“The Party’s Over But I’ve Landed On My Feet” Leonard Cohen’s The Street & The 9/11 Attacks

Leonard Cohen began writing “A Street” just after the Sept 11, 2001 Attacks but only released it as a song in 2014 on the Popular Problems album. As he explained to a group of journalists prior to the album’s release, “It’s taken this long for (‘A Street’) to find that path of expression.”1

A Street – The Poem

A version of “A Street” appeared as a poem in the March 2, 2009 New Yorker:

A Street By Leonard Cohen

I used to be your favorite drunk
Good for one more laugh
Then we both ran out of luck
And luck was all we had

You put on a uniform
To fight the Civil War
I tried to join but no one liked
The side I’m fighting for

So let’s drink to when it’s over
And let’s drink to when we meet
I’ll be standing on this corner
Where there used to be a street

You left me with the dishes
And a baby in the bath
And you’re tight with the militias
You wear their camouflage

I guess that makes us equal
But I want to march with you
An extra in the sequel
To the old red-white-and-blue

So let’s drink to when it’s over
And let’s drink to when we meet
I’ll be standing on this corner
Where there used to be a street

I cried for you this morning
And I’ll cry for you again
But I’m not in charge of sorrow
So please don’t ask me when

I know the burden’s heavy
As you bear it through the night
Some people say it’s empty
But that doesn’t mean it’s light

So let’s drink to when it’s over
And let’s drink to when we meet
I’ll be standing on this corner
Where there used to be a street

It’s going to be September now
For many years to come
Every heart adjusting
To that strict September drum

I see the Ghost of Culture
With numbers on his wrist
Salute some new conclusion
Which all of us have missed

So let’s drink to when it’s over
And let’s drink to when we meet
I’ll be standing on this corner
Where there used to be a street

A Street – The Song

The lyrics of “A Street” shifted between the New Yorker publication and the Popular Problems release. The song version is a blues lamentation that memorializes – and transcends – the tragedy of 9/11. Spoken as much as sung in Cohen’s gritty intonations, “A Street” also commemorates a phenomenon both more personal and universal than a nation’s survival of a single catastrophic event.

Credit Due Department: Photo by Maarten Massa

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  1. Leonard Cohen on the Inner Workings of His New Album ‘Popular Problems’  by Todd Aaron Jensen (Biography: Dec 1, 2014) []

Leonard Cohen Identifies Popular Problems

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Death, disease, God, faith, war, peace, etc, just like the hassles of everyday life, never evaporate. Then, as there is no way to solve them, they are problematic. These are our Popular Problems.

Leonard Cohen, quoted in Le retour du Canadien errant [The return of the wandering Canadian] by André Péloquin (Montreal Voir: Sept 12, 2014) English via Google Translate. This article includes information from a brief private meeting between Leonard Cohen and the author at the LA Listening Event and is certainly worth reading, even in the awkwardness of automatic translation. Originally posted September 13, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Talks About The Placement Of Songs On The Old Ideas, Popular Problems, Or You Want It Darker Album

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Most of the songs of the last three albums [Old Ideas, Popular Problems, You Want It Darker] were songs that I’ve been working on for many years. Their placement in one album or another depended on when I was able to complete them. You Want It Darker does not stand in deliberate contrast to Almost Like The Blues. These themes have been kicking around for quite a while. They just came together at different times.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Adam Cohen à la rescousse by Alain de Repentigny [From English Q&A] (La Presse: Oct 19, 2016).

More Information About You Want It Darker

Information about You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen, including reviews like this, is collected and updated at Info & Updates: Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker