Jerusalem

Album: Esther Ofarim (1972)

Songfacts®:

  • Ron Cornelius wrote this when he was on tour with Leonard Cohen. Ron was Cohen's band leader and played on several of his albums. He told us the story behind this song:
    "I wrote the first verse and chorus on stage in Jerusalem. We never played with other people. It was always An Evening With Leonard Cohen, no openers. Our show was about an hour, then we'd take a half hour off, then we'd come back and play either another hour or hour and a half. During the 30 minute break backstage, this knock came at the door and Leonard said "would you get that for me," so I went over there and when I opened it up there was this big Israeli guy in a Gestapo-type uniform. In broken English he said to me "when you come back, the crowd would like to sing you a song," and I thought he was saying "someone in the crowd want's to sing a song." I had to let him know this was not opportunity night at the Roxy, no one was going to be singing any songs. He finally let me know - "the audience would like to sing you a song." We're talking about a huge audience. I turned around and told Leonard what the guy said and he said "cool, whatever," so Leonard told everybody backstage, "when we get up there, don't pick up your instruments," so when we went out there, we all made a semicircle on stage sitting Indian-style with our legs crossed and waited. Pretty soon out in the audience you could see 10 or 15 people swaying back and forth singing this song, then over to the left the same thing, then more people. Pretty soon it all came together and they sang this beautiful song to us and it was called "I Bring You Peace." It was such a touching moment, we were amazed at what we experienced, and all of the sudden this melody came over me with the lyrics to this Jerusalem audience singing "I Bring You Peace" to me. I came up with this thing, but it started to die out and we were about to start playing again. I had this classical guitar player with me out of Santa Cruz, California named David O'Connor, and I leaned over to him as Leonard was getting ready and said "you've got to help me remember this," and I put my guitar up so he could watch my hands and I said "play this along with me" and he got the chord changes and saw what I was doing. I said "please help me remember that because I'll forget it by the end of the night." We played the rest of the concert and that night at 3 or 4 in the morning I finally got up to David's room and we put back together what came over me at that stage. Now I had the first verse and the chorus of the song done. At the end of the tour, I went to Leonard's house on the Greek island and that was one of the things I completed when I was there. I was fortunate and very flattered when Esther Ofarim and the London Philharmonic recorded it. She also recorded it with the Tel Aviv Philharmonic, and every song on that album is a traditional, 2000-year-old Hebrew tune except mine. If I played you all the songs I've written, this is the one you would think I didn't write. It was truly a gift."

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