Dance Me to the End of Love

Album: Various Positions (1984)


  • Despite being structured as a love song, this was in fact inspired by the Holocaust. Cohen recalled: "That came from just hearing or reading or knowing that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet was pressed into performance while this horror was going on, those were the people whose fate was this horror also. And they would be playing classical music while their fellow prisoners were being killed and burnt."

    "So, that music, 'Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin,' meaning the beauty there of being the consummation of life, the end of this existence and of the passionate element in that consummation. But, it is the same language that we use for surrender to the beloved, so that the song - it's not important that anybody knows the genesis of it, because if the language comes from that passionate resource, it will be able to embrace all passionate activity." (Source: 1000 Songs That Rock Your World by Dave Thompson.)
  • This is the opening track of Cohen's Various Positions album. The record was produced and arranged by John Lissauer, who first linked up with the Canadian on his 1974 New Skin for the Old Ceremony set. Lissauer recalled to Uncut: "The assignment was to release an album with one or two momentous songs that would make Leonard international, and we thought we'd really done it. It had 'Dance Me...' and it had 'Hallelujah,' I didn't say to Leonard, 'Go write some anthems,' it just happened. Especially 'Dance Me...'"
  • The song was recorded using a cheap keyboard. Lissauer recalled to Uncut: "Leonard had just been on Broadway and bought a Casio piece-of-crap synthesizer, for tourists. I go to his hotel, and he pushes a button, and it goes, boom-tish, boom-tish. He starts to sing the song, and I envisioned it with real musicians, letting it build and build. But he had his finger on this one key, playing the drumbeat. He was grinning like a school-kid. He loved the simplicity of it, and the fact that talented musicians weren't over-playing, Leonard can be stubborn. Usually to champion simplicity, or demo-like takes."

    "We ended up recording it with his toy Casio. And because the beat didn't ever come to life, Leonard and Jennifer Warnes swayed over it with very languid, personal singing. It really made it seductive."
  • A book titled Dance Me to the End of Love was published by Welcome Books as part of its "Art & Poetry" series. The volume featured the lyrics of the song alongside paintings by Henri Matisse.
  • Artists that have covered the song include jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux on her 2004 album Careless Love, and The Civil Wars for their 2011 set Barton Hollow.

Comments: 2

  • Sam Biafore from Las VegasTo know The Cruel History of The Holocaust that inspired the lyrics. Without question the most heartfelt song forever May they R.I.P.
  • AnonymousOne of the best song I have to listen every night before going to bed and dream maybe after 30 or 40 years I can dance with my love one he passed away 29 years ago. I love Cohen voice and his song bravo to him.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

"Stairway To Heaven" Lawsuit: A Timeline

"Stairway To Heaven" Lawsuit: A TimelineSong Writing

Untangling the events that led to the "Stairway To Heaven" lawsuit.

Jules Shear - "All Through The Night"

Jules Shear - "All Through The Night"They're Playing My Song

Shears does very little promotion, which has kept him secluded from the spotlight. What changed when Cyndi Lauper had a hit with his song? Not much, really.

Weird Al Yankovic

Weird Al YankovicFact or Fiction

Did Al play on a Beach Boys record? Did he have beef with George Lucas and Coolio? See if you can spot weird but true stories.

Hawksley Workman

Hawksley WorkmanSongwriter Interviews

One of Canada's most popular and eclectic performers, Hawksley tells stories about his oldest songs, his plentiful side projects, and the ways that he keeps his songwriting fresh.

Does Jimmy Page Worship The Devil? A Look at Satanism in Rock

Does Jimmy Page Worship The Devil? A Look at Satanism in RockSong Writing

We ring the Hell's Bells to see what songs and rockers are sincere in their Satanism, and how much of it is an act.

Matt Sorum

Matt SorumSongwriter Interviews

When he joined Guns N' Roses in 1990, Matt helped them craft an orchestral sound; his mezzo fortes and pianissimos are all over "November Rain."