Captivity & Escape In Leonard Cohen’s Work: Freedom & Service In The Texts

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I have tried in my way to be free.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Captivity & Escape In Leonard Cohen’s Work

The posting of the series featuring the and symbols triggered observations from three Cohen cognoscenti, Francis Mus, Tom Sakic, and David Peloquin, on the prevalence of imagery associated with slavery and captivity, such as chains, in Leonard Cohen’s work. Consequently, Cohencentric is offering , a set of posts organized around these themes. The first post in this series featured examples of emblems manifesting these concepts from Leonard Cohen albums, marketing, and merchandise (see Part 1 at Captivity & Escape In Leonard Cohen’s Work: Album Art). A second post focused on these themes as they occur in the texts of his songs and poems: Captivity & Escape In Leonard Cohen’s Work: The Texts.

Captivity & Escape In Leonard Cohen’s Work: The Texts: Freedom & Service

Figurative language referring to captivity (e.g., slavery, chains, prison …) appears with extraordinary frequency in Leonard Cohen’s lyrics. While his pattern may be integrated into an analysis a few posts down the line, for the time being, I am content with making readers aware of the ubiquity of this motif in Leonard Cohen’s songs and poems (the novels and other prose are beyond the scope of this entry) by offering this impressive, albeit non-exhaustive, sampling. The previous exploration of the texts looked at these terms; Guard, Sentence, Slave, Release, Fence, Pardon, Lock/Key, Tie, Bind/Bound, Prison/Prisoner, Chains, and Release. today’s post tracks these terms:

  • Free
  • Freedom
  • Serve
  • Service
  • Servant

Free

I Left A Woman Waiting
Death Of A Ladies’ Man

Quick as dogs and truly dead were we
And free as running water
Free as running water
Free as you and me

One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong
Songs Of Leonard Cohen

I lit a thin green candle to make you jealous of me,
But the room just filled up with mosquitoes, they heard that my body was free

Tonight Will Be Fine
Songs From A Room

Oh sometimes I see her undressing for me,
She’s the soft naked lady love meant her to be
And she’s moving her body so brave and so free.

You Know Who I Am
Songs From A Room

I am not slave or free

Treaty
You Want It Darker

We sold ourselves for love but now we’re free
I’m so sorry for the ghost I made you be

Bird On The Wire
Songs From A Room

I have tried in my way to be free

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“That’s my AIDS test result. Negative. It’s good to carry that around. ‘Hi, I’m Leonard, here’s my card!’ It’s like being let out of prison, getting one of those.” Leonard Cohen

In this example of Leonard Cohen’s propensity to use the language of captivity (in this case, “prison”), he identifies the AIDS results card he carried in his travel bag for interviewer. Posts dealing with this theme are collected at .

From Hallelujah For Leonard Cohen by Jon Wilde (Posted at Sabatoge Times 22 March 2011 although the quote itself is taken from a 1988 interview.) Originally posted Apr 13, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I actually bound myself to the mast of non-attachment, but the storms of desire snapped my bounds like a spoon through noodles” Leonard Cohen

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quoteup2
My songs are kind of bleak, but underlying the whole dismal affair is actually a tiny thread of light. I studied the religious values. I actually bound myself to the mast of non-attachment, but the storms of desire snapped my bounds like a spoon through noodles.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

The latest addition to posts on the theme of comes from Leonard Cohen’s introduction to first 2012 performance of “Ain’t No Cure For Love” – Seattle Nov 9, 2012. Photo of Leonard Cohen performing at the 2012 Seattle show by Mary Witter. Originally posted Feb 14, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Captivity & Escape In Leonard Cohen’s Work: The Texts

Captivity & Escape In Leonard Cohen’s Work

The posting of the series featuring the and symbols triggered observations from three Cohen cognoscenti, Francis Mus, Tom Sakic, and David Peloquin, on the prevalence of imagery associated with slavery and captivity, such as chains, in Leonard Cohen’s work. Consequently, Cohencentric is offering , a set of posts organized around these themes. The first post in this series featured examples of emblems manifesting these concepts from Leonard Cohen albums, marketing, and merchandise (see Part 1 at Captivity & Escape In Leonard Cohen’s Work: Album Art). Today’s post focuses on these themes as they occur in the text of his songs and poems.

Update: See “I actually bound myself to the mast of non-attachment, but the storms of desire snapped my bounds like a spoon through noodles” Leonard Cohen

Captivity & Escape In Leonard Cohen’s Work: The Texts

Figurative language referring to captivity (e.g., slavery, chains, prison …) appears with extraordinary frequency in Leonard Cohen’s lyrics. While his pattern may be integrated into an analysis a few posts down the line, for the time being, I am content with making readers aware of the ubiquity of this motif in Leonard Cohen’s songs and poems (the novels and other prose are beyond the scope of this entry) by offering this impressive, albeit non-exhaustive (e.g., there are well over 100 references to slavery in Leonard Cohen’s poems alone), sampling:

Chains

Born In Chains
Popular Problems

I was born in chains but I was taken out of Egypt
I was bound to a burden, but the burden it was raised1

Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On
Death Of A Ladies’ Man

So I work in that same beauty salon
I’m chained to the old masquerade

Take This Waltz
I’m Your Man

And I’ll see what you’ve chained to your sorrow

Show Me The Place
Old Ideas

But there were chains, so I hastened to behave
There were chains, so I loved you like a slave

Who By Fire
New Skin for the Old Ceremony

Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling?

I’m Your Man
I’m Your Man

Ah, the moon’s too bright
The chain’s too tight
The beast won’t go to sleep

The Old Revolution
Songs from a Room

I finally broke into the prison,
I found my place in the chain.

Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye
Songs of Leonard Cohen

but let’s not talk of love or chains and things we can’t untie,

Continue Reading →

  1. Tom Sakic points out that the lyrics of Born in Chains were worked and reworked in 1984-1988 on few occasions. Leonard also quotes lines from the song in 1988 and 1992. []

Leonard Cohen Attributes Refinement In His Music To Self-Confidence & Gain In Self-Confidence To Bob Johnston


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I used to be petrified with the idea of going on the road and presenting my work. I often felt that the risks of humiliation were too wide. But with the help of my last producer, Bob Johnston, I gained the self-confidence I felt was necessary. My music now is much more highly refined. When you are again in touch with yourself and you feel a certain sense of health, you feel somehow that the prison bars are lifted, and you start hearing new possibilities in your workquotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen: Cohen’s New Skin by Harvey Kubernik. Melody Maker: 1 March 1975. Accessed at We Are Cult Originally posted December 19, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric