Song of the Week: Democracy

Grammy award-winning artist, songwriter, and poet Leonard Cohen presented the world with a series of beautiful ballads in his lifetime; starting on September 21st, 1934, and ending three years ago, on November 7th. Cohen is most known for his songs about philosophy and faith, such as “Suzanne” and “Hallelujah.” Although these two songs have been more popular, in 1992, Cohen produced a song that is still able to fully capture the experience of living in the United States today and has stood the test of time without needing the spotlight.

“Democracy,”  is a song that is spoken poetry and an anthem that many of us need to hear and follow. In honor of Cohen’s death, life, and many brewing political themes currently,  “Democracy” should be a song that everyone should listen to at least once this week. 

Cohen stated in a 1993 MTV interview, that writing this song was an “Outpour of true feeling. The original song consisted of sixty versus, but I only published six of them. I had so much to stay, and I wanted to capture it all in this one song.” “Democracy” discusses many national issues. From our environmental uses within the lyrics “I’m stubborn as the garbage bags that time can not decay.” To social issues, “From the wars against disorder. From the sirens night and day. From the fires of the homeless. From the ashes of the gay.” These lyrics were written over twenty years ago, yet they are timeless within their prominence.

Although the song speaks of many American imperfections, Cohen explained that the downfalls are far away from the true meaning of the song. “The phrase ‘Democracy is coming to the USA might seem to suggest that it hasn’t come yet or that it never will. But I (Cohen) believe that the lyrics’ conviction and passion transcend the irony of the hook.” Cohen further explained, “I believe that America is the last, best hope. Democracy is the real religion of the west. It is not coming from legislation, it is not coming from the highest places. It is coming from a crack in the wall and a whole in the air, and it is coming to the USA.”

We’ll never know what Cohen thinks about the current state of the USA, but he always had confidence in the country. “There might be a kind of life that is not brutal and insignificant. A world where there is a sense of fraternity and equality and justice. A world we all dream of living in. As far away as we are from these ideals, there is something in the America psyche that holds on to this hope. America has a glimpse of that illumination,” Cohen stated in 1993.