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36 years after its release, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ finally debuts on Billboard 100

🕐 2 min read

“Hallelujah” was arguably Leonard Cohen’s most famous song, the musical legend’s most lasting legacy.

It may be rock’s most famous song, too, having been covered by more than 300 musicians, from Neil Diamond to Justin Timberlake, with Bono, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and K.D. Lang in between.

Cohen worked on it for years, writing more than 80 verses before trimming it down to the five that appeared on the record.

But when he finally brought “Various Positions,” his 1984, nine-song record that included “Hallelujah,” to his label, Columbia Records, they decided not to release it in the United States.

“Leonard, we know you’re great. We just don’t know if you’re any good,” the head of the music division at Columbia Records, Walter Yetnikoff, said, according to Cohen.

Although it was released domestically by a minor label called Passport in 1985, that was enough to ensure the album never charted. Furthermore, “Hallelujah” wasn’t released as a single after the album’s first, “Dance Me to the End of Love,” bombed.

The song didn’t chart in Britain, either, until 2008 – after an amateur singer named Alexandra Burke sang a version of it on “The X Factor.”

It still hadn’t charted in the United States, until now.

Cohen died Nov. 7, after a fall, and his death was made public Nov. 10.

Thirty-six years after being released, “Hallelujah” has finally made its debut on the Billboard Top 100 – which charts the country’s top singles – at 59 for the week of Nov. 11 to Nov. 17.

It also entered the Digital Song Sales chart at number 12, having been downloaded 33,000 times that week, according to Billboard. During the same week, it was streamed in the United States 3.8 million times.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise – album sales tend to spike after an artist’s death.

Following David Bowie’s death, for example, his album sales increased by 5,000 percent for a week.

And after Prince died earlier this year, his record sales soared by 40,000 percent.

As The Post reported: At a 70,000 percent rise in sales, hits compilation “The Very Best of Prince” experienced the largest jump. A quarter million copies were sold. “Purple Rain,” arguably Prince’s most well-known record, sold 133,000 copies. During the weekend, 2.3 million of his tracks were sold as singles, a 33,500 percent increase. Naturally, sales of “Purple Rain” were highest: 287,000 copies.

Additionally, during the first three weeks following Michael Jackson’s death, more than 9 million copies of his albums were sold.

Finally, The Post reported, “In the four days after Amy Winehouse died in 2011, her record sales experienced a 37-fold increase. Less than a month after Whitney Houston was found dead in a hotel bathtub in 2012, she became the first woman with three albums in the top 10 of Billboard 200’s chart.”


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