Leonard Cohen Identifies Voice In Night Comes On As “My Mother’s True Voice”

Courtesy of Maarten Massa

I went down to the place where I knew she lay waiting
Under the marble and the snow
I said, Mother I’m frightened, the thunder and the lightning
I’ll never come through this alone
She said, I’ll be with you, my shawl wrapped around you
My hand on your head when you go
And the night came on, it was very calm
I wanted the night to go on and on
But she said, go back, go back to the world

From Night Comes On by Leonard Cohen

AL: In the song “Night Comes On,” I guess it’s the mother who asks the son to return to the world … That’s my interpretation.
LC: That’s right.

AL: What is the voice that made you return to the world? Is she spiritual? Material? Sexual or Sensual?
LC: This is probably my mother’s true voice.

AL: Masha. You remembered and you went back into the world, you came back to us.
LC: The voice of my mother in my life – she died a few years ago – remains the wisest,

AL: wisdom?
LC: Wisdom. A wisdom not sublime, not exalted, not …

AL: something quiet, peaceful?
LC: Quiet and practical, pragmatic.


Meeting with Leonard Cohen – Interview by Albert Labbouz  Translation and adaptation: Dr. Marc Gaffié (Patrice Clos: “Throughout the conversation, Leonard spoke mainly in French but also in English. It is this synthesis of the two languages ​​that was absolutely necessary.”) Paris, June 29, 2001. Published in French; this excerpt via Google Translate.

All posts dealing with Leonard Cohen’s mother can be found at

Background Dossier: Night Comes On By Leonard Cohen


After 25 Year Lapse, Night Comes On Reappears At Leonard Cohen Concert – Auckland 2010

This excerpt from a LeonardCohenForum post written by mwestern about his experiences at the second Leonard Cohen Auckland concert on October 29, 2010 succinctly and vividly describes the highlight of the night:

And the BIG surprise – when did Leonard last play Night Comes On? The answer is now Auckland, October 29, 2010. A completely solo version – no backing vocals, and I couldn’t see any others playing – they just stood around on stage watching Leonard. 12000 jaws dropped.

Rarely has jaw-dropping been more justified during the Leonard Cohen World Tour. The last time this tune was performed by Leonard Cohen in concert was 1985.1

Background on the song follows:

Night Comes On – The Studio Version

Various_positionsNight Comes On was released on the Various Positions album on Dec 11, 1984 in Canada (Feb 1985 in US & Europe).

Night Comes On Performed In 1985


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  1. There was, it turns out), at least one earlier clue that a current rendition of “Night Comes On” was possible. In his blog, Daniel Wyszogrodzki wrote (as Google translates it) about attending the soundcheck prior to the October 10, 2010 Warsaw concert:

    At the concert of Leonard Cohen – my favorite artist – I visit for 25 years and has repeatedly written about them. Each one is unique, the magic of this man is a cause everyone is different. But the concert in Warsaw on 10 October Torwar this year recorded in the memory in a unique way. I witnessed history.

    Before he took on the nature of the historic day, I witnessed something more than history – a magical moment. 15:00 hours on an empty stage with a guitar enters Torwar Leonard Cohen. It begins with an attempt to sound (soundcheck). He is alone on stage, I sit alone in the audience, prepared to take a few hours five thousand spectators. Leonard palcuje some Spanish guitar chords – guitar players know what I mean. E major, F major, G major. Surprise in A minor, and the characteristic Fingersex at breakneck speed. What that is, “Avalanche”?

    No. Cohen begins to sing and to my surprise, it was his very popular and rarely performed song “The Night Comes On.” And what’s more, the execution is not the end. Soundman has long set the “vocals”, bass strings are no longer buzz in the guitar and sings Cohen – over and over again the same thing, incidentally repeatedly losing words. Meanwhile, the musicians begin to descend. I join him in turn. And when at the microphone are celestial two sisters Webb, the song acquires its full momentum. Not only am I the only spectator “private” concert Cohen, but this version takes more than 50 minutes! Played and they sound fantastic. But this is by no means the end of the warm-up. You are about to hear my favorite song “The Future”, then – the first time in my life – the premiere song “Feels So Good.” Perform even the “Dance Me To The End Of Love”, which always starts from the concerts. [emphasis mine] []