“It can be tricky working in original genres.” Leonard Cohen

It can be tricky working in original genres. There aren’t really any other songs like this [Democracy]. You’re creating forms and it’s hard to know where to take them. So you say to the guitarist, Play it so it sounds like . . . what? There’s no real precedent. It’s hard for yourself too. You end up thinking, Is there really a song here? Does it actually exist? You’re constantly dealing with these doubts.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


Leonard Cohen: Porridge? Lozenge? Syringe? by Adrian Deevoy. Q, 1991.

Bob Seger Covers Leonard Cohen’s Democracy On New Album

Bob Seger’s new album, I Knew You When, (to be released Nov 17, 2017) will include his cover of Leonard Cohen’s Democracy.

Seger has long declared himself an admirer of Leonard Cohen, naming his 1975 Beautiful Loser album after the Canadian singer-songwriter’s second novel. Read his comments at Bob Seeger On Leonard Cohen Inspiring His Song “Beautiful Loser”

“I asked myself, ‘Where is democracy really coming?’ And it was the USA.” Leonard Cohen On Writing Democracy

I addressed almost everything that was going on in America. This was when the Berlin Wall came down and everyone was saying democracy is coming to the East. I was the gloomy fellow who always turns up at a party to ruin the orgy or something. And I said, ‘I don’t think it’s going to happen that way. I don’t think this is such a good idea. I think a lot of suffering will be a consequence of this wall coming down.’ But then I asked myself, ‘Where is democracy really coming?’ And it was the USA. The USA is really where the experiment is unfolding. This is really where races confront one another, where the classes, where the genders, where even the sexual orientations confront one another. This is the real laboratory of democracy.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo (Da Capo Press: 2003) p. 335. Photo by Paul Zollo.

“[Democracy is] reduced to the real basic, unsplittable atom, which is the individual in whatever condition he is, wheezing, broken, sick, or triumphant, saying ‘Me too. This depends on me.'” Leonard Cohen

From Party Time? Leonard Cohen Gets Caught with a Cockeyed Grin by Charles Taylor (Boston Phoenix: November 27, 1992), Originally posted November 4, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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, []

Best Of 2008-2010 Leonard Cohen Tour: Closing Time – San Jose 2009

Closing Time - San Jose with blouse in upper right being flung to stage

Closing Time – San Jose with blouse in upper right being flung to stage

Women’s Blouses In Flight At Closing Time Of Leonard Cohen San Jose Concert

Yeah the women tear their blouses off
and the men they dance on the polka-dots

From “Closing Time” by Leonard Cohen

Albert Noonan, better known in Cohen Country as albertnoonan, Vizier Of Videography, was good enough to alert us that minors should be removed from the room prior to the viewing of this recording in order to shield innocent children from exposure to this raucous rendition of the classic Cohen tune.

Yes, what you see is what happened – feminine clothing is repeatedly launched from the audience onto the stage, whoops are whooped, the unflappable Leonard Cohen loses his place in the song (1:18), and, in general, a good time is had by all.

Leonard Cohen – Closing Time
San Jose: Nov 13, 2009

Video by albertnoonan

Bonus: Democracy Is Coming To San Jose

“Democracy,” an especially popular feature of concerts earlier in the Leonard Cohen World Tour, had been absent for some time but was resurrected as the final song of the final 2009 US concert.

Leonard Cohen – Democracy
San Jose: Nov 13, 2009
Video by albertnoonan


Credit Due Department: Photo of San Jose HP Pavilion by Kim Solez of Leonard Cohen Night. Photo atop this post is a video screen capture.

Note: Originally posted Nov 14, 2009 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric