catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

The lyrics of Leonard Cohen

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Over at LP, Mark Bahnisch has a post celebrating the lyrics of singer-songwriter-poet Leonard Cohen. His post reminded me of a song in Cohen’s excellent 1988 album I’m your man. Of course as with all songs, it’s open to various interpretations, but his First we take Manhattan now seems eerily prescient in light of the events of the last few years and even recently – it could be taken as a parable about the psycho-sexual roots of terrorism and urban unrest or a first person far-right paranoiac narrative. Here are the lyrics:

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’d really like to live beside you, baby
I love your body and your spirit and your clothes
But you see that line there moving through the station?
I told you, I told you, told you, I was one of those

Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you’re worried that I just
might win
You know the way to stop me, but you don’t have the discipline
How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I don’t like your fashion business mister
And I don’t like these drugs that keep you thin
I don’t like what happened to my sister
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I’d really like to live beside you, baby …

And I thank you for those items that you sent me
The monkey and the plywood violin
I practiced every night, now I’m ready
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I am guided

Ah remember me, I used to live for music
Remember me, I brought your groceries in
Well it’s Father’s Day and everybody’s wounded
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

Everything about this song works, write down to the creepily obsessive melody, the female chorus and Cohen’s dark intonations.

On a less morbid note, these are my favourite lines from his very wry and funny ‘Everybody knows’, from the same album:

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you’ve been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows

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Written by Admin

December 16, 2005 at 10:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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