Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I'm Your Man

CONTEST – Leonard Cohen at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton – May 19, 2009

Photo via AEGAEG LiveI’ve given away a lot of stuff over the years, some big, some small, but most or all, I like to think, pretty cool and of genuine interest to those who visit. But I think I can say with no small degree of certainty that this is the coolest contest I’ve ever been able to run.

Leonard Cohen is a figure for whom the term “living legend” was created. He’s not just a Canadian icon, but a global one. He’s… well come on. He’s Leonard Cohen. And though he’s kept a low profile in recent years, he returned to full-on active duty last year with a rapturously-received Canadian and European tour and has carried that forward into 2009, first being revealed as one of the top-billed performers at Coachella, then playing his first American show in over 15 years in New York City last week and almost before that show was over, announcing a massive North American tour. Having played a four-night stand in Toronto last year, he’s not coming to the 416 this time around but will be just down the QEW on May 19 for a date at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton.

And this is where it gets exciting. Courtesy of AEG Live, I have two pairs of tickets to give away for the show. That’s right. Leonard Cohen tickets. For you. The public on-sale for the show is at 10AM on Monday morning, but rather than feverishly hitting refresh on your browser when you should be working and worrying about getting shunted to TicketsNow, two lucky readers will be able to sit back and relax in the knowledge that two golden ducats will be waiting for them at the Copps will call on the 19th of May. Are you excited? Hell, I’m excited and I don’t even know if I’m going to get to go to the show.

And it’s going to work like this. To enter, you need to select your favourite Leonard Cohen lyric, be it a line, a couplet, a verse, and tell me why you love it. Make it 100-150 words, give or take, and leave it in the comments. The submission is just the price of admission – winners will still be chosen at random from submissions. Make sure to include your email in the submission so I can contact the winners. Closing time for this one will be Sunday night, March 1, at midnight. Hop to it.

And to send you on your way and get you in the spirit, Leonard just contributed a new poem to The New Yorker. His Live In London album, taken from last year’s tour, is out on March 31 – details at Billboard.

Update: The New York Times has an interview.
Update 2: NPR is streaming his show at the Beacon Theatre in NYC from last week.
Update 3: The Globe & Mail has an interview.

Contest is closed – congratulations to Matthew and Dimitri, who won the tickets. Thanks to everyone for participating.

Video: Leonard Cohen – “Democracy”
Video: Leonard Cohen – “Closing Time”
Video: Leonard Cohen – “Dance Me To The End Of Love”
Video: Leonard Cohen – “In My Secret Life”
Video: Leonard Cohen – “First We Take Manhattan”
MySpace: Leonard Cohen

By : Frank Yang at 7:10 pm
Category: Contests


RSS Feed for this post27 Responses.
  1. david says:

    Closing Time

    Ah we’re drinking and we’re dancing
    And the band is really happening
    And the Johnny Walker wisdom running high
    And my very sweet companion
    She’s the Angel of Compassion
    She’s rubbing half the world against her thigh
    And every drinker every dancer
    Lifts a happy face to thank her
    The fiddler fiddles something so sublime
    All the women tear their blouses off
    And the men they dance on the polka-dots
    And it’s partner found, it’s partner lost
    And it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops:
    It’s CLOSING TIMEYeah the women tear their blouses off
    And the men they dance on the polka-dots
    And it’s partner found, it’s partner lost
    And it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops:

    I have chosen Closing Time from the Future. It’s one of the rare tunes where Leonard has a knee’s up and let’s rip in his own droll way. The imagery in this song evokes a whirling dervish of a hootenanny unhinged, unbridled sex and drink and totally joyous yet apolocalyptic. i love how this song dances and the way that leonard calls out the dance as if he’s the bandleader for the titantic and it’s a call to arms. Hey, the song could metaphorically be a song for our times post meltdown and fuck global environmental meltdown let’s dance our troubles away.

  2. Jack says:

    “They say that all the men you knew
    Were strangers who said they were through
    With dealing every time you gave them shelter

    I know that kind of man
    It’s hard to hold the hand of anyone
    Who is reaching for the sky just to surrender”

    I have selected the opening lines of “The Stranger Song” from Len’s debut album. I saw some footage about twenty years ago of him performing it on the CBC circa 1967, and it was wonderful. I’ve been a huge fan ever since. Picking one line or verse from LC’s extraordinary back catalogue is extremely difficult, simply because he’s such a great poet/lyricist. But since these lines were my gateway into his world, I chose them to represent my love of his work.

  3. D says:

    Everybody knows that you love me baby
    Everybody knows that you really do
    Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful
    Ah give or take a night or two
    Everybody knows you’ve been discreet
    But there were so many people you just had to meet
    Without your clothes
    And everybody knows

    It’s not much the words themselves to be honest, but their delivery. These lyrics are taken to an absolutely different level by his sarcastic and dry tone. Considering his own life these words are clearly personal and probably are directed at himself and his lover simultaneously. There’s so much experience in this couplet, so much bitterness and disappointment. It’s one of Mr Cohen’s later period songs that I actually prefer to his earlier stuff. Maturity befits his subject matter – that’s why any cover of this song is inferior to the original.

  4. Kate says:

    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.

    From Take This Waltz, I’m Your Man, 1988.

    The whole song builds to this moment — this moment of sheer surrender to a love that’s exquisitely broken, but you would give anything to recapture. Just please, I beg you, take my hand, let’s dance this last waltz. It’s all that’s left, it’s all that there is. Let us live in that moment as long as we can. The chorus of women that carry you out of the song with the “la la la, la la la”… kills me every time. It’s a perfect mixture of profanely and playfully cheesy with the achingly earnest. Leonard’s a genius.

  5. Matt says:

    Favourite Leonard Cohen? Ah, c’mon! Here’s the refrain to a brand new one (available at thenewyorker.com– frontpage link, where for poems is RARE) called “A Street”– and yes, I like it:

    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 think what D said, about the delivery – or tone – being more important than the words, is important again here. This ballad is artificial (as good ones often are; though sincere ones are good too! Cohen just doesn’t seem to be after sincere here!). And the overcookedness of the ballad helps to emphasize or problematizes the reconciliation that the refrain suggests. I mean, what’s he lamenting? A love affair? The speaker was the love-object/person-being-addressed’s “favourite drunk”! Seems like a fling. Or is it just that the speaker is so aware of the pastness of the flirting and is not re-orientating the focus to the ordinary, almost trivial, yet very serious issues of being a single parent, with little income, raising a child. And yet there is that refrain!

    Wonderful ballad! Here’s to hoping Cohen sings it live!

  6. Matt Hawker says:

    “There’s a crack/ A crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in”
    From: Future (’92)

    Normally at this stage in an artist’s career you get the album that goes on and on about how they pissed away their youth/life. The album is incredibly hopeful. I know the cbc was doing that whole Obama’s Playlist recently and ‘Democracy’ from the same album was getting a lot of nods. I understand it but malign its overtness. ‘Anthem’ would be a much better choice.

    This song is not a call to arms but an act of reassurance, of hope. And that is why I love this line. It says “chin up.” And I dig that in my music from time to time.

  7. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Uncontested says:

    […] Frank of Chromewaves is giving away two pairs of tickets to the May 19 Leonard Cohen show in Hamilton, Ontario. (Tickets will be from $100-$250 for that show when they go on sale.) Having seen Leonard Cohen at the State Theater in Minneapolis the last time he toured (in 1993) (it remains one of my top concert experiences ever), I’m sure it will be an amazing show! (Brigitte or MamaTulip, can I go with you if you win?) I might’ve mentioned that book blogs give away all sorts of books. I was not kidding. Here are a few of the current offerings on the book blogs I follow. (Most are paranormals, but there’s a scifi title and even some straight up romance.) […]

  8. scott says:

    Wow… Sophie’s Choice I think… a few favs (Everybody Knows for example) have already had well-written comments posted… so I’m going to go for:

    “Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
    “You can hear the boats go by
    “You can spend the night beside her
    “And you know that she’s half crazy
    “But that’s why you want to be there”

    There’s something about the smooth delivery, the turn of phrase – Leonard doesn’t sing about love/longing like most musicians – he’s got a way of making you FEEL that many artists aspire to, but few manage to succeed at. Mr. Cohen succeeds. Every time. The whole concept of “crazy love” gets bandied about (badly) in so many pop songs, that it’s refreshing to not just have a strong poetic lyric written about it – but to get that smooth Cohen delivery that evokes much more.

    The song has long been a favourite – but, as with any great artist, it wasn’t until last year that the song clicked with me on some other level and is now, easily, a top 5 contendor in Cohen’s catalogue.

  9. K says:

    Wow… I’m going to submit something for this! Awesome contest.

    But yeah – looks like Ticketmaster is once again playing dumb on the whole TicketsNow front and selling overpriced tickets even before they go on sale officially: http://www.cbc.ca/arts/music/story/2009/02/25/ticketmaster-cohen.html?ref=rss


  10. J.S. says:

    I fought against the bottle,
    But I had to do it drunk –
    Took my diamond to the pawnshop –
    But that don’t make it junk.

    For the purpose of variety, I’ll pick this from “Ten New Songs”, since I’m guessing there’ll be relatively fewer picks from his last couple albums. A nice little rumination on the transitory things both worldly and emotionally (“I don’t trust my inner feelings – Inner feelings come and go.”).

    Even when his songs are delivered with the schmaltziest of muzak – that don’t make ’em junk.

    (“The Land of Plenty” from the same album is about ripe in these times for someone to cover it as a topical song.)

  11. stacey says:

    I did my best, it wasn’t much
    I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
    I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
    And even though, It all went wrong
    I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    this song, though infamous, remains brilliant. it can never be “over played”. brilliantly written, beautifully sung, its a masterpiece. it doesnt need a hundred words of explanation. i dont even know at this point if im referring to this lyric, to this song, or to the man himself. i will say that in looking for my favourite leonard cohen lyric, i had a hard time picking a favourite, so i went back to basics of the first cohen song i heard and how it left a mark on me. i first heard it at a bar being sung by some guy and his guitar. no one payed much attention to him as he played, but when he went on to play this the patio went silent and all heads were turned his way. he got his round of applause for the night.

  12. J says:

    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That’s how the light gets in.

    What a wonderful lyric. The beauty bares a minimal explanation really. It is an understanding that sometimes giving your best is all that is necessary regardless of the outcome. There is beauty in everything. Nobody is perfect. There is always something to be learned from everything. Sometimes okay is good enough. Listening to Mr. Cohen sing this makes an awful day disappear in a instant. Great stuff.

  13. Phil says:

    Give me crack and anal sex
    Take the only tree that’s left
    stuff it up the hole
    in your culture
    Give me back the Berlin wall
    give me Stalin and St Paul
    I’ve seen the future, brother:
    it is murder.

    This song used to scare the SHIT out of me; especially this verse. My dad used to blare Leonard Cohen on the stereo growing up and I used to LOVE some of the stuff he would put on. But there was something about “The Future” and it’s in-your-face brutality that really drew me closer to the speakers and then eventually to the CD booklet to read the words. Sex! Drugs! Politics! The Enviroment! all spat out with conviction is less that 40 words. I was 12. It was brilliant.

  14. G. says:


    Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
    They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on.
    And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song.
    Oh I hope you run into them, you who’ve been travelling so long.

    Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
    It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
    Well I’ve been where you’re hanging, I think I can see how you’re pinned:
    When you’re not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you’ve sinned.

    Well they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them.
    They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
    If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
    they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.

    When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
    Don’t turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.
    And you won’t make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:
    We weren’t lovers like that and besides it would still be all right,
    We weren’t lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.

    Both haunting and comforting at the same time. The opening verse seems nice enough but as the song goes on it unfolds into something more complex. I find something new in this classic each time i hear it. Comfort, regret, loneliness, redemption – Cohen covers all of these in three minutes and thirty seconds. Amazing.

  15. Cathy-Cate says:

    *Like a bird on a wire,
    Like a drunk in a midnight choir,
    I have tried in my way to be free…*

    *Like a baby stillborn
    Like a beast with his horn
    I have torn everyone who reached out to me
    But I swear by this song — and by all that I have done wrong
    That I will make it all, I will make it all, all up to thee.*

    What I love about these lyrics: the first images of solitude yet somehow not an entirely lonely solitude, in fact, an expressive, almost creative solitude; then that incredibly powerful image of a stillborn baby as a mixture of love and pain and loss all wrapped together; followed by the promise of redemption (which continues in the bridge lyrics). And the melody is a perfect match.

  16. N. says:

    And what can I tell you my brother, my killer
    What can I possibly say?
    I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
    I’m glad you stood in my way.

    Man, talk about economical storytelling. With the first set up — four in the morning, end of december, etc — it feels like a nostalgic look at a past relationship. And it is, but way more complicated as Cohen seems to address a former romantic rival. What kills me about this line is, first of all, the hedging on “I miss you” and “I forgive you” followed by the naked statement: “I’m glad you stood in my way.” Does anyone else write about being grateful for an affair? About being grateful for “the trouble you took from her eyes, I thought it was there for good so I never tried”?

  17. Patrick says:

    Chelsea Hotel No. 2

    I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
    you were talking so brave and so sweet,
    giving me head on the unmade bed,
    while the limousines wait in the street.

    I just love how he delivers these lyrics and the transition, but I suppose I take it differently seeing as I’m much younger.

  18. Brendan says:


    I am going for the schmaltzy, remembrance angle. It was Christmas, and I was a teenager. My older brother handed me a gift that was obviously a record (this is the original vinyl era). I peeled off the paper and saw huge white print on black saying SONGS OF LOVE AND HATE (who named their album that?). Next I saw LEONARD COHEN. I had heard the name but that was about it. I thanked my brother, probably with confusion in my voice, and he assured me I would love the album, it was a classic. I took his word for it. He was my older brother and had hooked me up with some pretty sweet tunes. Later when I slipped it on the turntable I didn’t know what to make of it but kept listening. The odd voice delivering talk/sing poetry and the sparse arrangements were a bit of a shock in the prog rock era. I played it and played it and almost 30 years later am still playing it. I have bought it again and again in different formats but still have the original vinyl version (it is one of my favourite album covers). Song of Love and Hate made strange, beautiful music a part of my life.

  19. Alicia says:

    “Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
    Dance me to the end of love”

    The first Leonard Cohen song I heard was “Dance Me to the End of Love,” and while I liked it immediately, those lyrics cemented my love for Cohen. There’s such a tenderness in the lines, almost a sense of growing desperation. The speaker of the song craves their lover’s touch so much, wants them so badly, that even the graze of a glove will do. The implication in even the smallest part of these lyrics is brilliant. For example, by choosing to use the word “naked” instead of “bare,” Cohen seems to hint that the speaker wants more than just their lover’s hand to be naked. Any other word wouldn’t have the same power. It’s this kind of minute detail that makes Cohen’s lines so poetic.

    abcdefghijklmno_987 AT hotmail DOT com

  20. Joanne says:

    From “True Love Leaves No Traces”

    As the mist leaves no scar
    On the dark green hill
    So my body leaves no scar
    On you and never will

    I think it’s a little perverted that you’re making people get all English studenty here, especially since it’s a random draw, but I also find it funny as hell.
    I’ve always been drawn to this opening stanza from “True Love Leaves No Traces.” It’s a deceptively simple, memorable turn of phrase that works on a number of levels. The use of the word scar, for instance, indicates violence, yet the idea of mist would suggest a mere touching or curtaining of bodies. Unlike some of his better known works, the language is as spare as it gets for Cohen. There’s little description, lots of space. Beautiful.

  21. Shannon Bernard says:

    Ah, the moon’s too bright
    The chain’s too tight
    The beast won’t go to sleep
    Ive been running through these promises to you
    That I made and I could not keep
    Ah but a man never got a woman back
    Not by begging on his knees
    Or I’d crawl to you baby
    And I’d fall at your feet
    And I’d howl at your beauty
    Like a dog in heat
    And I’d claw at your heart
    And I’d tear at your sheet
    I’d say please, please
    I’m your man

    I’m Your Man

    This song gives me goosebumps, enough said – the older he gets, the better he sings it.

  22. Ryan says:

    “And even though
    It all went wrong
    I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”

    The surreal climax of one of the few “perfect” songs in existence.

    I’m not a religious man, by any means. But even I could be fooled when listening to some Leonard Cohen songs. This song takes the listener on a holy journey; it truly puts you in a transcendent state of mind. I saw Leonard for the first time last year in Montreal and when those words boomed out of his depths, I was moved to tears (something that doesn’t often happen to me). In those moments I realized that I need to see this man whenever I get the chance. You provide the chance, and I thank you for it.

    (ryantheduke@gmail.com) **re-posting this here as i wasn’t sure you’d see it on the AOL site.

  23. Graham Perry says:

    And everybody knows that its now or never
    Everybody knows that its me or you
    And everybody knows that you live forever
    Ah when youve done a line or two
    Everybody knows the deal is rotten
    Old black joes still pickin cotton
    For your ribbons and bows
    And everybody knows

    Everybody knows – my first wife cheated
    Everybody knows – I buckle under strain
    so I try to live the moment
    weed and whiskey help manage pain

    The mutated seed sprouting in the cracks of western society is all glitter and lacks nourishment for the soul.

    Leonard knows this; delving into life of gory glory. Thanks for giving us truth.


  24. Stu says:

    It’s true that all the men you knew were dealers
    who said they were through with dealing
    Every time you gave them shelter
    I know that kind of man
    It’s hard to hold the hand of anyone
    who is reaching for the sky just to surrender,
    who is reaching for the sky just to surrender.
    And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind
    you find he did not leave you very much
    not even laughter
    Like any dealer he was watching for the card
    that is so high and wild
    he’ll never need to deal another
    He was just some Joseph looking for a manger
    He was just some Joseph looking for a manger

    Cohen is a genius lyricist. His imagery and mysterious metaphors are unparalleled. He must have the kind of eyes that could cut right through you. Beyond the lyrics is the beautiful production on his earlier recordings. There’s something quite timeless about the simple chord structures. I find the lyrics to have something of a fractal quality. Like Dylan’s more surrealistic words, but with a clarity of purpose that Dylan was never able to capture.

  25. JL says:


    I know you really loved me
    But you see, my hands were tied
    I know it must have hurt you
    It must have hurt your pride
    To have to stand beneath my window
    With your bugle and your drum
    And me, I’m up there waiting for the miracle,
    For the miracle to come

    Baby, let’s get married
    We’ve been alone too long
    Let’s be alone together,
    Let’s see if we’re that strong
    Yeah let’s do something crazy,
    Something absolutely wrong
    While we are waiting for the miracle,
    For the miracle to come

    This is just one of the countless examples I could have selected from Leonard Cohen’s work.

    There is simply no other artist who moves your mind, heart and soul ALL at the same time.

  26. Ian says:

    “Come over to the window, my little darling,
    I’d like to try to read your palm.
    I used to think I was some kind of Gypsy boy
    before I let you take me home.

    Now so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began
    to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.

    Well you know that I love to live with you,
    but you make me forget so very much.
    I forget to pray for the angels
    and then the angels forget to pray for us.”

    So Long Marianne is just so heartbreaking but also has this sense of lightheartedness to it with his playful wordings. Such an amazing chorus too – simple, universal and catchy. Cohen is the man.

  27. thelma says:

    And she shows you where to look
    Among the garbage and the flowers
    There are heroes in the seaweed
    There are children in the morning
    They are leaning out for love
    And they will lean that way forever
    While Suzanne holds the mirror

    This is my favorite of all Leonard Cohen lyrics because it has us look through the eyes of someone innocent albeit mad, and see the optimisim in the worst of life. He tells us that love is the ultimate yearning and he touches our souls