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, []

“If you’re interested in forming yourself through your work, then you have to keep uncovering and discarding those slogans until you get to something.” Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen: Geneva - Oct 27, 2008
So much of the work that I hear, there’s nothing wrong with it, but much of it has the feel of a slogan or an agenda that has already been written. But if you’re interested in forming yourself through your work, then you have to keep uncovering and discarding those slogans until you get to something.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From Leonard Cohen, Down From the Mountain by Neil Strauss (Rolling Stone: March 19, 2009). Photo by Rama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 fr (], via Wikimedia Commons

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

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, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“I never felt alien from popular culture…” Leonard Cohen On Artistic Work Connecting With The World

I’ve never had a strategy. To me it was perfectly natural that my work would penetrate and find an audience in the popular culture and I think you can approach it in any way you want. I think it’s important not to let it tyrannize you. I don’t think we’re completely creatures of that culture and neither are we creatures of our own personal culture. We’re continually moving back and forth between those two areas. I never had a strategy because I never felt alien from popular culture. You just set the thing up in the way you can handle it. I don’t have the kind of mind to do anything else. I think Irving Layton once described my mind as ‘unblemished by a single idea.’ I never had a plan. I had a certain kind of faith although. I would never have given that word to it. If the work was good enough or, more specifically, if the work was appropriate to move into the world, it would move into the world. There are certain kinds of work that stay with you. You don’t develop any kind of chip on your shoulder because that kind of work doesn’t move out or gain hundreds of admirers. I have a clear idea of the process, of a song, say, in the popular realm. The world can use certain kinds of work at certain times and at certain times it can’t. You can’t develop an ideology about the world or about yourself in regard to how your work is accepted. You just do what you have to do to satisfy a certain hunger or loneliness, in order to make contact with the world. There is a tradition of contact that has been going on for thousands of years. It’s not just your solitary effort in the matter but generations of men before you who have done the same thing and have tended to connect the same kind of way. So that tradition is there. You can lean on it and be encouraged by it and sustained by it. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen: Working for the World to Come. The interview (probably from 1982) was published in the book In Their Own Words: Interviews with fourteen Canadian writers, by Bruce Mayer and Brian O’Riordan, 1984. Found at LeonardCohenfiles. Originally posted Dec 20, 2013 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“What I have to say is not based on any particular idea, but just on an urgency.” Leonard Cohen

I never thought of myself as a musician or a writer. I just happened upon these instruments, and I’ve used them in the most direct and immediate way just to produce a setting for something I have to say. What I have to say is not based on any particular idea, but just on an urgency.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


Leonard Cohen: Pondering His Past and ‘The Future’ by Scott Crawford (Intermission, Stanford Daily: April 8, 1993). Originally posted at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“Just pure confession I never felt was really interesting. But confession filtered through a tradition of skill and hard work is interesting to me.” Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen - Helsinki 2010. Photo by Vesa

From ‘I’m Blessed With A Certain Amnesia’ by Jian Ghomeshi. The Guardian: July 9, 2009. Accessed 30 April 2014. Photo by Vesa Tapiola Originally posted Oct 30, 2014 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric