Dance Me to the End of Love

Album: Various Positions (1984)
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Songfacts®:

  • 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.
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