An Independence Day Post: Leonard Cohen Performs Democracy – “A Revelation In The Heart”

“I wanted a revelation in the heart” Leonard Cohen On Democracy

I didn’t want to compromise the anthemic, hymn-like quality [of Democracy]. I didn’t want it to get too punchy. I didn’t want to start a fight in the song. I wanted a revelation in the heart rather than a confrontation or a call-to-arms or a defense.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


The Verse Not Taken

First we killed the Lord and then we stole the blues
This gutter people always in the news
But who really gets to laugh behind the black man’s back
When he makes his little crack about the Jews?
Who really gets to profit and who really gets to pay?
Who really rides the slavery ship right into Charleston Bay?
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

This verse, completed for “Democracy” but omitted from the final version (the lines were performed as a spoken verse in two concerts: San Francisco – July 3, 1993 and Boston – July 16, 19931), is an artifact of the rigorous revising that was integral to Leonard Cohen’s songwriting process and offers insight into his insight and intent. Leonard’s response to the query “Why did you take that [verse] out?” The quotation shown above is Leonard’s response to the query “Why did you take that [verse] out?”1

Leonard Cohen – Democracy
London: July 17, 2008
Video by PBS


  1. Tower Of Song – Interview (Feb 1992) by Paul Zollo. SongTalk: April 1993, []

“We’ll bathe together in those springs a thousand kisses deep” Unused lines written by Leonard Cohen for A Thousand Kisses Deep

I’ll find you though you climb
The very heights of failure peak,

I’ll lift you from the midst
Of your invincible defeat,

But hold me when the darkness sings
And when our faith is weak

We’ll bathe together in those springs
A thousand kisses deep

From At Lunch With Leonard Cohen; Philosophical Songwriter On A Wire by Jon Pareles. New York Times: October 11, 1995, Photo of Leonard Cohen by Roland Godefroy (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia CommonsOriginally posted Oct 18, 2013 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen On “Eastern European Flourishes” He Added To Closing Time & Why That Song Didn’t Get Played “In Country-Western Territory”

My mother was Russian, and she sang beautiful Russian and Yiddish songs. I love the violin, and I did put in those kind of eastern European flourishes in a country-western song [Closing Time], which I think worked rather well. It wasn’t that that didn’t get it played in country-western territory, though. What the country singers and country radio programs didn’t like was that line ‘The whole damn place goes crazy twice, once for the Devil and once for Christ,’ which they found theologically offensive, although I could reconcile it with orthodox Christian thought.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From A Purple Haze To A Purple Patch by Adam Sweeting (The Canberra Times: July 24, 1994)

“I was in it for the robes” Leonard Cohen (A Pretend Monk) – From His Foreword To Zen Confidential

Yeah, Poet-Singer-Songwriter-Icon Leonard Cohen also writes a witty foreword

From Zen Confidential: Confessions of a Wayward Monk by Shozan Jack Haubner:

By Way of a Foreword

This is the best account I have ever read of the education of a Zen monk in America.

I was ordained a long while ago. Shortly thereafter my teacher let me know that I was a “pretend monk.” That was true. I was in it for the robes.

Shozan Jack Haubner has trained for more than nine years with a teacher whom I love, on a mountain that I know. Difference is, he is the real deal. He stuck it out while (many years before he arrived) I escaped.

But now this punk of a monk, who should be tending to his own affairs, has decided to infect the real world with his tall tales, and worse, to let the cat out of the bag. And what a sly, dangerous, beautiful, foul-smelling, heartwarming beast it is. We can almost forgive him.

If you are interested in these matters, this is a book you will enjoy. If you want to go a little deeper, this is a book you will need.

—Jikan Leonard Cohen

Credit Due Department: Contributed by Dominique BOILE. Originally posted Jan 11, 2014 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in.’ That’s the closest thing I could describe to a credo.” Leonard Cohen

‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in.’ That’s the closest thing I could describe to a credo. That idea is one of the foundations, one of the fundamental positions behind a lot of the songs.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Sincerely, L. Cohen by Brian Cullman (Details for Men, January, 1993). Photo by Ted McDonnell.

Leonard Cohen’s Early Versions Of “Undertow”

Closing Time Notebook Version

From “Closing Time” — In-depth Study Page 63 at the Essential Leonard Cohen site (see image above). “Closing Time” required two years to write with Cohen even starting over from scratch on the song as late as March 19921

I set out for love
but I did not know
I’d be caught in the grip
of an undertow
to be spit out on this shore /to be tossed in the shore/
where the sea hates to go
with a child in my arms
and a chill in my soul
and my heart ’bout the size
of a begging bowl

Mount Baldy Version

From Leonard Cohen:  Several Lifetimes Already by Pico Iyer (Shambhala Sun, September, 1998). Update: This article is no longer online. The same verse, however, can be found at Leonard Cohen Unplugged by Pico Iyer (Buzz, Los Angeles: April 1998)

I set out for love, but I did not know I’d be caught in the grip of an undertow. To be swept to a shore, where the sea needs to go, with a child in my arms, and a chill in my soul, and my heart the size of a begging-bowl.

Studio Version

From Dear Heather album (2004)

I set out one night
When the tide was low
There were signs in the sky
But I did not know
I’d be caught in the grip
Of the undertow
Ditched on a beach
Where the sea hates to go
With a child in my arms
And a chill in my soul
And my heart the shape
Of a begging bowl

Note: Originally posted September 22, 2011 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric. In the process of updating this post, I discovered that Tom Sakic set out the same three versions in a June 3, 2005 LeonardCohenForum post – which predates not only my post on this issue but also precedes my first Leonard Cohen post of any sort. The moral  of this tale is, of course, too much research is a dangerous thing.


  1. Source: Various Positions by Ira Nadel (1996 ) []