I am an active member of the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC), which offers various workshop opportunities and resources for songwriters.  I meet regularly with a group to showcase works in progress and sometimes collaborate and exercise skills. One SAC exercise was to take a song that we love and play with the lyrics and/or musical components.  Playing with music and emulating others is a helpful exercise in developing our own talents.  As children, we learn task, behaviour and language by imitating those around us.  It’s important for artists to find their own voice, but I believe experimentation with something that inspires us is a great playground and springboard to our own possibilities.

I chose Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujahkd lang’s rendition changed my relationship with music.  I had the opportunity of soaking in an intimate performance of hers.  I sat 5 feet from her on the same floor.  From the moment she inhaled her first singing breath, I knew I was forever changed.  Watching her use her phenomenal instrument to allow the release of such a beautiful and powerful spirit, to feel it move about the room, that spirit souring on a wave of soul that carried me to another dimension was… (sigh) enigmatically indescribable.  But I blissfully digress.  I love the work of Leonard Cohen.  He’s a true music-smith and storyteller.  I also love that his first name is my last.

The lyrics I wrote for the SAC exercise are Fuck Cancer, but I have since gotten more mileage out of Cohen’s incredible Hallelujah sound bed.  I was asked to sing Hallelujah at both a wedding and a funeral this summer, so I changed the lyrics again and again to suit each of these events.

Excuse disclosure: This was an exercise in writing, not singing, so these aren’t slick recordings of the songs.  But if I wait until they’re made spiffy, I may not ever get to it.  My to-do list is way longer than the lineup for an iPhone 5!

Here are my three adaptations– with lyrics and link to sound in case you’d like to sing along!


The lyrics “Fuck Cancer” are pretty severe.  The words “Fuck” and “Cancer” individually have pretty stirring effects on the ear and heart (also that other “C” word, but I’ve not made a lyric of it.)  So when Fuck and Cancer are put alongside each other, juxtaposed with the haunting splendor of Hallelujah’s sound bed, there’s a palpable reaction from the crowd I sing it to.   Some people read the lyrics before hearing the song and immediately thought, “No, don’t do this,” until they heard it sung and changed their tune to, “Oh, yes, do this.  Don’t even come up with an original song bed and melody to this.  It’s gotta be wedded to the sound of Hallelujah.”  Others suggested maybe toning down the “fuck” to “damn” or even “darn” or “screw”.  I wrestled a bit with the concern of harshness, because I don’t strive to offend.  However, I do strive to affect.   Yeah, Fuck is harsh.  So is Cancer.  So when Cancer’s less harsh, I’ll agree to soften the lyrics.  Until then, Fuck Cancer!!!

Hallelujah FUCK CANCER
(Leonard C. adapted by K. Leonard)

I had an aunt with guts of gold
A hefty laugh and warm hand to hold
You’d fall in love before you knew it
Her smile was bright, her humour sharp
Her encouraging words could dispel the dark
With cruel notice, she was gone before we knew it
Fuck cancer, Fuck cancer,  Fuck cancer,  Fuck cancer

Grampie fought the great evil abroad
He’s the old kind of brave we’ll forever applaud
He fought for freedom from might
Taught me I was never alone
Gave a lonely young girl a place to belong
And in the end he surrendered to only one enemy
Fuck cancer, Fuck cancer, Fuck cancer, Fuck cancer

I have a friend who’s been fucked before
She’s battled the devil who comes back for more
She struggles inside but she doesn’t show it
She’s a buoyant wave on a frantic sea
And the kind of friend I strive to be
If she’s gone too soon, the world becomes less worthy
Fuck cancer, Fuck cancer, Fuck cancer, Fuck cancer

We all know that your end will come
And though the path be snarled and long
We’ll find our way and fight you strong
Sing a battle cry with all our might
Stun the dark to succumb to light
Sing with perpetual echo: Fuck you, cancer
Fuck you cancer, Fuck you cancer, Fuck you cancer, Fuck you
Fuck you cancer, Fuck you-ou-ou… Fuck you cancer
Fuck you…. Fuck cancer


I sang this in Germany to a German congregation in an itty bitty delight of a village.  There were less than 10 people who understood the meaning of the lyrics I was singing, but there were many a tear streaming down from the effect of the melody and soul of the song.  The wedding and funeral versions of Hallelujah both begin with Cohen’s original lyrics and deviate from them.

HALLELUJAH For a Wedding
(Leonard C. adapted by K. Leonard)

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
It’s amazing how music goes through ya
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your love is strong and you live the proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She took your hand and won your heart
Gave your life a brand new start
And from your lips she drew Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I’ll do my best and love you much
With all I feel I need your touch
It’s truest of truth, I wouldn’t fool ya
I’ll stand by you through right and wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
And raise my voice in hallowed Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah


I also added a splash of Charlie Pride’s Crystal Chandeliers because it was my aunt’s favourite song to dance to.  Singing it a cappella in the church, it was easy to break into Crystal Chandeliers.  But I am really pleased with the result of breaking into the different song whilst remaining in the sound bed of Hallelujah.  I was even able to retain the original melody of Crystal Chandeliers and then meld back into the melody of Hallelujah.  Isn’t music amazing?!

Hallelujah For a Funeral
(by Leonard C. adapted with love
and a splash of Charlie Pride by K. Leonard)

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
David played and it pleased the Lord
It’s amazing how music gets to ya
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
It baffled the king composing Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Listen, I’ve been here before
I know this room and I’ve walked this floor
But all that was familiar is new
The legacy you’ve built is strong
I stand before the Lord of Song
And raise my voice in hallowed Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your love is true and your friendship such
You can mend a heart with a simple touch
The power of the spirit runs through ya
And even though you can’t stay long
Your love and light to us belong
It echoes in every heartfelt Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

The crystal chandeliers light up your paintings on the wall
The marble statuettes are standing stately in the hall
But will the timely crowd that has you laughing loud
help you dry your tears
when the new wears off your crystal chandeliers

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

So that’s an example of a SAC music exercise that resulted in much play and education for me!   What are your thoughts on playing with music in this way?  What are your thoughts on the harsh lyrics of Fuck Cancer?  Do you think I should play with creating original music to go along with the lyrics, perhaps even just for the exercise of it?  Or do you prefer it this way?  (This is an academic question, of course, because it’s not my music bed to use beyond an exercise. ;p)  I think I’d really learn from your opinions!

As always, wishing you much music and play!


4 responses

  1. You are my hero! xxoxoxoox

  2. Wow – amazing effort! Love, love, love this post…

  3. […] pleasure, please enjoy two of the Winds’ cancer-inspired tunes:How Long by Heather Hill and Fuck Cancer by Kat […]

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