HOME (to the lyrics)
From "Diamonds In The Lines" - thanks to Marc Gaffie!
This is the main part of a collection which Marc Gaffie had published on his former site "Diamonds in the lines". Some of them I have fortunately stored before this site has shut down. Some of them (green) were additionally restored by Avi using Google cache.
Marc had mentioned different stanzas for several songs, you can find them at the bottom of the original lyrics.
Hier finden Sie den größeren Teil von Marc Gaffies Onlinesammlung "Diamonds in the lines" mit Cohens Kommentaren zu seinen Songs, die ich teilweise speicherte, bevor die Website gelöscht wurde. Mit roter Überschrift sind es jene Originalzitate der Übersetzungen, die unterhalb der Songs stehen. Nach Abschluss der Übersetzung, im November 2009, erreichten mich von Avi aus den USA weitere Texte derselben, ehemaligen Site von Marc Gaffie, die ich nicht mehr übersetzen möchte, sondern hier nur im Original einfüge. Sie sind zur Unterscheidung in grüner Schrift gehalten.
NACHTRAG (Febr. 2012): Die Zitatsammlung "Diamonds in the lines" von Marc Gaffie ist wieder online!!
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A Thousand Kisses Deep (Ten New Songs)
"We don't write the play, we don't produce it, we don't direct it and we're not even actors in it... Everybody eventually comes to the conclusion that things are not unfolding exactly the way they wanted, and that the whole enterprise has a basis that you can't penetrate. Nevertheless, you live your life as if it's real. But with the understanding: It's only a thousand kisses deep, that is, with that deep intuitive understanding that this is unfolding according to a pattern that you simply cannot discern."
Toronto Globe and Mail, September 1, 2001
Aint No Cure For Love (I'm Your Man)
It seems to me that when the Prince of Peace was hanging from the cross he looked toward the heaven and he cried out those immortal words "My Lord, my Lord, why hast thou forsaken me ?" And then he looked around him from horizon to horizon and He understood that a cosmic lever had been thrown in the Universe and nothing would be the same as it was before. And he said "consummatum est - it is finished." And he looked beneath him, at the Romans and the Jews and all the mankind looking up at him with the various positions of indifference, guilt, remorse, ecstasy, indifference. And he understood then, finally, what it was to be a human. He understood there ain't no cure for love...
It doesn't matter wether we found ourselves in the loneliness of separation or the vertigo of union, everyone finally learns there ain't no cure for love...
Always (The Future)
The song by Irving Berlin was originally in ? time, and I turned it into a 4/4 song, and I always loved it. It's very beautifully constructed as a song, and I think the lyric is very touching. So, I went in there with Steve Lindsey, a producer, and some really excellent musicians, and we prepared a drink that I had invented called the "Red Needle". It's basically, Tequila, Cranberry juice, and lime, and some other elements. And after I had distributed this drink, and people had sampled it, we produced this track.
Interview 1997 ( "Morning Becomes Eclectic", KCRW Radio)
Anthem (The Future)
"'Ring the bells that still can ring'. They are few and far between... Forget your perfect offering. That is the hang-up. That you're going to work this thing out... [W]e've forgotten the central myth of our culture which is the expulsion from the Gar-den of Eden. This situation does not admit of solution, of perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither your marriage nor your work nor anything, nor your love of God nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect, and, worse -- There is a crack in everything that you can put together -- physical objects, mental objects, construc-tions of any kind. But, that's where the light gets in; and, that's where the resurrection is;... that's where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation with the brokenness of the thing."
Interviews Unlimited for Sony Music, 1992
It's hard to do a comentary in special for this particular song because it took ten years to write.There's not a line in it that I couldn't defend. There's not a line in the album that I can't defend, but this song especially. I delayed its birth for so long because it wasn't right or appropriate or true or it was too easy or the ideas were too fast or too fuss, but the way it is now it deserves to be born. I've been playing this song for many years and I knew that I was on the track of a really good song. I knew it stood for something clear and strong in my own heart.
Interview 1992 ("The Future Press Kit")
Ballad Of The Absent Mare (Recent Songs)
"I get up at 4:30. My alarm is set for 4:30. Sometimes I sleep through it. But when I'm being good to myself, I get up at 4:30, get dressed, go down to a zendo not far from here. And while the others, I suppose, are moving towards enlightenment, I'm working on a song while I'm sitting there. At a certain moment I can bring what I've learned at the zendo, the capacity to concentrate, I can bring it to bear on the lines that are eluding me."
(Interview mit Paul Zollo, erschienen in SongTalk 1993)
Bird On A Wire (Songs From A Room)
Interview 1993 (Magazine "Songtalk")
"It was begun in Greece because there were no wires on the island where I was living to a cer-tain moment. There were no telephone wires. There were no telephones. There was no electri-city. So at a certain point they put in these telephone poles, and you wouldn't notice them now, but when they first went up, it was about all I did -- stare out the window at these telephone wires and think how civilization had caught up with me and I wasn't going to be able to escape after all. I wasn't going to be able to live this 11th-century life that I thought I had found for myself. So that was the beginning. Then, of course, I noticed that birds came to the wires and that was how that song began. "Like a drunk in a midnight choir," that's also set on the island. Where drinkers, me included, would come up the stairs. There was great tolerance among the people for that because it could be in the middle of the night. You'd see three guys with their arms around each other, stumbling up the stairs and singing these impeccable thirds. So that image came from the island: 'Like a drunk in a midnight choir'."
Interview Magazine "Mojo", November 2001. About the verse "It is in love that we are made, in love we disappear".
"That's just a journalistic reportage of the process. We are made in love and in love we disappear. But that love is not the romantic love, it's the impersonal, benign activity that governs creation and destruction."
Interview Magazine "Mc Lean's", 2001
"There is an actual Boogie Street in the world. It's in Singapore. I don't know if it's still there. I was coming home from a tour of Australia many years ago and during the day Boogie Street is a scene of intense commercial activity. In fact, there's a lot of little stalls where bootleg records are sold. This was at a time when it was hard to find my records in the Western world. And they weren't displayed. But I asked the man if they had any Leonard Cohen, and he went into the tent where he kept his inventory, and he brought an entire box of all my cassettes for a dollar apiece. There was that kind of bazaar feeling. And at night, it was a scene of intense and alarming sexual exchange. Prostitution, and . . . everything seemed to be available. I don't even know if it was prostitution. It just seemed to be mutual availability.Boogie Street to me was that street of work and desire, the ordinary life and also the place we live in most of the time that is relieved by the embrace of your children, or the kiss of your beloved, or the peak experience in which you yourself are dissolved, and there is no one to experience it so you feel the refreshment when you come back from those moments. As my old teacher said: 'Paradise is a good place to visit, but you can't live there because there are no toilets or restaurants.' So we all hope for those heavenly moments, which we get in those embraces and those sudden perceptions of beauty and sensations of pleasure, but we're immediately returned to Boogie Street."
Interview Magazine "Chorus", 2002: "What is that 'Boogie Street' evocated in both 'A 1000 kisses deep' and 'Boogie Street'?"
"Its an image to evoke the deception, the lost illusions boulevard, an image of the everyday life, with its tentations, its disillusions. In fact there is actually a Boogie Street in Singapore. A very attractive street, where you can find illegal records. I remember having been there after a Tour in Australia. I was almost offended not to find my records. I asked the seller and he went back with a box containing the entire collection of my records - what you could never find anywhere else, furthermore at one dollar each record. By night, this same street becomes the hottest one of the area. Its a street of working ans sex, and of all the deceptions these activities can bring, deceptions more cruel as you get older, like I do."
Backstage Interview July 15th, 1993
"I think 'Closing Time' is just a sense that things as we know it are coming to an end, and that the flood is already here, the apocalypse has already occurred, like we don't need to wait for it. On the inner level, all the landmarks are down, and all the lights have been extinguished, and all the signs have been swept away. So we are in this period of closing time but all these songs, these sinister songs are married to, you know, hot little tracks
2001 Chat for the release of "Ten New Songs"
Answering a fan who asked "When exactly is "Closing Time"?
"It's that wild, or beautiful, or terrible time when things reach their maximum point of expansion, and then begin to contract. It's the time we're in."
Coming Back To You (Various Positions)
"This is a song in which i have achieved the ultimate confusion of God and women."
Dance Me To The End Of Love (Various Positions)
"I wanna go to that place where one is free from love, and one is free from God, and one is free from song, and one is free from politics. I'll try to get there in this song called "Dance me to the end of love
Dress Rehearsal Rag (Songs Of Love And Hate)
Well there are some songs which I never --- I never sing in public. I am not trying to be super-sensitive or coy about it, just that particular song I very rarely sing, to myself, to friends or any time. I wrote it, I taught it to Judy Collins and she recorded it and I have never, I never sung it in public and maybe I have sung it three or four times to myself in that last time. It comes out of... It is an authentic song I think. It comes out of my own experience but I am not interested in, I cant somehow that I, I havent been able to release that song from its private area. I recorded it, I was surprised, I surprised myself that I recorded it. I am not happy with the recording. I think it has a number of flaws in it as a recording but I certainly, I dont think I could ever do that under the spotlight.(...)
And that is a song about suicide and I certainly dont want to present myself as a potential suicide for any reason whatsoever. So it has dropped out of my singing landscape. I just dont think about a song like that.
Field Commander Cohen
(1979, reported by Harry Rasky in his book "The Song of Leonard Cohen - Portrait of a poet, a friendship and a film")
"I don't quite remember the genesis of that song, except that "Field Commander Cohen" is an ironic description, although I always loved the Army. And my father had intended to send me to the Kingston Military Academy actually. And if he'd have lived, I would probably have been in the Canadian Army. "Field Commander" in a sense, I think that grew from touring, in the sense that when you're on tour, it is that kind of leadership, rather than any executive leadership, because you are on the field, and it is moment to moment decisions. And you do have a group of men and women to keep together under sometimes strenuous circumstances."
Famous Blue Raincoat (Songs Of Love And Hate)
"The problem with that song is that I've forgotten the actual triangle. Whether it was my own - of course, I always felt that there was an invisible male seducing the woman I was with, now whether this one was incarnate or merely imaginary I don't remember, I've always had the sense that either I've been that figure in relation to another couple or there'd been a figure like that in relation to my marriage. I don't quite remember but I did have this feeling that there was always a third party, sometimes me, sometimes another man, sometimes another woman.It was a song I've never been satisfied with. It's not that I've resisted an impressionistic approach to songwriting, but I've never felt that this one, that I really nailed the lyric. I'm ready to concede something to the mystery, but secretly I've always felt that there was something about the song that was unclear. So I've been very happy with some of the imagery, but a lot of the imagery ... The tune I think is good, I remember my mother approving of it, I remember playing the tune for her, in her kitchen, and her perking up her ears while she was doing something else and saying 'that's a nice tune'.
First We Take Manhattan
Berlin April 9th, 1988
Berlin, at last, yes the final peace in my vast geopolitical jigsaw, Berlin at last, the worshippers of the bear, how happy I am to be among you.
Yeah, these are new songs, huh? Maybe lots of people think I didn't write anything after "Suzanne." But I wrote one or two songs after "Suzanne." Here's a song I wrote 20 years after "Suzanne." I had been driven over the edge and I had decided to take matters into my own hand. This is a geopolitical plan. People have asked me what it means. It means exactly what it says.
It's a curious song. I used to know what it means but I don't remember what it means anymore. And I think it was just a moment ago that I wrote it. I think I intended to take Manhattan and then Berlin.
Thank you so much, comrades. I do not concede the word "comrades" to the communists. I use it freely.Yes, why should they have special parts of the English language? And the extreme right too, why should they have blood and soil, honor, integrity, family? I like those words. I intend to use them freely. You're very kind and it's true, you are kind and very warm and it's not for me to stand up here and judge the people who come to see me. But I want to tell you that even though your hospitality is profound it will not detour me from my appointed task which is to take Manhattan, then Berlin and several other cities...
Toronto November 1988 Concert and backstage FM Interview
Oh comrades you're very kind and very warm but kind as you are and warm as you are, it will not deter me from my appointed task. Which is to take Manhattan and then Berlin and any other cities and do with them as I will.
Im not sure of what it means right now because I had this long voyage from Chicago. I think it means exactly what it says. It is a terrorist song. I think it's a response to terrorism. There's something about terrorism that I've always admired. The fact that there are no alibis or no compromises. That position is always very attractive. I don't like it when it's manifested on the physical plane - I don't really enjoy the terrorist activities buy Psychic Terrorism. I remember there was a great poem by Irving Layton that I once read, I'll give you a paraphrase of it. It was 'well, you guys blow up an occasional airline and kill a few children here and there', he says. 'But our terrorists, Jesus, Freud, Marx, Einstein. The whole world is still quaking...
I thank you for the items that you sent me. Those roses that you sent to my hotel this morning. Whoever the kind person was, I thank you very much. They were the reddest roses with the largest thorns that I ever did see. And you were so kind as to sign your name in such a manner that I could not read it. I deeply appreciate your sense of modesty. I thank you for the items that you sent me, the monkey and the plywood violin, and I practiced every night and now I'm ready. First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.
Gent (Gand) (Anti-racism Festival) 09/05/93
You know,they expected 10,000 people to come tonight. But only 5,000 came tonight, but it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter at all.This is a good number to begin with.This is a good number to begin,to make yourself strong and to make yourself cheerful and to enable yourself to take Manhattan,and then Berlin (..)...
San Francisco 03/07/93
I want to thank you for the items that you sent me. Very useful.I've been studying them very carefully, abstractionist as is the style of the city, refracted through certain obscure and subtle lens of a position that is not easily discerned. Nevertheless [not] without a certain compelling charm, especially when viewed through several glasses of an excellent Bordeaux. I am sincerely grateful for the notes; for the missives; for the few broken tiles, no doubt from some street battle long past and lost to the memory of mankind, nevertheless a certain historic significance; slivers of cobblestone from unknown conflicts. I really don't know what they stand for at all but I'm deeply grateful that my dressing room is heaped with this kind of debris from many other positions of course, but my own. I love every precious shard. I thank you for the monkey and the plywood violin and I've practiced every night and now I am ready....
Oh thank you so much for your gracious welcome this evening and thank you for those letters, actually that letter you sent me backstage. I read it very, very carefully. Thank you for those demo tapes. I'll listen very, very carefully to them. There is nothing wrong with sending a demo tape to an artist that has hardly established himself in this country. I will do what I can to forward your career. I have barely managed to get a photo of myself in the marketplace but nevertheless, we thrive on these dreams. And in regard to those darker place of the psyche and for those more ambiguous gifts, always grateful friends, always grateful. The monkey and the plywood violin. I practiced every night and now Im ready. First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.
Chat 2001, for the release of "Ten New Songs"
Answering a fan about the meaning of the song
Ever succeeding moment changes what has happened the moment before. In the stream of writing, all that is written changes its meanings by what is written subsequently. "First We Take Manhattan" might be understood as an examination of the mind of the extremist. In a way it's a better song now (*) than it was before and I would probably sing it in concert if the circumstances were appropriate.
(*) The Chat took place one month after the terrorist attacks in NYC and Washington D.C.
Hallelujah (Various Positions)
"Hallelujah is a Hebrew word which means "Glory to the Lord." The song explains that many kinds of Hallelujahs do exist. I say : "All the perfect and broken Hallelujahs have an equal value." It's, as I say, a desire to affirm my faith in life, not in some formal religious way but with enthusiasm, with emotion."
"I intended to say "Hallelujah". There is a religious Hallelujah, but there are many other ones. When one looks at the world and his proper life, there's only one thing to say, it's Hallelujah. That's the way it is...."
"You know, I wrote this song a couple of ..., it seems like yesterday but I guess it was five or six years ago and it had a chorus called Hallelujah. And it was a song that had references to the Bible in it, although these references became more and more remote as the song went from beginning to the end. And finally I understood that it was not necesary to refere to the Bible anymore. And I rewrote this song; this is the 'secular' Hallelujah.(...). So I wanted to indicate that Hallelujah can come out of things that have nothing to do with religion."
I Tried To Leave You
"I've written many songs of parting. Don't wanna feel that I'm leaving you anywhere that I'm not going. Anyhow, this is a song of staying. It's one of those delirious songs of monotony called marriage. This is a song written out of my old age, my middle-age, my wrinkles, my weakness, and my failures called 'Je voulais te quitter' (I Tried To Leave You")."
I'm Your Man (I'm Your Man)
"Over the last five or ten thousand years, men have been asking the question "What does a woman want?" And for the last few hundred years even women have been asking the question "What does a woman want?" And now men are asking the question "What does a man want?" And I just want to notify you that if these thoughts interest you for even a moment, you are lost. I have abandoned this type of question and I stand ready to signify my intention to do anything at all that she wants in order to deserve her caress. And therefore I declare: I'm your man".
In My Secret Life (Ten New Songs)
"We all have a sense of a truth. The truth can be the most intimate conversation with one's heart about its desire and appeti-te. And when this conversation appears, it comes very close to the truth and a feeling of authenticity. But I don't imagine to have a metaphysic system without contradictions, and I don't think this is the poet's nor the songwriter's duty. In one of the songs I start by saying: 'I smile when I'm angry. / I cheat and I lie. / I do what I have to do / to get by. / But I know what is wrong. / And I know what is right. / And I'd die for the truth / In My Secret Life.' To be understood in the way that you can deceive everybody but yourself. This is the truth viewed in a simple, pragmatic and ordinary way, but it isn't the great truth of our existence. I can't control that."
-- Euroman, September 2001
Is This What You Wanted? (New Skin For The Old Ceremony)
New-York November 1974
"This is a song which represents a dialogue between you and your ideal lover. The ideal lover is not present for this particular dialogue, if indeed your ideal lover exists at all."
Jazz Police (I'm Your Man)
Chicago (Illinois) 07/11/88
There is the RCMP in Canada, and there's the KGB in the Soviet Union.....I love the KGB...something so galant about the KGB....and then we have our poor dismal FBI, haven't we? Not a match for the other agencies, but we love it just the sa-me....I love it, I don't know about you...? Perhaps you're commies. I don't hate the FBI. I do perceive a real threat out there. I'm sorry about that but maybe we're just reacting logically. I don't know. But above it all, above all these agencies, there is a super Agency called the Jazz Police. I am in very close connection with the Jazz Police. That is the story that I am about to tell you.
Joan Of Arc (Songs Of Love And Hate)
Kathleen Kendel: "I had an impassioned argument with a woman who said that »Joan Of Arc« was a sexist song."
Leonard Cohen: "It might be but I think its on the side of women. But more accurately I think its just a song about the total gift, of total giving and the total consummation of the spirit in that kind of experience. It takes in the whole shot to be man and woman."
Pacifica Radio Interview with Kathleen Kendel
WBAI Radio, New York City
December 4, 1974
Lady Midnight (Songs From A Room)
1976 Backcover of "Greatest Hits" ("Some notes on the songs")
This was finished in the Henry Hudson Hotel on 58th Street in NY. Yafa was doing tricks with her silver bangles. I owe her the last verse. It was recorded in Nashville. The voice is uncertain. In those days it took me fifteen minutes to decide whether or not I should wear my cap when I went outside and a half hour whether I should take it off when I came back.
Last Year's Man (Songs Of Love And Hate)
I don't know why but I like this song. I used to play it on a Mexican twelve-string until I destroyed the instru-ment by jumping on it in a fit of impotent fury in 1967. The song had too many verses and it took about five years to sort out the right ones. I like the children* in this version. I always wait for them if I have to listen to it.
*the children of the London Corona Academy, back vocals in some verses
1976 "Backcover of "Greatest Hits" ("Some notes on the songs")
Love Calls You By Your Name (Songs Of Love And Hate)
Here's a song that searches out the middle place between the beginning and the end of things.
Love Itself (Ten New Songs
"Love Itself -- When I say, 'Love itself is gone,...' by love I don't mean the opposite of hate. I don't mean roman-tic love. I mean the tyranny of love. I mean the expectation that there's going to be some transformative expe-rience either romantic, sexual or spiritual. That concept that love dissolves and after that there's a kind of peace that arises."
Macleans, Ca, October 15, 2001
Master Song (Songs Of Leonard Cohen)
Leonard Cohen: "I'm never sure what's behind a song. I think in those days there was much concern with the idea of masters and disciples, with the idea that some people knew a lot more than you did; and the world was one vast monastery, in which we were all laboring to acquire enlightenment. I think the song treats that vision sardonically."
Memories (Death Of A Ladies Man)
Long time ago, in my distant middle age, I sat down with Phil Spector on a mahogany piano bench and collaborated with him, one of the most dismal periods of my entire creative life. I wrote a song into which I have placed my most banal adoles-cent recollections. A song of profound and abiding irrelevance, which will probably last forever. Oh, how I long for the day when upon these shabby balustrades of the "Concertgebouw", you will erase one of the lesser names of Wagner, of Stravins-ky and in its place, in bright and shiny gold letters, inscribe the name...(laughs). Forgive me great gods of music. I am but a tiny worm groveling in the bright illumination of your memories. That reminds me the name of the tune, it's called "Memories."
"So there's the flower, and there's the LSD. But I think every listener who is not the native English speaker has only one thing on his mind: the dawn, the moment of morning. This song pictures the transcendental moment of enlightenment without any doubt (well, we can connect that to LSD!). I don't see a connection between that transcendental moment and flower, as I see it between transcendental moment and the dawn. I have Leonard's backyard in mind (mentioned in Ten New Songs reviews Cohen was sitting there with journalists?), and there's his garage studio where he recorded Ten New Songs and this album, mostly in very early moments of the day, those moments between the night and day. Also, I cannot stop thinking about back-yard back there in Montreal, where he buried the note he wrote after his father's funeral (considered as his first poetry work). So he goes into the garden, into the backyard, it's early day, the last minutes of night, heading to his home studio, and there's that flower (which name provides the verbal game which cannot be translated), and it dawns. Maybe it was a trancendental moment many times for him. Maybe that's just »another mile of silence«. What's interesting, he argues with himself alone. That track depicts perfectly the old poet's life, who goes every morning to write and record poetry in his garage in the back-yard.."
Night Comes On (Various Positions)
Interview 1985 (© french magazine "Paroles et Musique")
"... In men's life the mother represents an authentic sense of protection, the life that strengthtens. In the second verse, there is that fight and this idea, "I'd like to pretend that my father was wrong. But you don't want to lie, not to the young"...the father represents this idea of a war forever fought. Then there is the marriage, which develops from a romantic idea, which we can't make last forever, to a human responsibility towards children, an ineluc-table responsibility, even if these very children will move away. Then the verse, "Now I look for her always
" is in fact, and concerning my case, about a songwriter's work. Here there is this vision of the woman, neither the mother nor the wife, but another feminine presence that touches all the others and is responsible for the songs. "I lie in her arms, she says, When I'm gone, I'll be yours, yours for a song." It's the feminine Muse. The last verse deals with the street, with "going back to the world," with friends. I like this passage, "Yes, and here's to the few who forgive what you do, and the fewer who don't even care!" But obviously this cannot protect us from the idea of what has been lost and will never be back. So the singer is trying to come back his way but the mother, by saying to him again and again, "Go back, go back to the world," keeps him alive."
One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong (Songs Of Leonard Cohen)
"A song from the other side of the marriage bed. The room is empty, the window is opened, the lover is gone, a laugh is heard in the stadium..." Berlin 24/09/74
Passing Through (Live Songs)
Harry Rasky in seinem Buch "The Song of Leonard Cohen - Portrait of a poet, a friendship and a film"
"The song "Passing Through" is a song I learned when I was fifteen, from a very devoted socialist that I knew. That particular version of the song comes out of "The People's Songbook" which was a song book developed out of the interest that the socialists had at one time in Folk Music, still have. It came out of the "Almanac Singers" who later became "The Weavers", that's the group that Pete Seeger was in - the book was edited by John Lomax. The book itself was very influential in interesting me in song and songwriting. I came across it when I was about fifteen."
Seems So Long Ago, Nancy (Songs From A Room)
"This is a song for a girl named Nancy who was a real girl, who went into the bathroom of her father's house, took her brother's shotgun and blew her head off. Age of 21. Maybe this is an arrogant thing to say, but maybe she did it because there weren't enough people saying what I've been saying."
Sing Another Song, Boys (Songs Of Love And Hate)
"This is a song about a man and a woman. It's called "Let's sing another song, boys". And an example... I can go and give this like a german doctoral thesis. The song pertains to dissect the intimate connec-tions in the ordinary relationship. Coming to no satisfactory conclusions the author of the melody abandons it and begins another song, hence the title "Let's sing another song Boys". At which point, in the author's mind he invisits the audience, rising to it's feet, then throat burning and singing the new song which speaks of the end of all the tyrannies that we place upon each other in the living room. And the song is completed in a triumphal march on the Bastille."
Sisters Of Mercy (Songs Of Leonard Cohen)
"When I was in Edmonton, about a year and a half ago, I was greeted at the airport by two young girls [Barbara and Lorraine], who were wearing mini-skirts, and they said to me that they had introduced the mini-skirt to Edmonton. And they took very, very good care of me. And I wrote this song for them. It's called the 'Sisters Of Mercy'."
- BBC Sessions, 1968
Story Of Isaac (Songs From A Room)
BBC Sessions 1968
There's a story in the Bible about Isaac, how his father summoned him to go and climb a mountain, how his father built an altar there after he had been commanded to offer up his son. And just at the last moment before he was about to sacrifice Isaac, an angel held the hand of the father. But today the children are being sacrificed and no one raises a hand to end the sacrifice. And this is what this song is about.
Take this longing
1976 Backcover of "Greatest Hits" ("Some notes on the songs")
"Buffy Ste Marie recorded an early version of this called "The Bells". It took me six or seven years to get a version for myself. I began while listening to Nico sing at the Dome on the 8th Dtreet in 1966. I broke the code in Asmara and finished the song in the shed of St Dominique Street in Montreal lat year."
Paris June 1976 (and before in Mainz, May 4th, 1976)
"So keep your beauty to wind
So give all this beauty to the wind
Put your (precious) pride to rest
And let me judge your famous love affair
In this very room where I have sentenced mine to (total) death
I'll even wear these old laurel leaves
That he's shaken from his head
Just take this longing, take it from my tongue
All the lonely things that these hands have done;
Let me see your beauty ,let me see it broken down
Like you would do for someone you love"
Hannover , November 11th, 1979
"I wrote this song long time ago for a German girl, her name was Christa. She had another name that she used in America, but I found out that her name really was Christa. The most wonderful thing about this girl which I discovered after I had given this song to her and sung it for her was that she was deaf. She never even heard it but she kept nodding her head in deep appreciation. This is the song I wrote for her."
*Christa Pfaggen, whose stage name was "Nico".
Last verse modified
So give your beauty to the wind
Put your pride to rest
You thought I want you to be good
Now you know that I want you to be best
I'll even wear these old laurel leaves
That he's shaken from his head
Just take this longing from my tongue
Interview 1992 (Magazine "Throat Culture" *)
About his relationship with Nico
"I gave her that song. She sang it to me a couple times but never recorded it. Nico was very strange. I tried to talk to her and she always replied very mysteriously. No matter what you said she always replied in a curious fashion. It was only after many weeks, after being perplexed by her conversation and paralyzed by her beauty that she told me she was deaf. She responded to everyone with whatever came into her mind because she could hardly hear a thing. Which explains her particularly strange style. But I definitely wrote 'Take This Longing' thinking of her."
*) Read the complete interview
Take this waltz
Quelle für alle Zitate (hier nur in Ausschnitten): http://1heckofaguy.com/2007/07/26/take-this-waltz-the-supplement/
Take This Waltz is an especially important song in the Leonard Cohen canon, in large part because the lyrics derive from Pequeno Vals Vienes (Little Viennese Waltz), a poem written in Spanish by Federico Garcia Lorca (...).
Cohen has commented on his discovery of Lorcas poem and its significance in numerous concerts and interviews.
From the Reijkavik Concert (24 June 1988)
Here of all places I dont have to explain how I fell in love with the poet Federico Garcia Lorca. I was 15 years old and I was wandering through the bookstores of Montreal and I fell upon one of his books,and I opened it,and my eyes saw those lines I want to pass through the Arches of Elvira,to see her thighs and begin weeping. I thought This is where I want to be
I read alone Green I want you green I turned another page The morning through fistfulls of ants in your face I turned another page Her thighs slipped away like school of silver minnows. I knew that I have had come home. So it is with a great sense of gratitude that I am able to repay my debt to Federico Garcia, at least a corner, a fragment, a crumb, a hair, an electron of my debt by dedicating this song, this translation of his great poem Little Viennese Waltz, Take This Waltz.
From a 1997 Interview, Morning Becomes Eclectic, KCRW Radio
LC: Unfortunately, all my efforts are painstaking. Id prefer it if I were gifted and spontaneous and swift, but my work requires a great deal of painstaking. Thats no guarantee of its quality, but it does. With the Lorca poem, the translation took 150 hours, just to get it into English that resembled I would never presume to say duplicated the greatness of Lorcas poem. It was a long, drawn-out affair, and the only reason I would even attempt it is my love for Lorca. I loved him as a kid; I named my daughter Lorca, so you can see this is not a casual figure in my life. She wears the same name beautifully; she is a very strange and eccentric soul
The Captain (Various Positions)
I began this song four years ago and it has 30 or 40 verses. I had to choose among them.This selection does not guarantee an achievement but at least proves the will of achievement. Among others, there are two lines that I find true: "What ever makes a soldier sad, will make a killer smile." In other words, we are really a predatory species. We are unique so far as we kill for pleasure. We have to understand that we're going to meet with some people who, naturally, are killers. It's not like a soldier or self-defence. We have to get ourselves ready, otherwi-se we're going die by naivety. And this is the topic of "The Captain," a passing on during which the corporal and the basic soldier are really taught by the captain because he's the one who understands he has to fight. But the soldier considers that, in light of so much pain and bloodshed, his only way out is to escape from the place of war. But the captain furthers his education, saying to him "There's no decent place." Interview (© Magazine "Paroles et Musiques", 1985)
The Future (The Future)
Backstage Interview July 15th, 1993
"I started the song same time as I started "Democracy". All those songs were occasioned by the collapse of the Berlin Wall. You had to affirm the rejoicing of people but I did have a clear sense of this was gonna produce a lot of suffering. And unfortunately, that was borne out."
Interviewer : "...and 'I've seen the Future it is murder', a bleak picture but you always
sort of, the redemptive properties of love seem to fiddle themselves in there somewhere."
"I mean this is all they're giving us this murder, I mean this is what we're fed, 'I've seen the future baby, it is murder'. Well of course that's a colloquial expression 'How hard it is ? - It is murder', 'What was the traffic like ?- It was murder'. But it is murder. And that is the great unspoken secret that politicians hardly even adress, it's that you can't go outside anymore."
Interviewer : "That perspective I was mentioning (..)You always seemed to hold out love as the redemptive possibility in all this, do you still feel that way as strongly as you always have?"
"I've always known it on a personal level it is true that
. in that song I say 'When they say Repent, I wonder that they meant', the sad thing is that those redemptive possibilities, those redemptive mechanisms have become obscure and lost. All the religions have them. The whole notion of the resurrection is an idea of a return, of a renewal, unless people understanding can grasp the idea that they can renew their lives then we're in a very sorry situation. Those mechanisms exist, they're available, and everywhere from the Catholic church to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)."
Interview "Bob Harriss Show" 26/05/93
"I guess the song was begun like most of my songs. Just kinda scraping the bottom of the barrel. I never thought I stood in front of a buffet table and had a lot of things to write about, you know. It's just a kind of growing that you feel. A kind of itch that you can't scratch. Somehow you're just moving around in your mind, not in a very graceful way in a very awkward way, trying to centre yourself around something. At that time the Berlin Wall had just come down, when I wrote that, when I started to write it. And I don't know why but I had this
I had a hurt feeling about that, and a kind of gloomy feeling about that. We were rejoicing and of course one rejoiced and one saw the images of the wall coming down. And one thought that families would be reunited and country could continue on its own way. A split being healed is always some kind of attractive idea. But I don't know why I had a gloomy idea about it. People always said I have a gloomy idea about everything. I say that's true. I also have a very gloomy idea about democracy in the east, in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe and in fact one of the tracks, one of the verses I discarded, among the 50 or 60 I discarded for "Democracy" was:" It ain't comin' to us European-style - Concentration camp behind the smile - It ain't comin' from the east - With its temporary feast - As Count Dracula comes strolling the aisle". I just didn't think that these Eastern European Communist Republics were going to burst into these life affirming democracies that everybody hoped for. And for some odd reason I felt that when central authority, no matter how severe it is, breaks down, when the cat's away, the mice will play, and boys will be boys... And usually, historically that means massacre. I'm not happy to say that my prophecies have borne out. But those were the feelings that were attended at the beginning. So I never really know where the song is going to go until I write it verse by verse. The reason it takes so long to write is that I have to write each verse perfectly, and make it perfect. 'Cause it's only in the writing that you can discard the alibis and the slogans and the easy positions. So The Future is the song that the future cries, the future drew out of me. It's not politics, it's a kind of psycho-geo-politics that the future draws these exclamations out of me, out of my heart."
Interview 1992 ("The Future Radio Special")
Answering a question by Bob Mackowitz, about the relation one can find between "The Future" and Yeat's line "the centre cannot hold".
"I think that's part of it. I think that Yeats' line, "the centre will not hold," could very well have been the sub-title of the song. I say, you know, "things are going to slide in all directions, nothing will be measured anymore. The blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold, overturned the order of the soul. When they said 'repent,' I wonder what they meant." We're not even able to hold, a concept now of resurrection mechanisms; we don't even know what the concept is about, now. We can't even locate one in our mental equipment. And, I do feel that the centrality has dissolved. You know, we used to talk about the broken family. We all have experienced the broken family, now, us! You know, the people we're talking about, the sociologists, the acamedicians, the poets, the mental workers ... none of these things we are talking about, from an observational point of view, have stayed as objects of our conversation. They have become the environment that we ourselves are inhabiting. So, we are living a world, in a daily life, of such ambiguity, ambiguity about ourselves, about our wives, our husbands, our loves, our families, our loyalties, our work. The ambiguities have become intolerable. We are no longer outside the problem. There no longer is a distance. There is no hill to see this from, you share one body, now, with the serpent you forbid and with the dove that you allow. We're in it. And, "The Future" comes out of that experience. There is no perspective on the future anymore. It is like, look it!, you'll settle for the Berlin Wall. You'll settle for totalitarianism. You'll settle for the FBI. You'll settle for the ozone layer with the hole in it. You'll settle for the wrecked Amazonian forest. All these things will look good, next to what's coming down."
Interview Magazine "LA Weekly", September 2001
"I think I meant the end of privacy as it developed in the West, which was the real feature of our civilization. The notion that there was private space, which wasn't really terribly available in the world until we in the West started establishing private rooms and studies and walls. So I think I felt at a certain point that this was beginning to reverse itself with a very potent mass culture. This notion of a private space in which to develop certain ideas and cultivate certain aspects of the psyche. I felt that was disappearing, and that we were moving into a kind of mass mind."
The Guests (Recent Songs)
"This is a new song and I'm very surprised that this song has gained any kind of popularity because it's a kind of difficult song. I think most of its popularity is due to the fact that Raffi Hakopian plays on it, and John Belezik-jan. But...it's a song about how a new soul comes into the world looking for the feast, feeling completely separa-ted from everything, feeling isolated and in exile, and how the great author of this dismoral catastrophe, this veil of tears, pulls each of these souls into the Feast and into the banquet. And noone knows where the night is going, noone knows why the wine is flowing and Oh Love I need You I need You I need You....."
The soul comes into the world. There is some notion the soul has that there is a feast, that there is a festival, that there is a banquet. It strives to experience the hospitality of the world. It doesn't achieve it. It feels lonely, this is everybody's experience. It feels lost. It stumbles around on the outskirts of the party. If the striving is deep e-nough or if the grace of the host is turned towards the seeking guest, then suddenly the inner door flies open and he finds himself or the soul finds himself at that banquet table. Although no one knows where the night is going, no one knows why the wine is flowing, no one actually understand the mechanics of this grace except that we experience it from time to time."
-- The Song of Leonard Cohen, a documentary by Harry Rasky, 1979
The Gypsy's Wife
1979 from the Harry Rasky's film "The Song of Leonard Cohen"
"'The Gypsy's Wife' was one of the last and sweetest song I've written. I started it in L.A. around the time I began recording, which was last March or April. The song was written in about three months. And of course my own marriage was breakin'up at that time and in a sense it was written for my gypsy wife, in other words the wife that was wandering away, but euh.. in another way it's just a song about the way men and women have lost one another. Men and women have wandered away from each other, have become gypsies to each other. And the last verse says: 'there is no man or woman you can touch - But you who come between them will be judged'. In other words, even though we are in the midst of some kind of psychic catastrophy, it's not an invitation to take an advantage of it. That's mostly what the song is about."
1979, reported by Harry Rasky in his book "The Song of Leonard Cohen-Portrait of a poet, a friendship and a film"
"That particular song started in a woman's apartment last winter. My marriage was breakin' up and she had a guitar. I was waiting for her to get ready and that is exactly what I was thinking, 'where, where is my gypsy wife tonight?' and it was one of those songs that started that way. Most of them are much less fluent in their beginnings, but it was just thinking to myself that one happened very easily and I got that sequence. I guess you could find in it a lot of Spanish or Eastern Music."
"This is a little song that I wrote for my wife after she ran away."
The Law (Various Positions)
Interview 1985 (French magazine "Paroles et Musiques")
I always felt this was a "post-guilt" song. There is an age of guilt, and we are in the age after. Guilt is too infla-med an emotion, even for us today. That's why "I don't claim to be guilty. But I do understand. There's a Law. There's an Arm. There's a Hand." I think we are now in some era where we attend the consequences of our deeds and, whether we admit our guilt or not, we have to assume it, even when the process of feeling guilty has been discredited... I never knew how to separate the "individual" and the "general" because I feel what everyone feels. The character who says, "It wasn't for nothing they put me away" is quite conscious of his responsability in this matter. There has been no injustice for he adds, "I fell with my angel down the chain of command." The process of feeling guilty is not in the air and it's the last thing people want to be affected by. This song deals with this process and considers it as a legitimate experience, as a part of the moral universe.
San Francisco June 8th, 1985
This is a new song, it's called "There's a Law, There's an Arm, There's a Hand". It's about our current dismal catastrophe. It's about the Age of post-guilt. Guilt has been given a very bad name. There are entire medical industries that are devoted to describing guilt as a disease. Actually it's the only way that we know that we've done something wrong. This is the song "There is a Law, there is an arm, there is a hand".
This is a song called "The Partisan". When I say in the song "The Germans poured across the borders...then the Germans came... " I don't really mean the Germans you know. And when I say in the song "I took my gun and vanished" I don't really mean that I took my gun and vanished. Nothing that I say in the song doesn't really mean. But there must be something true about it, and I'll try to locate that each time. I'd like to dedicate this song to the memories of the four students....(*)
*The four students from the Kent State University (Ohio,USA) killed by the Police on the 4th of May 1970
Bryn-Mawr, USA, November 75
Early version sung 4 years before its official release
It's a song that is based on an old Persian poem that says "Oh chosen love, Oh frozen love, O tangle of matter and ghost, O darling of angels, demons and saints." This is the first time I ever said it. I always sung it before. It's a song called "The Window".
Villanelle For Our Time (Dear Heather)
From Marie Mazur's interview with Anjani for Anjani's website
»Villanelle For Our Time« is a poem by the late F. R. Scott, one of Leonard's professors at McGill University. Leonard was asked to participate in a tribute to Scott, and he elected to compose a track around this poem. I usually don't hear the material before a session, and Leonard has never told me what to sing. He was in a most agreeable mood, having just left Mt. Baldy after a five year stay. And this was the most spontaneous, easy session I'd done for him. Leanne rolled the tape and I sang a few ideas and built it from there. My parts took just a couple hours to record. I don't take credit for the inspirati-on; it's more like it occurs and I claim the idea.
Who By Fire (New Skin For The Old Ceremony)
"There's an old tradition that insists that on a certain day of every year the Book of Life is opened and in it is inscribed those who will live and those who die, who by fire, who by fire, who by water (...). The melody is if not actually stolen, is certainly derived from the melody that I heard in the synagogue as a boy. But of course, the conclusion of the song, as I write it, is somewhat different: 'Who shall I say is calling?' Well, that is what makes the song into a prayer for me in my terms, which is who is it or what is it that determine who will live and who will die ? What is the source of this great furnace of creation ? Who lights it ? Who extinguishes it ?"
You Have Loved Enough (Ten New Songs)
"In another song you sing, »That I am not the one who loves - / It's love that seizes me.« (»You Have Loved Enough«) We are the instruments of love in this life?"
(Cohen:) "Yes. It is very complex and beautifully de-signed, but we are instruments of a will that is not our own. However, the intention and the purpose of that will, we cannot know."
ABC, Sunday Supplement , July 22, 2001