceremony highlights. This is outrageous!! k.d. lang should also be outraged, she didn’t perform this with the aim of locing it away for millions upon millions not to enjoy it. Again, outrageous!!!

February 14, 2010 at 11:34 pm
(43) peter says:

k.d. put in a superb performance that was felt the world over. Thank you k.d. for your instrument. I will never forget the moment you touched the worlds’ soul.
thank you again.

February 15, 2010 at 3:52 am
(44) John says:

MAGNIFICENT! K.D. Lang is Best female performer for this new world 2010 Olympics SUPER HIT !!

Best male performance is Nick Schilder world star
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UszFFzCE7TY&feature=related

February 15, 2010 at 6:15 am
(45) Glassvegas says:

The fact that all musical performers, including kd lang, were lip synching during the Olympics opening gala is something that limits the cultural worth and potential of the event. Yes a great recorded performance still sounds beautiful, but, whatever happened to real “live” music!?

February 15, 2010 at 11:20 am
(46) jerry says:

she changed the end of the song from original version.

February 15, 2010 at 1:31 pm
(47) Torinate says:

Wow!
I’m not a kd lang fan – I am now! Simply amazing; moving…

Nellie Furtado and Bryan Adams should have hired kd to perform their song…

All in all, an amazing opening ceremony. But, no mention of Ontario / great lakes…??

February 15, 2010 at 3:25 pm
(48) Podifer says:

I’ve just watched KD Lang’s wonderful performance all over again on the BBC iPlayer plenty of close-ups etc., All those of you who want to relive it should do the same – its brilliant.

February 18, 2010 at 5:33 pm
(49) jlb says:

Apparently Cohen himself deferred to k.d. lang to sing it http://www.metronews.ca/vancouver/sports/article/454739–leonard-cohen-s-son-says-his-dad-deferred-to-k-d-lang-at-olympics

Here two-thirds of the way into the video she talks about the fact that she insisted on singing and did sing live at the Olympics
http://www.today.ninemsn.com.au/?videoid=a5967766-8be8-4e6e-a428-fcb19d0ee8e1

February 18, 2010 at 7:36 pm
(50) Frank says:
February 18, 2010 at 11:31 pm
(51) Joyce Dutrisac says:

Spine-tingling sensational performance. Canada should be proud of KD Lang. She stole the show with her heart-wrenching performance of Hallelujah!
Best version I ever heard hands down!!!!

February 19, 2010 at 1:25 pm
(52) Wendy says:

Glassvegas – kd did not lip sync. In fact she only agreed to take part if she could sing it live.

February 19, 2010 at 1:29 pm
(53) Marg says:

K.D. Lang is fantastic. You can find the song on her cd hymns from the 49th parallel. All the songs are written by Canadians.

February 19, 2010 at 9:39 pm
(54) Tony says:

K.D was amazing .
I am a proud Canadian living in the beautiful city of Montreal ,
when she sang the song in the opening ceremonies , she brought chills to my skin and tears to my eyes .
The passion and feeling she showed in perfoming the song was incredibule .
I , as many other Canadians are so proud of you .
And I thank you from my heart .

Tony

February 19, 2010 at 10:49 pm
(55) Carol says:

Glassvegas – Any vocalist could tell you that this version could not possibly have been lip synced. it’s completely different than her previous recordings of this song. No one (not even kd lang herself) could memorize phrasing like this performance. Every phrase has different timing from the last and no two phrases were sung the same way. This is the real thing.

February 20, 2010 at 4:17 pm
(56) dbailey62 says:

Carol is totally correct. kdlang was not lip-synced, something that was blatantly obvious.

It’s unfortunate that we dont’ seem to be able to see the video of Hallelujah from the opening ceremonies but the next best thing is her performance of the song from the 2005 Juno Awards in Winnipeg.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_NpxTWbovE

February 25, 2010 at 4:27 am
(57) Calgary88 says:

Once again KD has shown her true Canadian pride in demonstrating her musical talents dearest to her heart. Many have forgotten her astounding performance in the opening ceremonies of the 88 Winter Olympics in Calgary (no lip synching there), I remember it well, I was there and she had an entire stadium of 50,000 people doing the 2-step within a 1×1 foot space.

Anybody who could ever doubt her passion for her western heritage, her country and more recently her passion for expressing, singing and performing a song that would leave an entire nation and worldwide viewing audience with a feeling of spine tingling, heart felt emotion in celebrating the true meaning behind the olympics, a celebration of nations gathering in peace and celebrating unity within.

To those who can only seek fault, open your mind to what all those involved have dedicated to their countries, a sense of pride, a sense of accomplishment and a sense of love of the country and the people who they represent. It does not matter whether you are a singer, athlete, volunteer or spectator, its the passion and belief within that propelled everyone in that stadium to cheer loud and proud and open their hearts to feelings with the words, Hallelujah.

February 28, 2010 at 10:51 pm
(58) D says:

Cohen himself admitted that her version is the song’s “ultimate blissful state of perfection”

March 14, 2010 at 4:57 am
(59) Brandie says:

First of all, I have never sacrificed the way I have felt about this extraordinary gal…even since I was a little kid! I have loved her voice since I was even a wee little one and I wil not confuse this today!!! Loved, Loved, Loved it!! Call me if you need buy in!!!!B- how do I unofficially send you a way to contact me?

March 24, 2010 at 9:54 am
(60) Roger says:

It’s been over two months since I’ve watched the opening ceremonies. To me, this song is still the highlight of the evening and is among the most memberable of olympic opening moments I have seen. Among other such as Ali fighting to hold the torch aloft, still strong in precense and power though his body failed him. The flaming arrow shot from the ground to the torch lofted above. Most recently the spectre of so many people in China. And now KD Lang’s performance of a truly beautiful and powerful song.

When I first saw the performance I didn’t know who it was. I was amazed at the clarity of the singers voice. I didn’t expect the voice I heard, but it was amazing and clear and beautiful. I had heard it discussed before that Bocelli was the voice of God, but I have never agreed. For me this rendition from Ms. Lang has become the voice of God speaking about pain, struggle, victory, defeat, and the ever present will to overcome, compete, and survive. Her performance, and the power of it, will stay with me for the rest of my life.

April 4, 2010 at 7:52 pm
(61) Hoopy says:

The one thing that gets me is that so many performers leave out a critical verse – the verse which most clearly illuminates what Cohen means when he writes about “the holy, or the broken, hallelujah”. Anybody who knows Cohen well knows this dichotomy which permeates his body of work (listen to “Half a Perfect World” for another clear expression of this theme). So this is a wonderful, beautiful, incredible performance, but it is lessened so much by the exclusion of that key verse.

June 18, 2010 at 4:54 pm
(62) ruth says:

no matter how often i listen to this k.d just rips my guts out with it. i can think of no other song that can wrench the sobs out of me any more than this. i’m rather ashamed that i cannot find the words to describe her beauty and talent.

March 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm
(63) Wang says:

Yeah Crystal, shut up. Leonard Cohen heard KD Lang sing this at the Junos in 2005 and loved it, so stop acting like you are in first year university music and you now understand everything about every piece of music. No one cares about your slapdash opinions. Put your hand down in class and shut up.

November 21, 2013 at 11:04 pm
(64) MyVyoo says:

Three years later this is still the best cover of Halleluja I’ve ever heard.

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