Treaty

Album: You Want It Darker (2016)

Songfacts®:

  • In the last months of Leonard Cohen's life, compositions that he and Patrick Leonard have been working on for years finally got completed. This poetic confession about the selfishness of love, for instance, took him five years to finish. Patrick Leonard recalled to Uncut.

    "He says, 'All these things you were doing version after version, the music was all fine I just had problems with some of the lines.'

    With Treaty for example, the version on You Want It Darker is five years old. But the lyrics aren't. There was a lyric update but since then I'd done no fewer than 10 or 15 versions, trying to figure out why it wasn't working. Everything from country hoedown to changing the chords. We refer to Treaty as the box set. There could be a three season HBO series on."
  • It was actually one of Pat Leonard's first versions of "Treaty" that Cohen ended up using, but only after the singer-songwriter originally rejected it. Co-producer Anjani Thomas recalled to Uncut magazine: "I remember Pat Leonard playing me this amazing track for Treaty. It was so beautiful. I cried when I heard it. Pat loved it. I loved it. I looked at Len and he said, 'You know what, it's too beautiful.' He said the music was too obviously moving, almost manipulative. Too emotional, too poignant. Too much! It was distracting him. He wanted to control it, he wanted some edge."

    Pat Leonard added. "Ironically, that early version is the one that's on the record. We used to talk about 'Treaty: the Movie', as I did no less than 25 versions of Treaty. There were some really interesting ones - the last one was so interesting. I think it pushed him back to the first one. In fact, his request for me to do a little string arrangement of it was an homage to how much effort went into the damn song. He said to me that ultimately it was about the line that he didn't have. There were many variations of the chorus, and until he found what he wanted it to say, we just kept trying it."

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