“I was not unaware of the ironic impact of saying, ‘Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.,’ but the song is affirmative. I just can’t keep my tongue in my cheek that long.” Leonard Cohen

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I began to write it when the events in Eastern Europe began to indicate there was a democratic resurrection, and the Berlin Wall came down and people were saying, democracy is coming to the East. I was one of those people who weren’t entirely convinced that this was going to happen, and that it wasn’t going to come about without a tremendous amount of suffering. I was not unaware of the ironic impact of saying, ‘Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.,’ but the song is affirmative. I just can’t keep my tongue in my cheek that long. I’m Canadian, and we watch America very carefully. Everybody in the world watches America. And regardless of the skepticism and irony, [wiseguy] superiority that most intellectual circles have about America, it is acknowledged that this is where the experiment is taking place, where the races are confronting one another, where the rich and poor are confronting one another, where men and women, the classes…this is the great laboratory of democracy.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

The Loneliness of the Long-Suffering Folkie by Wayne Robins (Newsday: November 22, 1992)

Video: Leonard Cohen Performs Democracy – Berlin 2012

Leonard Cohen – Democracy
Berlin: Sept 5, 2012
Video by

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on

Note: Originally posted Sep 6, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“Much of [The Future] was occasioned by the collapse of the Berlin Wall, because even though it is impossible not to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, I alone among my friends produced a gloomy prediction.” Leonard Cohen

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Much of this record [The Future] was occasioned by the collapse of the Berlin Wall, because even though it is impossible not to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, I alone among my friends produced a gloomy prediction. People were saying democracy is coming to the East – fat chance! If it’s coming anywhere, it’s coming to the United States. I had 50 verses for that song ‘Democracy:’ one of them went: ‘It ain’t coming to us European style, concentration camp behind the smile. / It ain’t coming from the East with its temporary feast. / Count Dracula comes strolling down the aisle.’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen…What’s Your Problem? Doom and Gloom by Patrick Humphries (Vox: February, 1993),

Indian Supreme Court Invokes Lyrics From Leonard Cohen’s Democracy In Striking Down Statute Criminalizing Homosexuality

On Thursday, in a historic judgment, the 5-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court announced the strike down of the 158-year-old Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalizes homosexuality. While reading out the judgment, Justice Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud quoted the lyrics of ‘Democracy’ by Leonard Cohen.

From India Rejects 377: Justice Chandrachud Quotes A Song By Leonard Cohen by Gunjan K, Republic: September 06, 2018. The pertinent lyrics follow [emphasis mine]:

It’s coming through a hole in the air
From those nights in Tiananmen Square
It’s coming from the feel
That this ain’t exactly real
Or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there
From the wars against disorder
From the sirens night and day
From the fires of the homeless
From the ashes of the gay
Democracy is coming to the USA

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Eugene McLaughlin, who alerted me to this issue. Eugene also took the photo atop this post.

“Robert Altman said that [Democracy, the song Leonard Cohen was writing] sounded like a three-act play. Cohen figures it would’ve been easier to write the play.”

Cohen told a friend, director Robert Altman, he was writing a song about democracy in America after the fall of the Berlin Wall; Altman said that sounded like a three-act play. Cohen figures it would’ve been easier to write the play. He then recites one of the verses that ended up on the cutting-room floor:

It ain’t coming to us European style
Concentration camp behind the smile.
It ain’t coming from the east
With its temporary feast
As Count Dracula comes strolling down the aisle

Apparently this was too gloomy.

From Rebirth of a Ladies’ Man By Brendan Kelly. The Financial Post: December 12, 1992. Graphic atop post contributed by Dominique BOILE.

Leonard Cohen Talks About Poetry As A Way To Win Women’s Hearts, Country Music, His Chop, His London Landlady, L.A. & Catastrophe, Performs Democracy, The Future, & Dance Me To The End of Love On Later With Jools Holland – 1993

Featuring Julie Christensen & Perla Batalla

This video offers the complete Later With Jools Holland show (BBC), taped May 12, 1993 and broadcast May 14, 1993, featuring Leonard Cohen. It includes an informative and entertaining interview with Leonard, a 1967 clip of Leonard & Julie Felix performing Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye, and Leonard’s stellar performances of Democracy, The Future, and Dance Me To The End Of Love with Julie Christensen & Perla Batalla.

Update: The complete show video is no longer online. Instead, see

 

Credit Due Department:Thanks to Linda Sturgess, who alerted me to this video

“So can you place me on the political chessboard from that song [Democracy]? Is it religious? Is it political? Is it social? Is it a joke? Is it mystical? A mystical democrat?” Leonard Cohen

Do you regularly read the newspaper?

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Sometimes, at the moment I get the paper every morning. And of course during the Gulf War, I watched the TV night and day like everyone else. I try to stay informed. I listen to the news on the radio. It’s like the last verse of my song, ‘I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean / I love the country but I can’t stand the scene / I’m neither left nor right, I’m just stayin’ home tonight / Getting lost in that hopeless little screen / But I’m as stubborn as those garbage bags that time cannot decay / I’m junk but I’m still holding up this little wild bouquet / Democracy is coming to the USA.’ So, can you place me on the political chessboard from that song [laughs]? Is it religious? Is it political? Is it social? Is it a joke? Is it mystical? A mystical democrat [laughs]…quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate.

“I’m in the prophecy business; but, I work so slowly that the business is almost bankrupt.” Leonard Cohen

sanseb
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Well, I know I’m in the prophecy business; but, I work so slowly that the business is almost bankrupt. For instance, I began this song about democracy in ’88 and I didn’t get it out till ’92. Well, by the time I got it out, the song was co-opted as a tool for the Democratic Party. It was played on the radio stations in the week of the election and it seemed to fit in with the President Elect’s programme.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen’s The Future Interview by Bob Mackowitz. Transcript from a radio special produced by Interviews Unlimited for Sony Music, 1992. Originally posted May 7, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric