“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)

“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),

“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.

“[Democracy] makes people act, whether it’s for the good or the bad… But we see that the populations of the world are no longer content with their previous positions in regard to authority. Democracy makes everybody nervous.” Leonard Cohen 1993

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I think we are on the edge of a democratic experiment. I think it has begun. I think that the idea has escaped into the world. It becomes a kind of necessity that is stronger than hope, and it will result in a tremendous amount of human suffering like all other ideas that get into the air like an infection. I don’t know whether there’s an absolute quality to democracy or to Islam or to Christianity, but it’s like fuel—it makes people act, whether it’s for the good or the bad, I couldn’t possibly decide. But we see that the populations of the world are no longer content with their previous positions in regard to authority. Democracy makes everybody nervous.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From The Future by Alberto Manzano (El Europeo: Spring 1993)

“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

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


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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.