Leonard Cohen Affirms His Song “Democracy” Is “Free Of Irony Or Skepticism”

Everyone is of course allowed to interpret my lyrics as he or she wants, it’s never been my policy to police my audience. But although “Democracy” deals with big subject, it is free of irony or skepticism. Democracy is the last great religion, the greatest of all because it accommodates other religions and cultures. If there is one place on earth where democracy has a chance then it’s America, where different races and cultures are condemned to each other, the political system may be in stalemate, it still has a democratic tradition of more than two hundred years – “the machinery of change and the spiritual thirst,” as I sing in ‘Democracy’. The United States is still the experimental field of democracy, the arena in which the significant confrontations are taking place: between the races, between classes and between the sexes. That makes life in America so uncomfortable and yet so inspiring. “Democracy” is a hymn that I wrote when the Berlin Wall fell. Everyone surrounding me was optimistic, but I had a premonition of the misery that awaited the post-communist world. To me it seemed naive to think that democracy would come to the Eastern bloc overnight.

Leonard Cohen


From ‘Gesprek met Leonard Cohen, de boeteprediker van de popmuziek; Het Oude Testament is mijn handboek’ [Talk with Leonard Cohen, the philosopher of pop music; the Old Testament is my guide] by Pieter Steinz, NRC: December 4, 1992.

Credit Due Department: Contributed & translated by Anja Deelen