Democracy
Leonard Cohen Lyrics


It's coming through a hole in the air
From those nights in Tiananmen Square
It's coming from the feel
That this ain't exactly real
Or it's real, but it ain't exactly there
From the war against disorder
From the sirens night and day
From the fires of the homeless
From the ashes of the gay
Democracy is coming to the USA

It's coming through a crack in the wall
On a visionary flood of alcohol
From the staggering account
Of the Sermon on the Mount
Which I don't pretend to understand at all
It's coming from the silence
On the dock of the bay
From the brave, the bold, the battered
Heart of Chevrolet
Democracy is coming to the USA

It's coming from the sorrow in the street
The holy places where the races meet
From the homicidal bitchin'
That goes down in every kitchen
To determine who will serve and who will eat
From the wells of disappointment
Where the women kneel to pray
For the grace of God in the desert here
And the desert far away
Democracy is coming to the USA

Sail on, sail on
O mighty ship of state
To the shores of need
Past the reefs of greed
Through the squalls of hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on

It's coming to America first
The cradle of the best and of the worst
It's here they got the range
And the machinery for change
And it's here they got the spiritual thirst
It's here the family's broken
And it's here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way
Democracy is coming to the USA

It's coming from the women and the men
Oh baby, we'll be making love again
We'll be going down so deep
The river's going to weep
And the mountain's going to shout, "Amen"
It's coming like the tidal flood
Beneath the lunar sway
Imperial, mysterious
In amorous array
Democracy is coming to the USA

Sail on, sail on
O mighty ship of state
To the shores of need
Past the reefs of greed
Through the squalls of hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on

I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
That time cannot decay
I'm junk but I'm still holding up this little wild bouquet
Democracy is coming to the USA
To the USA

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Written by: Leonard Cohen

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Most interesting comments from YouTube:

Mike Archibald

@swami fakkananda And didn't Barack Obama get the nobel peace prize BEFORE serving a day as president? And then overthrew the government of Libya and bragged about sending in a team of assassins to kill Osama Bin Laden?

I kind of think with company like that its more an insult than an honour. A lot of modern music has some fairly decent poetry, Modest Mouse has some songs that I go "whoa, thats deep". Canada I think has produced a fair number-Joni Mitchel, Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn. Bruce Cockburn was one of the best documenters of 80's central america expansionism. Gordon Lightfoot and of course our own Stompin Tom was our version of Woody Guthrie.

Rheostatics has a lot of 'canadiana' and great, I don't evne know what you'd call it. The Tragically Hip were never my cup of tea but I don't deny their lyricism and melodic power. FOSTERING such music NOW seems like a better process that arguing about the history of it.

Nobody actually MENTIONS what Cohen said about it, which was that its irrelevant, that songs come THROUGH you, not TO you. Its whether you are open to them and for how long. Frankly MOST of the songs of both guys are kind of stinkers to me, the last Dylan song I thought was great was "Jokerman", but then I haven't really listened to him. The politics of Cohen in this song is really what got me here, "from the staggering account, of the sermon on the mount which I don't pretend to understand at all".

Now, why would he have that in a song about 'democracy'? Individual human rights seems to be why, and that focus on those, rather than the collective rights 'enforced' in China and Cuba may mean he is indicating something superior in America, but politically the question may be whether individual human rights FROM collective responsibilities may be a better way. America seems to be breaking down, while China is building up, but of coures before Covid there where hundreds of protests in China every year.

So 'where' democracy is going to come is a pertinent question, since he also mentions Tiannamen Square. What he'd think of the current protests I don't know, and its probably not important, people are simply angry, and angry people are not wise.



kirnikoglu

It's coming through a hole in the air
From those nights in Tiananmen Square
It's coming from the feel
That this ain't exactly real
Or it's real, but it ain't exactly there
From the wars against disorder
From the sirens night and day
From the fires of the homeless
From the ashes of the gay
Democracy is coming to the USA
It's coming through a crack in the wall
On a visionary flood of alcohol
From the staggering account
Of the Sermon on the Mount
Which I don't pretend to understand at all
It's coming from the silence
On the dock of the bay,
From the brave, the bold, the battered
Heart of Chevrolet
Democracy is coming to the USA
It's coming from the sorrow in the street
The holy places where the races meet
From the homicidal bitchin'
That goes down in every kitchen
To determine who will serve and who will eat
From the wells of disappointment
Where the women kneel to pray
For the grace of God in the desert here
And the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the USA
Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on
It's coming to America first
The cradle of the best and of the worst
It's here they got the range
And the machinery for change
And it's here they got the spiritual thirst
It's here the family's broken
And it's here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way
Democracy is coming to the USA
It's coming from the women and the men
O baby, we'll be making love again
We'll be going down so deep
The river's going to weep,
And the mountain's going to shout Amen
It's coming like the tidal flood
Beneath the lunar sway
Imperial, mysterious
In amorous array
Democracy is coming to the USA
Sail on, sail on
I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
That Time cannot decay
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
This little wild bouquet
Democracy is coming to the USA



Andras Cser

Here's my (subjective :)) analysis, line-by-line. This song has two
meanings throughout: 1) images and happenings at home in the US and in
2) Gulf War in Iraq.


To me, this song is all about balance and good description of the USA and its people.
It's all about hope about American (and in general) democracy and it's about hopelessness and strange things about the world in the USA. But ultimately, hope wins.
Leonard wrote it in 1992, right in the middle of the Gulf War, waiting for the mid-term election in 1992 and the presidential election in 1994 - to bring about change in politics via democracy.


Hear the marching drums - they herald how democracy will do away with the senseless war in Iraq (first Gulf War).


 "It's coming through a hole in the air" <--- on the waves of radio or TV, or a major bomb explosion
"From those nights in Tiananmen Square" <--- images of the crushed 1989 uprising, appreciates US democracy, US protecting democracy in Iraq
"It's coming from the feel
That this ain't exactly real,
Or it's real, but it ain't exactly there." <--- Reference to US marketing and optimism. Many things started then half finished or just existing as an idea. Or the alleged WMD in Iraq there were never there.
"From the wars against disorder,
From the sirens night and day," <--- Big city image of constant fight against any disorder
"From the ashes of the gay" <--- refers to the AIDS epidemic and/or homophobia
"Democracy is coming to the U.S.A."

"It's coming through a crack in the wall" <--- reference of how invisibly it gets into our lives
"On a visionary flood of alcohol" <--- people discussing, prognosticating about politics in a pub being a bit drunk
"From the staggering account
Of the Sermon on the Mount,
Which I don't pretend to understand at all."" <--- Reference to Christian cults or the Book of Mormon.
"It's coming from the silence
On the dock of the bay" <--- Reference to the Ottis Redding song "Sitting on the dock bay", how nothing has changed at all
"From the brave, the bold, the battered Heart of Chevrolet". <---America's fixation on cars, especially American made classic cars
"Democracy is coming to the USA"

"It's coming from the sorrow in the street," <--- reference to riots, or compassion towards homeless, or people avoiding eye contact
"The holy places where the races meet" <--- America's churches (also gospel) playing the role of the family that's often far away
"From the homicidal bitchin'
That goes down in every kitchen
To determine who will serve and who will eat." <--- The equality of women, who no longer just cook but work out of the home. Also, broader meaning of society: who will be rich and who will be poor.

"From the wells of disappointment,
where women kneel to pray" <--- supermarkets, stores where women shop to forget their agony of waiting for their husbands to return from the first Gulf War OR images of Arab women praying at a water or oil well
"For the grace of God in the desert here" <--- Biblical reference to the desert, also hoping for success of military exercises in desert test ranges in Nevada, etc.
"And the desert far away" <-- in the Iraqi desert in the first Gulf War, this song is in 1994 after the older Bush's presidency

"Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!" <--- reference to the USA (metaphor) and maybe also an aircraft carrier
"To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
To the Squalls of Hate" <--- hopes for unity, compassion for the poor, the ethnic minorities and the people of Iraq

"It's coming to America first" <--- the spirit of American innovation
"The cradle of the best and of the worst" <-- America is the country of extremes
"It's here they got the range
And the machinery for change" <--- Refers to the size of the US economy, economies of scale and the machinery of innovation, the nature of people who support change
"And it's here they got the spiritual thirst" <-- mockery of American cults, hunger for self-improvement books to the point of stupidity
"It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way." <--- references to places of worship and religion in the US that attempts to substitute family (everyone moves away from home and lives far away), naivete of beliefs how religion and self improvement, opening yourself up, etc. will change your relationship to the world when it won't
"Democracy is coming to the USA."

"It's coming from the women and men.
O baby, we'll be making love again.
We'll be going down so deep
The river's going to weep
And the mountain's going to shout Amen!". <--- Reference to the overblown interest to sex in the US. Also to the oversexualized media and the importance of raw and loud sex, loud orgasms in porn vs. emotions.with intimacy.
It's coming like the tidal flood
Beneath the lunar sway
Imperial, mysterious,
In amorous array" <-- Democracy is coming slowly, unnoticed like the tide rising but in a majestic way.

"Sail on, sail on" <--- Ship of the US sailing on the sea of democracy, keep going with democracy

"I'm sentimental if you know what I mean" <-- He loves this ambivalent world to a degree
"I love the country but I can't stand the scene" <-- he hates politics and the then current state of affairs of 1992
"And I'm neither left or right" <--- no political stance just fed up with the war
"I'm just staying home tonight,
Getting lost in that hopeless little screen".<-- watching CNN on TV
"But Im' stubborn as those garbage bags
That Time cannot decay" <--- environmental catastrophe, but still optimistic and stubbornly vouching for democracy
"I'm junk but I'm still holding up
This little wild bouquet" <-- power of nature, optimism, belief in the future
"Democracy is coming to the USA." <-- Democracy's cycle will change and do away with all the bad things (Gulf War, racial hatred) in the USA soon.



All comments from YouTube:

Yosarian T

Think I'm going to be listening to this song on repeat all day today.

Mike Archibald

He sings democracy is COMING to the USA. Got news for you, the whole idea of electing some person to give executive powers to is anti democratic.
The Swiss President has NO executive powers, their ONLY function is to greet dignitaries.

Lawrence Winans

@Janus Sorry I am a year late, but "Ha-Ha-ha" !

bencamp18

@soph1 B Leonard Cohen wouldn't approve of my partisan comment? I'm the one letting the man simply be a universal artist, appreciated by all. That's what a good artist aspires to be. Art is supposed to speak to a universal human experience, untainted by political messaging or commerciality. Otherwise it becomes insincere at best and state propaganda at worst. Leonard Cohen made it a point to not let his personal politics show. I wish more people would follow his example. He also hated the postmodernism and nihilism that characterizes the people who hate this country and are pushing us towards Marxism. Artists tend to be liberal, yes, because they love universal freedom. But that's not what leftist fascism offers. Leftism is wholely apart from classic liberalism. Biden and the people running him are the antithesis of liberalism. But congrats to you that your preferred houseplant was installed into the highest political office in the US.

soph1 B

@bencamp18 Ah...Leonard wouldn't approve of your 'partisan' comment.
For your information,musicians and artists(of all sorts) are usually liberals.
I'm grateful that Leonard wrote wonderful music. That's all that matters.

bencamp18

@soph1 B "PrETtY sUrE cOHeN WouLD hAVe bEeN As rELiEveD aS A gREaT MAny aT tHIs mOMeNt."

You don't recall authoring this partisan drivel such that you can properly engage with my comment with more than "it's a piece of music"? Yes. It's a piece of music. You're the one who decided to assign Cohen the honorary "Woulda had Trump Derangement like me" status because you suspect his music (this song included) comes from a place of leftism.

I'm grateful that this highly religious, cultural-degradation-criticizing poet is no longer around to see the crap that is happening to his country.

20 More Replies...

Adam Ford

"I'm stubborn as those garbage bags/That time cannot decay/I'm junk but I'm still holding up/This little wild bouquet". Absolute genius.

H Peter Ray

That’s the phrase that got me too!

Ellen Malawka

RIP Leonard

britshop1

Time will tell ,when you are needed

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