Hallelujah is not only one of Leonard Cohen's best-loved songs but is one of the best-loved songs of all time. It's been covered by numerous artists and is now one of the most reinterpreted songs of all time - but, remarkably it was almost never released.

The song, which took the late master five years to complete, was originally composed by Cohen to feature on his 1984 album Various Positions. However his record company hated the record, describing it as a "disaster".

According to Alan Light's book about the song, The Holy or the Broken, when Walter Yetnikoff. the boss of the Canadian Broadcasting Service, heard the album he was deeply unimpressed.

"What is this?" he is quoted as saying. "This isn't pop music. We're not releasing it. This is a disaster."

Things didn't get much better. The record was eventually released on an indie label but Hallelujah was not released as a single and Rolling Stone magazine's review of the album didn't even mention the song.

It wasn't until John Cale recorded his version in 1991 - the cover which inspired Jeff Buckley's take a few years later - that the legend of Hallelujah truly began.

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Buckley, who died in 1997, once said of the song's meaning: "Whoever listens carefully to Hallelujah will discover that it is a song about sex, about love, about life on earth.

"The 'hallelujah' is not a homage to a worshipped person, idol or god, but the 'hallelujah' of the orgasm. It's an ode to life and love."

Listen online to the RTÉ Radio Docuemntary Sin é: Jeff Buckley's Irish Odyssey here

However Hallelujah really soared in popularity after Rufus Wainwright's version appeared on the Shrek soundtrack (of all things) in 2001.

It's ubiquity was finally secured through numerous performances on American Idol and on this side of the Atlantic, it received the Simon Cowell seal of approval when X Factor winner Alexandra Burke recorded it in 2008. 

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It was a number one in Ireland and became the first song in 51 years to take the first and second spots on the UK Singles Chart, after Jeff Buckely's classic version was re-released at the same time.

There are now said to be around 300 covers of Hallelujah, including versions by Susan Boyle, Justin Timberlake, Bon Jovi, Norah Jones and Willie Nelson. Bono, who also sang a version, has dubbed it "the most perfect song in the world".

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Asked about the song's success in 2009, Cohen told the Canadian Broadcasting Service he had "a mild sense of revenge in my heart".

"The record that it came from ... was called Various Positions - a record the label wouldn't put out. They didn't think it was good enough," he said.

"It had songs like Dance Me To The End Of Love, Hallelujah, If It Be Your Will. So, there was a mild sense of revenge in my heart."

As for the song's enduring success since? He simply had this to say:

I think it's a good song, but too many people sing it."

Sin-é: Jeff Buckley’s Irish Odyssey will be broadcast on RTÉ Radio One on Saturday, November 12th at 2pm and again at 7pm on Sunday, November 13th.