About Those Songs On Leonard Cohen’s Can’t Forget Album: La Manic

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First performance of La Manic by Leonard Cohen: Montreal Nov 29, 2012

About Those Songs On Leonard Cohen’s Can’t Forget Album

Leonard_Cohen_ASouvenirOfTheGrandTour_5x5_1500x1500About Those Songs On Leonard Cohen’s Can’t Forget Album is a series of posts offering background and historical context for songs on Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, the Leonard Cohen live album scheduled for release May 12, 2015.1 Most but not all of the following content was originally posted at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, the previous incarnation of Cohencentric, on Nov 30, 2012; it is being republished now in anticipation of the new album’s release.

Leonard Cohen Performs La Manic by Georges Dor For First Time: Montreal Nov 29, 2012

Leonard Cohen’s first public performance of La Manic by Georges Dor took place during his second 2012 Montreal show.  La Manic appeared in a total of five shows during the 2012 Tour and in only three 2013 concerts.2

Leonard Cohen – La Manic
Montreal: Nov 29, 2012
Video by

This brief description of the song is from the Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame website:

La Manic, a song in the form of a letter by a young man telling his girlfriend back home of the loneliness of workers building dams up north on the Manicouagan River, sold more than 150,000 copies at the time of its initial release. It was later released as part of Georges Dor’s debut album, which remains one of the most popular collections ever produced by a Quebec songwriter.

I find this excerpt from Poutine Pop #4 – Georges Dor by Theo Mathien (Midnight Poutine: June 24, 2011) more to the point:

Dor’s music manages to distil the everyday details of life into compact and resonant stories that also describe larger cultural changes. This is no more apparent than in “La Manic,” Dor’s most famous song. A love letter from a construction worker who has been toiling away on the Manicouagan hydroelectric project to his lover, it is a poignant portrait of loneliness and heartache, the song’s weary and resigned mood reflecting the toll of his sacrifice.

However, it is also symbolic of a French Quebec’s newfound power and sovereign aspirations, as the Daniel Johnson Dam [formerly known as “Manic-5”] was the first major project completed by Hydro Quebec, which had been recently nationalized in ’63. While it has never gained the universal embrace of something like Vigneault’s “Gens du Pays,” “La Manic” does possess a romantic populism that has endeared it to many (150 000 copies of the 45 were sold upon its release). I like to think of it as the “No One Like You” of its time.

The Daniel-Johnson Dam, located 214 km north of Baie-Comeau, Quebec.

The Daniel-Johnson Dam, located 214 km north of Baie-Comeau, Quebec.

Lyrics With English Translation

La Manic: French

Si tu savais comme on s’ennuie à la Manic
Tu m’écrirais bien plus souvent à la Manicouagan
Parfois je pense à toi si fort
Je récrée ton âme et ton corps
Je te regarde et m’émerveille
Je me prolonge en toi
Comme le fleuve dans la mer
Et la fleur dans l’abeille

Que deviennent quand j’suis pas là mon bel amour
Ton front doux comme fine soie et tes yeux de velours
Te tournes-tu vers la côte nord
Pour voir un peu pour voir encore
Ma main qui te fait signe d’attendre
Soir et matin je tends les bras
Je te rejoins où que tu sois
Et je te garde

Dis-moi c’qui s’passe à Trois-Rivières et à Québec
Là où la vie a tant à faire et tout c’qu’on fait avec
Dis-moi c’qui s’passe à Montréal
Dans les rues sales et transversales
Où tu es toujours la plus belle
Car la laideur ne t’atteint pas
Toi que j’aimerai jusqu’au trépas
Mon éternelle

Nous autres on fait les fanfarons à coeur de jour
Mais on est tous de bons larrons cloués à leurs amours
Y’en a qui jouent de la guitare
D’autres qui jouent d’l’accordéon
Pour passer l’temps quand y’est trop long
Mais moi je joue de mes amours
Et je danse en disant ton nom
Tellement je t’aime

Si tu savais comme on s’ennuie à la Manic
Tu m’écrirais bien plus souvent à la Manicouagan
Si t’as pas grand chose à me dire
Écris cent fois les mots «Je t’aime»
Ça fera le plus beau des poèmes
Je le lirai cent fois
Cent fois cent fois c’est pas beaucoup
Pour ceux qui s’aiment

Si tu savais comme on s’ennuie
À la Manic
Tu m’écrirais bien plus souvent
À la Manicouagan

The Manic: English

If only you knew how long the time is at Manic
You’d write way more often, to the Manicouagan
Sometimes I think so hard about you
That I recreate your soul and your body
I look at you and I am filled with wonder
I throw myself into you
Just like the river into the sea
And the flower into the bee

My beautiful lover, what do your silken forehead
And your velvet eyes become, when I am not there
Do you turn towards the Côte-Nord
To see a little, to see some more
My hand signalling you to wait
At twilight and at dawn, I reach out
I meet you wherever you may be
And I keep you

Tell me what’s going on in Trois-Rivières and in Quebec City
Where there’s so much to do, and eveything we do with it
Tell me what’s going on in Montreal
In the dirty side streets
Where you’re always the more beautiful
Because ugliness can’t get to you
You, who I’ll love until I pass away
My eternal

We boast around all day long
But we’re all good guys faithful to their loves
Some play guitar
Others play accordion
To pass time, when the time is long
But me, I play of my love
And I dance, saying your name
Because I love you so much

If only you knew how long the time is at Manic
You’d write way more often, to the Manicouagan
If you don’t have much to tell me
Write the words ‘I love you’ a hundred times
It will be the most beautiful of poems
I’ll read it a hundred times
A hundred times, a hundred times are not a lot
For those who are in love

If only you knew how long the time is
At Manic
You’d write way more often
To the Manicouagan

Leonard Cohen On His Life In French Quebec

I live in Montreal, which is a French city, in Quebec, which is a French country–especially now, it is a country. I live as a minority writer, almost in exile, because there is no English writing community where I live. These are very special Canadian problems which to me form the Canadian character, because we’re very much involved in this notion of what is minority and what is majority; and yet while these questions are in the air, it seems that everybody has space. Because we don’t have the melting pot notion at all in Canada, we have a federal system that runs right down into the psyche of the country. So in a sense I live like a foreigner in my own city, cut off by the fact that I don’t speak French that well. I can get by, but it’s not a tongue I could ever move around in in a way that would satisfy the appetites of the mind or the heart.3

Leonard Cohen’s Introduction To La Manic: Montreal 2012

Je vais chanter une chanson que je n’ai pas écrite. Une chanson que j’ai aimée dès que je l’ai entendue il y a très longtemps. Je travaille aussi à une traduction mais ce n’est pas encore terminée. Voici l’original par le grand écrivain et chanteur, defenseur de la langue, Georges Dor

[English translation] I’ll sing a song that I have not written. A song that I’ve loved when I first heard it a long time ago. I am also working on a translation but it is not over yet.. Here is the original by the great writer and singer, defender of the language, Georges Dor4

 La Manic Performed By Georges Dor

1966
Video by Jackretro

Leonard Cohen Invokes La Manic In 2006 Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame Induction Speech

Leonard Cohen’s brief acceptance speech at the 2006 Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame induction is typically gracious, includes the requisite self-effacing joke, and even offers a rendition of his trademarked phrase, “If I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often.” The high point, however, is his invocation of Georges Dor’s La Manic to close his talk. (Cohen’s reference to La Manic was almost certainly not a spontaneous phenomenon; the song also entered the Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 2006, along with Leonard Cohen himself.)

Leonard Cohen Accepting Induction into CSHF 2006, Part II
Video from ljw2909

Best Video Of La Manic Performance From 2013 Tour

Leonard Cohen – La Manic
Brussels: June 30, 2013
Video by albertnoonan

More About La Manic

A thoughtful and helpful analysis of the song can be found at Analysis of “Manic” by Georges Dor by Professor Olaf Huygens-Tremblay. While written in French, most of it survives Google Translation into English.

Other Posts About Those Songs On Leonard Cohen’s Can’t Forget Album

All posts in this series can be found at About Those Songs On Leonard Cohen’s Can’t Forget Album

Credit Due Department: “Barrage Daniel-Johnson2” by Bouchecl 20:56, 11 August 2007 (UTC) – Bouchecl 20:56, 11 August 2007 (UTC). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. See It’s Official – Leonard Cohen “Can’t Forget” Live Album: Tracks, Sources, Pre-Order Info, & More []
  2. Statistics courtesy of the all-knowing Roman Gavrilin aka Hermitage Prisoner, []
  3. Leonard Cohen: The Romantic in a Ragpicker’s Trade by Paul Williams (Crawdaddy, March 1975). []
  4. From a LeonardCohenForum note by Beatriz Salles []