Arts & Culture

How Adam Sandler Rescued ‘Hallelujah’ From Song Cover Hell

It’s not Hanukkah without an Adam Sandler parody, and not even Leonard Cohen is off limits Read More

By / December 13, 2012

Last night, Adam Sandler stole the show at the star-studded Hurricane Sandy benefit concert at Madison Square Garden with his earnest yet hilarious take on Leonard Cohen’s legendary song, “Hallelujah.”

Accompanied by Paul Shaffer, Sandler’s parody included references to bed bugs, Anthony Weiner, and Bloomberg’s soda ban, while staying remarkably truthful to the song’s structure: “The puke on your stoops every Sunday morn, Times Square losing all its porn, Original Ray’s Pizza closing to ya. But Hallelujah, Sandy screw ya, we’ll get through ya.”

Liel Leibovitz, who spent the last two years writing a book about Leonard Cohen, argues in The Scroll that Sandler’s version—raunchy and humorous as it may have been—actually restored a sense of soulfulness and authenticity to Cohen’s masterpiece that had been lost in the countless, mindless covers we’ve been subjected to over the years. Leibovitz writes:

To most Cohen aficionados, Sandler’s performance was, at best, an act of mindless vulgarity, or, if you wanted to take a less charitable view, sacrilege. I understand why the critics, including many of my dearest friends, feel that way. To hear Cohen’s elevated words about the yearnings of the spirit and the flesh reduced to jokes about Mark Sanchez fumbling into someone’s butt is enough to send even the kindest soul into paroxysms of rage. But the condemners, I believe, are missing the point: Sandler wasn’t covering Cohen’s song as much as he was covering the cascade of covers of “Hallelujah,” virtually all of which had robbed the song of its might in much more vulgar ways.

So does this mean we won’t have to hear Sandler’s “The Hanukkah Song” at every Hanukkah party we go to anymore?

In Defense of Sandler’s “Hallelujah” [The Scroll]