First We Take Manhattan

Album: I'm Your Man (1988)
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  • They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
    For trying to change the system from within
    I'm coming now, I'm coming to reward them
    First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

    I'm guided by a signal in the heavens (guided, guided)
    I'm guided by this birthmark on my skin (guided, guided by)
    I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons (guided)
    First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

    (I'd really like to live beside you, baby)
    (I love your body and your spirit and your clothes)
    (But you see that line there moving through the station?)
    (I told you, I told you, told you, I was one of those)

    Ah, you loved me as a loser
    But now you're worried that I just might win
    You know the way to stop me, but you don't have the discipline
    How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin
    First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

    I don't like your fashion business, mister
    And I don't like these drugs that keep you thin
    I don't like what happened to my sister
    First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

    (I'd really like to live beside you, baby)
    (I love your body and your spirit and your clothes)
    (But you see that line there moving through the station?)
    (I told you, I told you, told you, I was one of those)

    And I thank you for those items that you sent me, ha ha ha
    The monkey and the plywood violin
    I practiced every night, now I'm ready
    First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin (I am guided)

    Ah remember me, I used to live for music (baby)
    Remember me, I brought your groceries in (ooh, baby, yeah)
    Well, it's Father's Day and everybody's wounded (baby)
    First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin Writer/s: LEONARD COHEN
    Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

Comments: 11

  • David from Berlindoes someone know the transcript of the german intro from Jennifer's version?
  • Rupert from Blue Mountains, Nsw, Australia All very interesting to hear other people’s views. I always interpreted the song to be about the Jewish people with references to the fashion industry and the taking of the financial centre of the world (Manhattan) followed by taking the capital of the former NAZI Germany with “the beauty of our weapons” alluding to the extensive contribution to culture by Jews. Could be wrong, but I enjoy the fantasy :)
  • Keith from BaltimoreI think this is one of those songs that fits a social and/or political angst of any given time. For me, it rings true of George Washington and his generals as they were cooped up in Connecticut. In order to gain a foothold in the war effort (to 'ring the bell' so to speak) it was thought they needed to oust the British from Manhattan. It didn't quite work out that way, as they wound up realizing successes in NJ/PA and upstate NY before finally having the British relinquish Manhattan at the close of the war...But the 'Then We Take Berlin' part...that to me resonates as a 'and the message will go forth as a blueprint as to how to foment and exact a revolution of the people, by the people. Of course, it was realized next in France, but that's for another day.
  • Gino from Boston, MaDid Cohen mean "First we take Manhattan and then we take Boston?"
  • Scott from Tucson, AzA friend of mine told me that this song was playing on loop while he was imprisoned (and beaten) at the Maskobiyeh Detention Center in West Jerusalem. He also said it was now one of his favorite songs-that might tell you that it's relevance is unpredictable. He ended up writing a fairly amazing account in a book called Son of Hamas. You couldn't imagine such a narrative and it also lends a weird and almost profound aspect to this song. I can guarantee you'd never listen to it the same way again...
  • Ed from Lebanon, NhThe (full) song title is one of my favorite song lyrics of all time. Also, the Jennifer Warnes version features Stevie Ray Vaughn on guitar, which helps make that version special, too.
  • Yaniv from Ta, IsraelRobert, check out the live version in his recent "Live In London". it rocks. I don't like the original either but it's amazing live, really cool hammond and stuff. better then REM in my opinion.
  • Robert from Milan, MiFirst of all, the lyrics are some of the best ever. However, LC's version is as hokie as a song gets. Everytime I hear it, i get embarassed for the man. Then I heard R.E.M.'s version. It is a godsend. The anger is captured in the guitar and Stipe's vocals are powerful to say the least. Thanks Mr. Cohen for a great song (lyrically). Thanks R.E.M. for the cover. Oh, I still am weary of the true meaning of the song. Anyone have Leonard's number?
  • Senorita from Canada, Canada"First We Take Manhattan" is rife with anger, but not at a political system so much as on a social system, a system which instead of being amenable to change from within, has ostracized and cast out the people who don't quite fit in.
  • Yariv from Ramot Hashavim, IsraelThis, to me, is about globalisation from the point of view of someone from the under-developed part of our world. If you read the lyrics as if spoken by someone like Osama Bin Laden, you'll be amazed to see how accurately it fits.
    The song (1988) has a prophetic quality, like some other songs by Leonard Cohen.
  • Zoe from Montreal, CanadaI love love love this song. It makes me feel like leading a revolution. Whenever I get annoyed with the materialistic world, I listen to this.
    I feel like it is about a man who is trying to change the world, yet he is inlove with "one of those", who he is trying to convert.
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