Saturday, May 1, 2010

Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows



Everybody knows the anti-smoking advertisement that features Leonard Cohen singing and which uses the theme "everybody knows smoking causes these diseases ... yet you still do it". Everybody knows that the Leonard Cohen song so used is called…Everybody Knows. Or do they?

It’s a great song with powerful mixed images, ordinary things expressed and looked at in different ways (“Everybody knows that you've been faithful / Ah give or take a night or two”).

I have previously noted that the lyrics of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen can be read and recited as poetry. The same holds true of the lyrics of Billy Joel and Tom Wait.

Everybody Kows is no exception, here is some info on the song:

Clip:

Lyrics:
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you've been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two

Everybody knows you've been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes

And everybody knows
Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

And everybody knows that it's now or never
Everybody knows that it's me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah when you've done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows

And everybody knows that the Plague is coming
Everybody knows that it's moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artefact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there's gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

And everybody knows that you're in trouble
Everybody knows what you've been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it's coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Oh everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows
Comments:

- The song was written by Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson. It was first released on Cohen’s album I’m Your Man in 1988.

- The song is perfectly matched to Cohen’s voice and singing style, as well as his often moody, dark and depressing images and lyrics.

- Although sometimes referred to as the Prince of Pessimism, Cohen denies the label.
“I don't consider myself a pessimist. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel soaked to the skin.” - Leonard Cohen.
- Everybody Knows is Cohen’s bleak vision of the present and the future. It builds on negative images, disappointments, shallow emotions and false idols to portray a future of George Orwell's 1984. In this his pessimism is matched only by that or Orwell himself:
"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face -- forever." – George Orwell.
- The song suggests that we are ineffectual to do anything about it. The good guys lost, the captain lied and the fight was fixed. Meanwhile, “The poor stay poor, the rich get rich / That's how it goes.”
Not only Cohen has thought so:
"The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the larger centres has owned the Government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson."
A letter written by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Colonel House, November 21st, 1933

“Fifty men have run America, and that's a high figure."
Joseph Kennedy, father of JFK, in the July 26th, 1936 issue of The New York Times.
Struggle is futile, you’re outnumbered and there’s nothing you can do about it. That is the eality.

- Despite its blackness, the song is laced with humour in parts and startling images in others: Old Black Joe is still picking cotton as a slave for m’lady’s ribbons and bows.

- “Everybody got this broken feeling / Like their father or their dog just died”: Cohen’s father died when he was aged 9, setting him on the road to his melancholy and pessimism.

- Everyone wants love and faithfulness (the box of chocolates and the long stemmed rose) but they get unfaithfulness and lies.

- “And everybody knows that the Plague is coming / Everybody knows that it's moving fast”: the AIDS epidemic.

- “Everybody knows that the naked man and woman / Are just a shining artefact of the past”: the plaque placed on Voyager 2?

- “Everybody knows the scene is dead”: the scene of freedom, sexual and otherwise, of the 1960’s? It will now give way to a meter on the bed, a reference to 1984 Orwellian surveillance?

Enjoy the weekend.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for your potent comments on a potent song.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The naked man and woman symbolize Adam and Eve - and marital fidelity

    ReplyDelete
  3. Meter on the bed refers to prostitution and infidelity of his girlfriend

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  4. The whole 1st stanza before the chorus deals with the world as it is- that's life is the message

    ReplyDelete