“I wrote a song like Everybody Knows to close that gap [between private life & public life] and the only way to close it is by speaking of it humourously, speaking of it as a joke, and saying the things that we all know” Leonard Cohen on Everybody Knows

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Without the music and nonsense rhymes, Everybody Knows would be pretty hard to take – the funeral quality of the message. It also pushes things very, very far just to get a laugh and that makes it amusing. It gives a jingle effect that as I say modifies and mitigates the heaviness of the vision. I think that everybody does know these things…These ideas were started a long time ago in my work, but the romantic world is just as Lorca said in that poem Take This Waltz. These romantic images that he’s using…he knows they’re rotten, he know they’re old, he knows they’re finished. That’s why it’s such a modern poem… There seems to be some appetite to say those words: ‘Everybody knows it’s coming apart.’ Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s just because I’m middle-aged and maybe nothing’s coming apart but, to me, those images, those romantic expectations, those religious expectations, the political vocabulary, are obsolete. I’ve never felt so much difference between the private life and the public life. There doesn’t seem to be a public life and there’s nobody speaking in a way that seems to address me… I don’t know why. Maybe I’m just getting old, maybe not, maybe I’m right, so I wrote a song like Everybody Knows to close that gap and the only way to close it is by speaking of it humourously, speaking of it as a joke, and saying the things that we all know.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

I’m Your Man by Alberto Manzano (Rockdelux (Spain): May 1988)

“I accepted the poet’s invitation to enter into this world where fistfuls of ants were thrown at the sun and crystals obscured the pine trees and there were the arches of Elvira to pass through and…” Leonard Cohen On Discovering Federico Garcia Lorca At Age 15

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You know it was many years ago in the city of Montreal that I stumbled upon this volume. I opened it and I accepted the poet’s invitation to enter into this world where fistfuls of ants were thrown at the sun and crystals obscured the pine trees and there were the arches of Elvira to pass through and begin weeping and there were those thighs that slipped away like schools of silver minnows. That was the irresistible seductive invitation I could not resist. I slipped into that fist, I did, I lived among the ants and I learned their ways. I mastered the crystals. I healed many alcoholic gurus with my crystal powers. I passed through the arches of Elvira and I did, I began weeping. That’s nothing new. I saw those thighs glistening like hunting horns and I touched them, I did, I pulled my hand away and I slipped away like a school of silver minnows. I’ve never left that world. I stand here tonight and I invite you all to join me here. There’s lots of space, there’s no boundaries, there’s no politics, no language. All you have to do is celebrate the sunlight coming through the hair of your beloved. It’s a simple thing. And it’s my great honour and my great privilege and my tiny duty to render this homage to the great Spanish poet who invited me there, Federico Garcia Lorca. Take this waltz, take this waltz.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Introduction to “Take This Waltz” at the San Francisco concert (March 7, 1993). In an interview, Cohen mentions that the English translation he first read was done by two men, one of whom was Stephen Spender.” That book is “Poems By García Lorca,” translated by Stephen Spender and J. L. Gili (Oxford University Press, 1939)

Originally posted November 28, 2009 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“When I started the thing, I didn’t realize I had taken my first step on a walk to China.” Leonard Cohen On His Traumatic Translation Of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Poem For Take This Waltz

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‘Take This Waltz’ was written deep into the nervous breakdown. It took me 150 hours to do the translation of the poem [by Federico Garcia Lorca]. It was hard to adapt so you could sing it in 3/4. The official translation – well you couldn’t sing that. So I had to get permission from the [Lorca] estate to do my own translation. And I was sorry that they gave it to me because when I started the thing, I didn’t realize I had taken my first step on a walk to China. [Interviewer: You must read Spanish pretty well.] No, I don’t. I met a Costa Rican girl who helped me with it, and I had other translations that people had done, but they weren’t rhymed. His poem is rhymed. Then I went to Paris to record it, then I broke down and went to a monastery in New Mexico for two months. I thought, ‘I don’t have to do a record anymore, I’ll be a monk!’ It’s good to have these places to go. When I came out I started the record again.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough by Mark Rowland, Musician, July 1988

Cohencentric has published several posts about Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz being based on his translation of Pequeño Vals Vienès by Federico García Lorca:

Adam Cohen & Anjani Thomas Perform Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz In Spanish – Barcelona 2007

Acords Ambs Leonard Cohen Barcelona Concert: Jan 13, 2007

One of the highlights of Acords Ambs Leonard Cohen, a tribute concert to Leonard Cohen featuring Spanish and international artists, was Anjani and Adam Cohen joining voices to perform Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz in Spanish.1

Adam Cohen & Anjani – Take This Waltz (Spanish)
Barcelona: Jan 13, 2007

Note: Originally posted Dec 10, 2007 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz is, of course, based on his translation of Pequeño Vals Vienès (“Little Viennese Waltz”), a poem written in Spanish by Federico Garcia Lorca, []

Video: The Original “Take This Waltz” By Leonard Cohen – 1986

Take-this-Waltz0001-9

Leonard Cohen based the lyrics of “Take This Waltz” on his own translation of “Pequeno Vals Vienés” (“Little Viennese Waltz”), a poem written by Federico Garcia Lorca in 1930 when he was a student at Columbia University. Leonard reported that

The translation took 150 hours, just to get it into English that resembled–I would never presume to say duplicated–the greatness of Lorca’s poem. It was a long, drawn-out affair, and the only reason I would even attempt it is my love for Lorca. I loved him as a kid; I named my daughter Lorca. He is not a casual figure in my life.1

While the best known version of “Take This Waltz” was released Feb 1988 on the “I’m Your Man” album, Leonard Cohen first recorded the song in Sept 1986 at a studio in Paris for “Poetas En Nueva York,” a tribute album commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of the Spanish poet. The 1988 “Take this Waltz” track is, in fact, a remix of the 1986 version, which reached #1 on the Spanish charts, with the addition of Jennifer Warnes on vocals and Raffi Hakopian on violin. Leonard Cohen traveled to Huerta de San Vicente, Lorca’s summer home (now a museum) in Granada to shoot the “Take This Waltz” promotional video for “Poetas En Nueva York.”2

At the April 17, 1988 Antwerp concert, Leonard Cohen introduced “Take this Waltz” with these words:

Last year it was the 50th anniversary of the death of Federico Garcia Lorca, a great Spanish writer. He was the first poet that ever touched me. And I remember the first lines of his that I ever read, that moved me into this delicious racket called poetry. It was: ‘I want to pass through the arches of Elvira, to see your thighs and begin weeping.’ That line burned itself into my heart and I’ve written it over and over again in a hundred songs. This is a song of his, called ‘Little Viennese Waltz’ that I had the great honor to translate and set to music.3

Also see

Leonard Cohen – Take This Waltz
Promotional Video For “Poetas En Nueva York” (1986)
From

Credit Due Department: The image atop this post was contributed by Dominique BOILE.

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  1. From Leonard Cohen and the Death of Cool by David Sprague. Your Flesh magazine: 1992 []
  2. Thanks to Dominique BOILE and Tom Sakic, for this information []
  3. From Leonard Cohen Prologues []

Comparing A Conventional English Translation Of Federico García Lorca’s “Pequeno Vals Vienés” To Leonard Cohen’s “Take This Waltz”

Lorca’s Pequeno Vals Vienés: Small Viennese Waltz By Pablo Medina & Mark Statman And Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz

Cohencentric has published several posts about Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz being based on his translation of Pequeño Vals Vienès by Federico García Lorca:

Now, Dominique BOILE offers an English translation of Lorca’s Pequeno Vals Vienés by Pablo Medina and Mark Statman. The source is Poet in New York: A Bilingual Edition by Federico Garcia Lorca (Author), Pablo Medina (Translator), Mark Statman (Translator). Grove Press: 2007. I have altered the original organization of the book, placing the lines of the poem in Lorca’s original Spanish side by side with the same lines translated into English. The lyrics to Cohen’s Take This Waltz are included at the end of this post.

Lyrics: Take This Waltz by Leonard Cohen
From the I’m Your Man album (1988)

Now in Vienna there’s ten pretty women
There’s a shoulder where Death comes to cry
There’s a lobby with nine hundred windows
There’s a tree where the doves go to die
There’s a piece that was torn from the morning
And it hangs in the Gallery of Frost
Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz
Take this waltz with the clamp on its jaws

Oh I want you, I want you, I want you
On a chair with a dead magazine
In the cave at the tip of the lily
In some hallways where love’s never been
On a bed where the moon has been sweating
In a cry filled with footsteps and sand
Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz
Take its broken waist in your hand

This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz
With its very own breath of brandy and Death
Dragging its tail in the sea

There’s a concert hall in Vienna
Where your mouth had a thousand reviews
There’s a bar where the boys have stopped talking
They’ve been sentenced to death by the blues
Ah, but who is it climbs to your picture
With a garland of freshly cut tears?
Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz
Take this waltz it’s been dying for years

There’s an attic where children are playing
Where I’ve got to lie down with you soon
In a dream of Hungarian lanterns
In the mist of some sweet afternoon
And I’ll see what you’ve chained to your sorrow
All your sheep and your lilies of snow
Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz
With its “I’ll never forget you, you know!”

This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz …

And I’ll dance with you in Vienna
I’ll be wearing a river’s disguise
The hyacinth wild on my shoulder,
My mouth on the dew of your thighs
And I’ll bury my soul in a scrapbook,
With the photographs there, and the moss
And I’ll yield to the flood of your beauty
My cheap violin and my cross
And you’ll carry me down on your dancing
To the pools that you lift on your wrist
Oh my love, Oh my love
Take this waltz, take this waltz
It’s yours now. It’s all that there is

Note: Originally posted July 26, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Video: Leonard Cohen & The Lip-synching Lennettes Perform Take This Waltz – Norwegian TV, Feb 13, 1988

This is another iteration of the 1988 promotions Leonard Cohen made with backup singers, usually anonymous stand-ins, lip-synching his songs on TV in France, Germany, Belgium, and other European countries. Other videos of thee promotions can be viewed at

Thanks to Maria Cohen Viana, who alerted me to this video

Take This Waltz By Leonard Cohen – The PowerPoint Version

PowerPoint Rescues Leonard Cohen Fan – And Bob Dylan

In response to First We Take Manhattan By Leonard Cohen – The PowerPoint Version, I received this missive from handweaver:

I enjoyed your PowerPoint of First we take Manhattan.  I spend far too much time listening to “Take this Waltz;” can you possibly produce a power point of that also?  Then I might have more time for something else, like maybe Bob Dylan; I’ve neglected him sadly of late.

Now, as is true of most PowerPoint performers, DrHGuy usually doesn’t take requests. Doing so smacks of pandering, and artistes such as DrHGuy don’t cotton to that.

On the other hand, transforming “Take This Waltz” into PowerPoint did seem to be not only be an interesting challenge but also an effective means of proving that the success of  the “First We Take Manhattan” slide show wasn’t a one-time fluke.

And, of course, one does try to help out youngsters like Bobby whenever possible.

The Antiquated, Expensive, Time-consuming Conventional Performance of “Take This Waltz”

While quite nice in its own way, the live performance of this piece requires well over 5 minutes (not including the time required for band introductions on this video).

Leonard Cohen – Take This Waltz
Dublin O2: July 19, 2009
Video from albertnoonan

The Efficient, Quantifiable PowerPoint of “Take This Waltz”

In addition to the advantages previously noted in First We Take Manhattan By Leonard Cohen – The PowerPoint Version, the savings of time and expense, the reduced risk to Leonard himself from the obviation of excessive skipping, and the increased availability provided by PowerPoint, as one cannot help but appreciate the insights afforded by this format. Spotlighting the ratio of Pretty Women to Lobby Windows to Mouth Reviews (see Slide 6) alone will necessitate a complete reassessment of the traditional concept of the song’s feminist-architectural-critical dimensional nexus.

Viewing The PowerPoint Slides

For best viewing of the PowerPoint simulation, click on the image of the top left slide in the set below these instructions (titled “Take This Waltz By Leonard Cohen”).  Then proceed through the slides by moving the cursor to the middle right border of the graphic and clicking on the arrow that appears. See illustration at right.

Note: Originally posted Jun 14, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric