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


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)

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


  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, 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, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Videos: All Six Songs From 1988 Leonard Cohen Live At Roskilde TV Broadcast

Dance Me To The End Of Love, Everybody Knows, First We Take Manhattan, Take This Waltz, Hallelujah,  Suzanne

On July 2, 1988, Leonard Cohen appeared  at the 1988 Roskilde Festival, held south of Roskilde, Denmark. Six of those songs were broadcast on TV2 Denmark. a1000kissesdeep (aka Tom Sakic to ongoing readers) has uploaded these to YouTube. Although all six suffer from color distortion, these videos are fascinating, not only because of the impressive performances by Leonard Cohen and his musicians but also due to the exuberant, banner-waving audience. Worthy of special note is Everybody Knows, which offers a precursor to one of Leonard Cohen’s signature moves during the 2008-2013 tours – kneeling beside John Bilezikjian on the oud  as he would later kneel beside Javier Mas to establish face to face contact as he sings and Mas plays.

1. Dance Me To The End Of Love
2. Everybody Knows
3. First We Take Manhattan
4. Take This Waltz
5. Hallelujah
6. Suzanne

Embedded below is  a representative performance, Take This Waltz.

Leonard Cohen – Take This Waltz
Roskilde: July 2, 1988

Note: Originally posted Aug 6, 2011 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Toward An Understanding Of Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz


Notes On And Recommended Analyses Of Take This Waltz

The Unrealized Potential of Cohen’s Take This Waltz in The Gin Game, a two-part discussion1 published earlier this year triggered interest among reader about the song itself. Now, in my personal edition of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the “need to analyze Take This Waltz” falls somewhere between the “need to distinguish between sierra gold and amber sunshine” and the “need to catch a bowling ball dropped from a five story building in ones teeth.” I can, nonetheless, offer some notes and direction toward an understanding of Leonard Cohen’s 1986 tribute to  Federico García Lorca.

Leonard Cohen On Lorca

Take This Waltz is an especially important song in the Leonard Cohen canon, in large part because the lyrics derive from Pequeño Vals Vienès  (“Little Viennese Waltz”), a poem written in Spanish by Federico Garcia Lorca (pictured on right).

Cohen has commented on his discovery of Lorca’s poem and its significance in numerous concerts and interviews. These quotations are representative.

I was fifteen when I began to read Federico Garcia Lorca. His poems perhaps have had the greatest influence on my texts. He summoned up a world where I felt at home. His images were sensual and mysterious: “throw a fist full of ants to the sun.” I wanted to be able to write something like that as well. A few years ago I wrote a musical adaptation of Lorca’s “Little Viennese Waltz .” Then I noticed what a complex writer he was: it took me more than a hundred hours just to translate the poem. Lorca is one of those rare poets with whom you can stay in love for life.2

Continue Reading →

  1. See Part 1: The Basics Of The Play & Its Add-on Dance Scene and Part 2:The Tragedy Of Love Touched But Not Grasped []
  2. From ‘Gesprek met Leonard Cohen, de boeteprediker van de popmuziek; Het Oude Testament is mijn handboek’ [Talk with Leonard Cohen, the philosopher of pop music; the Old Testament is my guide] by Pieter Steinz, NRC: December 4, 1992. translated by Anja Deelen []