Video: The Original “Take This Waltz” By Leonard Cohen – 1986


Leonard Cohen based the lyrics of “Take This Waltz” on his own translation of “Pequeno Vals Vienés” (“Little Viennese Waltz”), a poem written by Federico Garcia Lorca in 1930 when he was a student at Columbia University. Leonard reported that

The translation took 150 hours, just to get it into English that resembled–I would never presume to say duplicated–the greatness of Lorca’s poem. It was a long, drawn-out affair, and the only reason I would even attempt it is my love for Lorca. I loved him as a kid; I named my daughter Lorca. He is not a casual figure in my life.1

While the best known version of “Take This Waltz” was released Feb 1988 on the “I’m Your Man” album, Leonard Cohen first recorded the song in Sept 1986 at a studio in Paris for “Poetas En Nueva York,” a tribute album commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of the Spanish poet. The 1988 “Take this Waltz” track is, in fact, a remix of the 1986 version, which reached #1 on the Spanish charts, with the addition of Jennifer Warnes on vocals and Raffi Hakopian on violin. Leonard Cohen traveled to Huerta de San Vicente, Lorca’s summer home (now a museum) in Granada to shoot the “Take This Waltz” promotional video for “Poetas En Nueva York.”2

At the April 17, 1988 Antwerp concert, Leonard Cohen introduced “Take this Waltz” with these words:

Last year it was the 50th anniversary of the death of Federico Garcia Lorca, a great Spanish writer. He was the first poet that ever touched me. And I remember the first lines of his that I ever read, that moved me into this delicious racket called poetry. It was: ‘I want to pass through the arches of Elvira, to see your thighs and begin weeping.’ That line burned itself into my heart and I’ve written it over and over again in a hundred songs. This is a song of his, called ‘Little Viennese Waltz’ that I had the great honor to translate and set to music.3

Also see

Leonard Cohen – Take This Waltz
Promotional Video For “Poetas En Nueva York” (1986)

Credit Due Department: The image atop this post was contributed by Dominique BOILE.


  1. From Leonard Cohen and the Death of Cool by David Sprague. Your Flesh magazine: 1992 []
  2. Thanks to Dominique BOILE and Tom Sakic, for this information []
  3. From Leonard Cohen Prologues []

2 Replies to “Video: The Original “Take This Waltz” By Leonard Cohen – 1986”

  1. Joan King

    OMG…how can a man be Sooooo handsome….a real heart-stopper, with such a beautiful recording, and such amazing visuals. An absolute must to ‘save’ Thank you Allan