I Can’t Forget


“‘I Can’t Forget’ began as a song about the exodus of the Hebrew children from Egypt, which was intended as a metaphor for the freeing of the soul from bondage. When I went to record the vocal for the track, however, I found I couldn’t get the words out of my throat. I couldn’t sing the words because I wasn’t entitled to speak of the emancipation of the spirit. I was at the point of breaking down.”Leonard Cohen (511)
“I don’t think my writing has got personal enough yet. I think it has some way to go before it gets really personal. When it’s really personal everybody understands it. There’s a middle ground which is just unzipping and self-indulgence but when you really tell the truth people immediately perceive that. Like when I wrote the lyrics for ‘I Can’t Forget’, it went through so many transformations to get it really personal. It started off as a kind of hymn and I ended up stuck sitting at this very kitchen table thinking, Where am I really? What can I really tell anyone about anything? So I thought, I’ve got to start from scratch. How am I living this day? What am I doing now? So I wrote, ‘I stumbled out of bed/Got ready for the struggle/I smoked a cigarette/And I tightened up my gut/I said, This can’t be me, must be my double/I can’t forget I don’t remember what.”Leonard Cohen (634)


Dance Me To The End Of Love


“I don’t think anyone needs to know what gave me the image of the “burning violin” but there were these little orchestras the Germans put together in the concentration camps. They played while people were being incinerated or gassed. If you want to read the song from that point of view, it becomes something quite different.”

Leonard Cohen (512)
“It was supposed to be a song about Berlin. I had a lot of verses about Berlin, I was trying  to get a song about the origins of evil but it wouldn’t fit in. I realized it was a love song or a wedding song but the really depressing part about this true tale is that I learned at the concentration camps there was a custom of taking musicians among the inmates and having them play little string quartets while they did their killing work. So the song could be like a prayer or a love song, it’s “Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin.” With that idea, the song takes on another angle.”Leonard Cohen (940)


Ain’t No Cure For Love


“There’s a surface to the song. You don’t have to go beneath the surface. You’re not invited to penetrate the song and analyze it but if you should be so foolish as to want to penetrate the song and analyze it you’d find that it is correct even theologically. Jesus appears in the last verse and whispers to me that you can’t get away from this; even the angelic host understands. Well, Christ who gave himself a lot, who knew that the only way to love was to sacrifice, he knows that if you love, your love will take a wound, so those parts of the world that are inhabited are still there, but nobody’s invited to look at them if they don’t want to. So the song just exists as a song that reaches your ear, but if there’s something else going on all the better. But it’s better to say those things as a joke than to rub somebody’s nose in it.”

Leonard Cohen (513)


Take This Waltz


“Lorca’s poem “Take This Waltz” took me 150 hours to translate and a nervous breakdown.”

Leonard Cohen (513)


I’m Your Man


“I said to myself, “What would I do to be accepted by the woman and what does the woman want? What does a woman want from a man?” Many men have addressed this problem: what kind of a man does she want me to be? And it’s only the hunger for the woman, the necessity to live in her presence, whether this is love or not. Whatever the relationships between men and women are the fact is we are each other’s content. We cannot live without each other. So accepting that as one of the aspects of being in love, or dying of love, a man dying of love writes this song. Whatever you want me to be I’ll be.”

Leonard Cohen (513)


Everybody Knows


“Without the music and nonsense rhymes, “Everybody Knows” would be pretty hard to take – the funeral quality of the message. It also pushes things very, very far just to get a laugh and that makes it amusing. It gives a jingle effect that as I say modifies and mitigates the heaviness of the vision. I think that everybody does know these things…These ideas were started a long time ago in my work, but the romantic world is just as Lorca said in that poem “Take This Waltz.” These romantic images that he’s using…he knows they’re rotten, he know they’re old, he knows they’re finished. That’s why it’s such a modern poem. There seems to be some appetite to say those words: “Everybody knows it’s coming apart.” Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s just because I’m middle-aged and maybe nothing’s coming apart but, to me, those images, those romantic expectations, those religious expectations, the political vocabulary, are obsolete. I’ve never felt so much difference between the private life and the public life. There doesn’t seem to be a public life and there’s nobody speaking in a way that seems to address me. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m just getting old, maybe not, maybe I’m right, so I wrote a song like “Everybody Knows” to close that gap and the only way to close it is by speaking of it humourously, speaking of it as a joke, and saying the things that well all know.”

Leonard Cohen (513)


Anthem


“The “light” is the capacity to reconcile your experience, your sorrow, with every day that dawns. It is that understanding, which is beyond significance, that allows you to live a life and embrace the disasters and sorrows and joys that are our common lot. But it’s only with the recognition that there is a crack in everything. I think all other visions are doomed to irretrievable gloom. And whenever anyone asks us to accept a perfect solution, that should immediately alert us to the flaws in that presentation.”

Leonard Cohen (66)
“There is a position that embraces all the worlds we live in. That position is one of reconciliation, that’s our real appetite. Our real appetite is not for the victory of the white race. Our real victory isn’t Judaism over Islam, not conservatism over liberalism. There is another appetite that doesn’t involve victory but involves a reconciliation and that’s where we really long to be. Sometimes in the midst of a song you find yourself in that moment.”Leonard Cohen (635)


The Future


“”There’ll be the breaking of the Western code, I mean your private life will suddenly explode.” That is the whole investment in private space that the West has painfully established over the centuries. That is specifically what is going to collapse. “There will be phantoms, there’ll be fires on the road” – a return to suspicion, superstition, return to the tribal paranoia and the white man dancing. It evokes a scene of the end of things but with certain variations.”

Leonard Cohen (66)

“I think the future is already here. I think that there is a collective despair that everything has collapsed, that the world has been destroyed. People are saying to each other that they can’t take the reality they’re living in anymore; they’re actually admitting it to one another. The evidence that everything is still running in place – the mail, garbage pickup, going to work – but there’s a panic that everything isn’t what it seems.”

Leonard Cohen (519)
“Of course I affirm the people that are trying to save the forest and the environment but to me those are symptoms of something else. It’s an alibi to think you’re getting anywhere by doing that sort of thing. The self-righteousness and self-congratulations that go with it seems to suggest that you can’t write a song about the BOREDOM of the rainforest, the BOREDOM of the ozone, the BOREDOM of recycling. Yeah, we’ve got to do all those things but let’s not ignore the fact that something is going down here. It’s like trying to tidy up on the Titanic. I wrote that song soon after the Wall came down – it had to be written. When the centre erodes and people can no longer find a centre they will seize on the most easily available form of identification. The most easily available identification is racial. We see that happening, there’s no way you can sit down and reason in that situation, reasoning depends on some sort of order. When it’s every man for himself the identification of race arises. I think those are very dangerous times. And that is the time we are in.”Leonard Cohen (635)