Album: Popular Problems (2014)
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  • The conflicts of the Middle East loom large over this song about truth's ability to outlast the destruction of war. "There comes a point, I think, as you get a little older, you feel that nothing represents you," Cohen told The Daily Telegraph. "You can see the value of many positions, even positions that are in savage conflict with one another. You can locate components on both sides that resonate within you."
  • The song is given an additional Middle Eastern flavor by the hand drums and former Madonna backing singer Donna DeLory's Arabic-sounding vocals. It was produced by Patrick Leonard, who helped shape the Material Girl's work in the late 1980s and co-wrote three songs on Cohen's previous album, Old Ideas. He contributed to eight of the nine cuts on Popular Problems.
  • This was originally published as a poem in 2005 on The Leonard Cohen Files website, and also in his collection of poetry, prose and drawings, Book of Longing, the following year.

Comments: 3

  • Victor from EuropeIt has always seemed to me that the song tells the story of the "lucifer rebellion" from the point of view of lucifer himself. It seems that he is reproaching many things to ? God? Or to whoever was on the other side.
    The song starts by saying that he lost the war/rebellion, but that he managed to escape but that he lives "among you" (us, humans? ):
    the war was lost
    the treaty signed
    i was not caught
    i crossed the line
    i was not caught
    though many tried
    i live among you

    to whom the song is directed, he reproaches him for lying about certain things that happened:
    the story's told
    with facts and lies
    i had a name
    but never mind (reminds me of "sympathy for the devil")

    he says that he couldn't kill or hate like him, that he tried. He says that his enemy was allied with whom he despised (human race? )
    i could not kill
    the way you kill
    i could not hate
    i tried, i failed
    you turned me in
    at least you tried
    you side with them whom
    you despise

    he reproaches him his lies and that he has no heart, that he allied himself with them (humans? )
    this was your heart
    this swarm of flies
    this was once your mouth
    this bowl of lies
    you serve them well (irony? )
    i'm not surprised
    you're of their kin
    you're of their kind

    lucifer says that he has lived fully, for a long, long time.
    I live the life
    i left behind
    i live it full
    i live it wide
    through layers of time
    you can't divide

    that the graves of his loved ones are with him, that they will never find them. That he continues to live the same, hidden.
    My woman's here
    my children too
    their graves are safe
    from ghosts like you
    in places deep
    with roots entwined
    i live the life
    i left behind

    the whole song is a reproach to the opposing side:
    - talking about how he couldn't do "evil" like the other side.
    - the other side sided with people it despises.
    - the story being told is a lie.
    It looks like he (lucifer) is saying that he was the good guy
  • Willr from N IrelandLaura I agree but would go further. Is this the story of the Jewish Diaspora? 2 millennia of hiding to survive?
  • Laura from SwedenHi!
    I am an avid Leonard listener and loves listening to Nevermind I have a clear cut idea about its meaning, but as far as I can notice nobody sees it as I do...
    For me the song is about the fate of the Jewish people in exile and to some degree about the curt situation in Europe with the rise of antisemitism within the group of refugees from the Middle East.

    "You turned me in
    At least you tried
    You side with them
    Whom you despise

    This was your heart
    This swarm of flies
    This was once your mouth
    This bowl of lies

    You serve them well
    I’m not surprised
    You’re of their kin
    You’re of their kind"

    Well, he is utterly thought provoking and unfortunately not enough people listen to his songs...
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