Born In Chains

Album: Popular Problems (2014)

Songfacts®:

  • This gospel meditation finds Leonard Cohen singing of the "Word of Words and Measure of all Measures," written on his heart "in burning letters." It was the one track on Popular Problems that Cohen wrote on his own, without the help of producer Patrick Leonard.
  • Cohen said during an album playback that this was the Popular Problems track that he struggled with for the longest. "That's been kicking around for forty years," he said with a smile. "I've rewritten the lyric many times to accommodate the changes in my theological position, which is very insecure."

    "The chords kind of interest me and we came up with this pure gospel version," he added. "It's the one song on the album I'm not 100 percent behind. I didn't nail it, but I've got a thumbtack in it."
  • Cohen first performed the song on stage in 2010.
  • Leonard Cohen said of the song to The Daily Telegraph: "We all live lives that are tethered to the circumstances in which we find ourselves, so in a certain sense everyone is born in chains. There are moments of liberation and moments of captivity. Life seems to move between those two polarities."
  • Although he has embraced Buddhism, the song finds Cohen harking back to his Jewish roots: "I grew up in a very conservative, observant family, so it's not something I ever felt any distance from," he said. "It is essential to my own survival. Torah values are the ones that inform my life."

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