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Leonard Cohen First We Take Manhattan Lyrics

Last updated: 06/27/2012 11:00:00 AM

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
I'm guided by this birthmark on my skin
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons
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 ...

And I thank you for those items that you sent me
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
Remember me, I brought your groceries in
Well it's Father's Day and everybody's wounded
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

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Songwriter musiccomposer front lead &bagground singer | Reviewer: James Goldehart | 6/26/12

Dear norman ; ))

remember me, we will meet latest 24- 26 august 2012 aalborg denmak, I hobe your injoy the concert tour thank you

Love peace proud pride & freedom
Your frend james goldenhart

Lærkevej 10 b rold, himmerland
dk 9505 rold denmark

Ps. Iam traveling to sweeden friday with the ferry grenå-varberg depetour 13.15 oclock - train direckt to Stockholm - Borlange


One of the sure signs of genius... | Reviewer: Gunnar | 2/11/12

Is that so many people (me included) can sing Leonard Cohen to the tears... Yet everybody relates to him in such a different way, everybody is sure that Cohen sings to his particular ache and ideology.

In this thread I've read so many different, even contradictory explanations... And you cannot say any of them is true or false. They all are.

Why | Reviewer: Angel B | 1/13/12

After reading so many and different interpretations of the words of this beautiful song, I'd rather say that I don't want to interpret them, just enjoy their ambiguity
as I am a former admirer of the RAF and my favourite popular army nowadays is Hizbullah
as I am an admirer of Alex de la Iglesia's Mutant Action, where a bunch of cripples and handicapped attack Gyms and beauty salons, Miss anywhere contests and so on
I prefer to smell the scent of what could be than to know the real meaning -if they actually have one- of the words.

Too much thinking going on | Reviewer: Anonymous | 1/4/12

Mr. Cohen has very clearly explained the meaning of these lovely words time and time again. No deep dark conspiracy, no arcane bullshit. Do the research, have the respect for this brilliant artist that any true lover of music has, find out for yourselves what he wrote this about. Not hard to do.

terrorism | Reviewer: Anonymous | 11/4/11

I have a simple take on the song. It is about terrorism and they mentality of isolation and special messages and mission e.g. guided by signs in the heavens and birth marks

Fashion industry is amongst the objects of their hatred

Can't see anything about jews

Roman Cathlocism | Reviewer: Kristofer | 9/19/11

All roads lead to Rome.

The Roman Catholic church is responsible for by far more misery and depravity than any other organization in the history of all mankind.

"Jews" eating infants and drinking blood are just a cover up.

Replace every "Jew" in the diversion "the protocols of elders of Zion" with "Jesuit / Frankist Catholic" and you will be closer to the truth.

These are the invisible criminals Corbin G. is talking about I believe.

Thank you for your time.

mickey marcuse | Reviewer: mickeymarcuse | 9/6/11

Is anyone else struck by the uncanny likeness of Cohen's voice in this song with that of Ronnie Reagan's. I interpret the song to be a satire that equates Reagan's fascist imperialism with Germany's facism. Reagan is 'taking' the world first through Manhattan and the disco scene -- I soooo love fashion and your clothes. After Manhattanization of America's disco world, Berlin follows: and in the wake is left the breakfast for bonzo chimp and the plywood violin. And we thought he was such a loser -- heh-heh-heh-heh-heh.

It's easily about whatever you choose | Reviewer: CTheB | 7/14/11

The two views that selectively quote from the song don't make sense. A snippet, carefully selected and out of context will mean whatever the person taking the snippet wants. Why not give an explanation for every line in the song or complete verse? Not to mention that saying things like "Obviously x means y" usually just means the person wants it to mean that, but doesn't have any justification for taking the position. Why is the birthmark any less obviously the supposed mark of the beast for instance?

I haven't yet decided what the song is about, but it doesn't appear to fit consistently with things Jewish.

This song is about artists | Reviewer: r | 6/19/11

This song is about artists and their aspirations. Artists want to make it in Manhattan, and then they want to make it in Europe. It's about the pretensions and bitterness of the art world. Fits like a glove.

There is not one thing in this song about jews, Gee whiz. Slap yourselves.

The Ongoing Struggle For Justice | Reviewer: Rich Austin | 2/25/11

In light of the comment by Benn, I’ve been looking at the lyrics of Leonard Cohen's famous song 'First We Take Manhattan', and it is clearly an alarm warning us of the scourge of neoliberalism. The lyrics are fairly clear.

1. The song opens with a news broadcast in German, announcing an armed attack. Most people have some knowledge of Nazi and fascist attacks on workers, while few comprehend the threat of neoliberalism (or neoconservatism…same stone, different side). Germanic is, therefore, symbolic. Taking Manhattan . . . means workers beginning the fight for justice.

2. “They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom For trying to change the system from within". This refers to Nelson Mandela and his struggle to end apartheid.

3. "I'm guided by a signal in the heavens I'm guided by this birthmark on my skin". This refers to the righteous struggle to end oppression – particularly the oppression of people of color.

4. "I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons" – The beauty of people who willingly lay down their tools and withhold their labors until justice is won.

5. "I'd really like to live beside you, baby I love your body and your spirit and your clothes” – The battle is wearisome, and I need a respite, but the struggle continues and here I am.

6. "But you see that line there moving through the station?” This refers to concentration camps, refugee camps, internment camps, all of which were located in nations where races and classes of people were being colonized.

7. "Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you're worried that I just might win" – A reference to neoliberals who fear a popular and just uprising.

8. "You know the way to stop me, but you don't have the discipline" – The “way” of course is to balance the scales of Justice, but unfettered, free-market capitalists do not have the disciple to take only what they need while leaving the rest.

9. "And I thank you for those items that you sent me The monkey and the plywood violin I practiced every night, now I'm ready" – The crap toys sold by WalMart et al, which are manufactured in nations where exploitation of workers is routine. Maturity, however, allows me to understand that human sacrifice is too high a price to pay and now I’m working to change that system.

10. "Well it's Father's Day and everybody's wounded” – men feeling emasculated because they lament not doing more to win justice for all.

11. "First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin” – see 1.

activist not jewish | Reviewer: roy | 11/9/10

Please consider that the song is about giving a shit, and love. It is hard to belive that everyone if focusing on the taking Berlin part. For me the wieght of the song leans on Wemens rights as I belive Leonard Cohen is the worlds most famous feminist...Self Love should come first "And I don't like these drugs that keep you thin, I don't like what happened to my sister"
The line that guides my life is "I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons"
not for bitter revenge, music is for peace...

Cohen = brilliant | Reviewer: Anonymous | 8/6/10

I'm with James that this refers in some sense to a kind of Jewish revenge fantasy. Cohen's Jewish heritage permeates his work, lyrically, thematically, musically, so it's easy to imagine the "line there moving through the station" as Jews being sent to the death camps, and his reminder that "I was one of those" showing himself allying with them.

I don't believe the whole "Global Zionist conspiracy" crap, nor do I think Cohen is praising blind, ugly ethnic nationalism here (he's way too smart for that), but I think there's a good case to be made for this song being his clever f*** you to the "Gentile" west and how it has abused and victimized Jews for so many centuries.

Joan of Arc revisited | Reviewer: Jarlon Magee | 6/18/10

Fans of Leonard Cohen knows he has a deep respect for the saint Joan of Arc...His 'I'm guided by a signal from the heavens' could be taken from 'Joan's voices directing her to go to war against the English.' His 'you loved me as a loser,' is a re-working of how Joan felt before she was betrayed by the French who loved her as a girl-in-armor, but now,with her success in battle, the crown was worried that she was becoming more powerful than the King of France...
so they burned her at the stake for her service to France...'everybody's wounded..first we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin' indeed...

IJC | Reviewer: Corbin G. | 5/5/10

I consider We to be evil and despicable.

have you ever considered the possibility someone might have to be?

Imagine civilized criminals, able to evade judgement by eloquence, expensive lawyers, feigning, trickery.
Those criminals might murder countless people by pushing a button. Or rather by signing an order.
And usually this order needn´t even given or signed. The rich and civilized criminals merely nod at their ambitious lackeys.
Who commit crimes, trusting in being rewarded once the murder turns out successful, and no blame on the mastermind. Mission accomplished. Perfect crime.

If such civilized criminals could be proven responsible.
Eg for destroying the planet, intentionally.
They´d still do it, because they fear no court, no public anger. They are that good, better at intrigue, framing scapegoats, the public will forever trust them, rather mistrust their accusers.

Those civilized criminals commit crimes, on an on, murder remorselessly, without trace, trusting in their and their lackeys ability to cover it up.

People tend to critize what they can see.
Helps them to not think about what the really dangerous, more invisible criminals so.

By being courageous enough to admit antisemitism you express trust in those people´s honour.
Wouldn´t you sign the stone thrown at a real Mobster with your real name? Would you even throw that stone? I wouldn´t.

Now imagine (well, that´s how I stumbled upon this song) Watchmen.
On the surface as evil or seemingly non-evil, no crimes can be proven in front of court, as those civilized criminals.

The difference between perfect criminals and Watchmen, criminals answer to no higher authority but themselves. And their greed. Or whatever vice makes them having people suffer needlessly.

Song's meaning | Reviewer: Jesse | 3/26/10

According to Gwynne Dyer author of War: The New Edition, "First We Take Manhattan" refers to the "naivety and narcissism" of the West German Red Army Faction, "...designer terrorism by celebrity terrorists, as much about radical chic as about real politics."

First We Take Manhattan, obviously refers to their narcissistic attitudes, taking the fashion and style of Manhattan.

Then We Take Berlin, obviously refers to the RAF and their desires for the future of Germany.

Where James got Jewish Supremacy is beyond me.