Everybody Knows

Album: I'm Your Man (1988)


  • This grimly funny study of exploitation introduced Sharon Robinson, who become a frequent writing collaborator of Leonard Cohen. She recalled to Uncut: "Leonard had most of the lyric done when he handed it to me. There's a profound honesty in it. He's exposing something we all know and talk about with those close to us, but not publicly. It says we're not really in control of our destiny, there are others running things, and we go about our daily lives with that in the background."

    "It's a protest song, so Leonard wanted something tough. I'd bring home verses, and go to the grand piano in my living room, as his lyrics require that purity of melody."

    "There are synths on the record as he likes the contrast with that very organic-sounding deep human voice of his. I tried to match the tone of the lyric with music I knew Leonard could sing, and want to. Leonard always says he has a three-note range, and those limitations on the melody and the importance of words, make you look for music that's going to propel a lyric forward and give the listener time to digest all its layers. That simplicity leads to something wonderful."
  • The song has been frequently covered. Artists that have recorded the tune include Concrete Blonde for the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume, Don Henley, on his 1995 set Actual Miles: Henley's Greatest Hits and Rufus Wainwright (Cohen's son in law) in Lian Lunson's 2005 documentary film Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man.
  • This has been widely used in television and film. Allan Moyle's 1990 film Pump Up the Volume and Atom Egoyan's 1994 movie Exotica, both featured the song prominently.

    Don Henley's version was heard in episode 219 of the television series Judging Amy, which aired in 2001.
  • This was used in a June 2008 anti-smoking advertisement commissioned by the New South Wales government in Australia with the theme "everybody knows smoking causes these diseases... yet you still do it."
  • Norwegian pop star Sigrid covered this for the 2017 Justice League superhero movie. She told NME:

    "I didn't grow up listening to him – my parents listened more to Neil Young and Joni Mitchell – but I lived in a flatshare for two years and my flatmate loved Leonard Cohen. He would always play him when he got home from the studio or something. He's one of the great songwriters of all time, so it's a huge honor to be able to cover him. You're always nervous of what people will think when you release something new, but mostly I'm happy that I'm now in the Justice League!"

Comments: 2

  • Phatuka from Jerusalem.. Amerikha “The naked man and woman is just an artifact.” The nakedness of Adam and Eve.. Was not of the genital area, but not having navels.. Proverbs 3:8
    Ezekiel Chapters 14,15,16.. Genesis 2:9 Children of GOD:KNOWLEDGE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL VS. GENESIS 3:6 Children of MEN:WISDOM.. Cain was “conceived” IDEAS AND IMAGINATIONS..
  • Randy from Houghton Lake, MiI think if I had to choose a favorite line from this song it would be:

    Everybody knows the deal is rotten
    Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton
    For your ribbons and bows
    And everybody knows

    That just says so much.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Jethro Tull

Jethro TullFact or Fiction

Stage urinals, flute devices, and the real Aqualung in this Fact or Fiction.

Waiting For The Break of Day: Three Classic Songs About All-Nighters

Waiting For The Break of Day: Three Classic Songs About All-NightersSong Writing

These Three famous songs actually describe how they were written - late into the evening.

Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks

Ron and Russell Mael of SparksSongwriter Interviews

The men of Sparks on their album Hippopotamus, and how Morrissey handled it when they suggested he lighten up.

How "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" Became Rock's Top Proverb

How "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss" Became Rock's Top ProverbSong Writing

How a country weeper and a blues number made "rolling stone" the most popular phrase in rock.

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s Edition

Songs in Famous Movie Scenes: '80s EditionMusic Quiz

You know the scenes - Tom Cruise in his own pants-off dance off, Molly Ringwald celebrating her birthday - but do you remember what song is playing?

They Might Be Giants

They Might Be GiantsSongwriter Interviews

Who writes a song about a name they found in a phone book? That's just one of the everyday things these guys find to sing about. Anything in their field of vision or general scope of knowledge is fair game. If you cross paths with them, so are you.