Transcription by Artur Jarosinski
March 22, 1985, Sala Kongresowa (Congress Hall at the Palace of Culture)
before Who by Fire
You know, I come from a country where we do not have the same struggles as you have. I respect your struggles. And it may surprise you, but I respect both sides of this struggle. It seems to be that in Europe there needs to be a left foot and a right foot to move forward. I wish that both feet move forward and the body moves towards its proper destiny. This is an intense country; the people are heroic, the spirit is independent. It is a difficult country to govern, it needs a strong government and a strong union. When I was a child and I went to synagogue every Saturday morning... and once in this country there were thousands of synagogues and thousands of Jewish communities which were wiped out in a few months. In the synagogue at which I attended there was a prayer for the government. We were happy and we are happy to pray for the welfare of the government. And I would like to say to you, to the leaders of the left, and the leaders of the right, I sing... I sing for everyone. My song has no flag, my song has no party. And I say the prayer, that we said in our synagogue, I say it for the leader of your union and the leader of your party. May the Lord put a spirit, a wisdom and understanding into the hearts of your leaders and into the hearts of all their councilors.
It was amusing to me that in an interview that I did in Poznan that the commentator after hearing a version of this song in Polish described it as decadent. My mother would have been very angry with him. She sang songs like that one around the house all the time. Was he saying that my mother was decadent? There is a war between the rich and poor, there is a war.
before The Law
Thank you very much, friends, this is a new song, it's called "The Law". There is a law, there is an arm, there is a hand. Beyond the sovereignty of any nation, there is a judgment, there is a reward, there is a punishment, there is a law, there is an arm, there is a hand.
before The Partisan
This is a holy land that has been sanctified by the blood of martyrs. There are still ashes in the air, there is still dampness in the ground. I feel the presence of so much undone. I feel the aspirations of so much unarticulated. It is to these ghosts, to these unquiet souls, to these brave memories that I dedicate this next song.
Thank you very much. I want to do one more song and then we'll take a break. If anybody doesn’t speak English, please translate to the person who’s sitting beside you, okay? Because I don't want anybody going home thinking they've paid all this money for this shorthanded concert... so we're gonna do one more song, we'll go back to our dressing room, and we're going to drink a lot of red wine, then we're going to come back and play a lot more songs. Does everybody understand that? I must say it's a very beautiful dressing room. I wish you could all come there. I haven't been in such a beautiful room since my bar mitzvah. Thank you very much for extending to me the hospitality of this institution.
before Chelsea Hotel #2
Every concert that I give, I dedicate this song to a great American singer that I met one night in an elevator in a shabby hotel in New York City. It was a... it was a fine elevator. We found ourselves there often... I don’t, I don’t know what she was doing there. I think she was looking for Kris Kristofferson. I told her that I was Kris Kristofferson. But she said, "I thought he was bigger." I said that I used to be bigger but I'd been sick. And we spent a little time together. And I loved the way that she sang... and she died for some other reason, and sometime later, I think I was sitting at a bar in a Polynesian restaurant in Miami Beach--I don't know what I was doing there, either... I have no program, I have no five-year plan. I just... (applause) It doesn’t mean that you shouldn't have one! I just move from hotel to hotel, and from bar to bar, and by the grace of the One above occasionally a song comes, and I remember sitting at this particularly obnoxious Polynesian restaurant where they served a kind of coconut drink that was particularly lethal and sinister which contained no alcohol but a certain chemical that demoralized you entirely. And I remember writing on one of their very badly designed napkins, "I remember you well at the Chelsea Hotel..." so I dedicate this song to one of the great singers, Janis Joplin.
Thank you very much, friends. You know, since I've been here many people have asked me what I thought just about everything there is in this vale of tears. I don't know the answers to anything, I've just come here to sing you these songs that have been inspired by something that I hope is deeper and bigger than myself. I have nothing to say about the way that Poland is governed. I have nothing to say about the resistance to the government. The relationship between the people and its government is an intimate thing. It is not for a stranger to comment. I know there is an eye that watches all of us. There is a judgments that weighs everything we do. And before this great force, which is greater than any government I stand in awe and I kneel in respect and it is to this great judgment that I dedicate this next song, "Hallelujah".
before If This Be Your Will
Thank you very much, friends for the real warm reception that you've given me here. I don't know which side is anybody on any more. I don't really care. There is a moment when we have to transcend the side we're on and understand that we are creatures of a higher order. That doesn't mean that I don't wish you courage in your struggle. There is on both sides of the struggle men of good will. That is important to remember. On both sides of the struggle, some struggling for freedom, some struggling for safety and solemn testimony of that unbroken faith which binds generations one to another I sing this song, "If It Be Your Will"...
Thank you very much, friends, thank you. I grew up in Montreal in Canada which is a very wide and beautiful country . I come from a very curious city where there are many influences operating: European, French, English, Jewish, Ukrainian, German, Polish, Hungarian... I can't begin to name all of the influences that I grew up around. And always there was a symbol of the church. We were Jews. We had a very ambiguous feeling about the church, because we knew the history of the church, and we knew the history of the Jews. It is a curious thing, friends, that I find myself at this moment in a country where the greatest destruction of Jewry occurred. I have no thoughts about it, I have feelings that cannot be spoken. It has nothing to do with you, it has nothing to do with me, it is some matter between our great grandparents - your great grandparents and my great grandparents. This is a land of Chopin and Copernicus, of Solidarity, of Lech Walesa (long applause). It is also the land of Iron Guard, this is a land of Auschwitz, this is a land of many terrible atrocities. I have no judgment. My song has no flag. My song has no party. My song has no border. It is for men of good will everywhere. Let us forget these heavy matters for a moment and return to my dismal adolescence in Montreal. There was a ball room that I used to go to on Stanley St. where I was one of the most notorious wallflowers of the season. It is into this song that I've place all my most irrelevant recollections of that particularly disagreeable period. It is called "Memories", here it goes...
The sound samples have been taken from the 1985 cassette bootleg.
It's interesting to note that the sentence "This is a land of
Chopin and Copernicus, of Solidarity, of Lech Walesa (long applause).
It is also the land of Iron Guard, this is a land of Auschwitz, this
is a land of many terrible atrocities" has been cut off. I will
replace the sound sample as soon as the complete recording is available.
I'd like to play another song, so if you'd keep quiet for a second... Thanks a lot. I really appreciate the reception you have given us tonight, and speaking for myself personally not only tonight but for the attention you've paid to my songs all through these years, I thank you very much for that. Don't clap now, because I want to say a little tiny thing: When I was in the... distinguished hotel Victoria in which (off the mike: "Is that the name of it?" a band member nodding: "Uh-hmm", Cohen: "Yeah, that's the name of it.") You know, you got to see a lot of hotels when you're on the road, so sometime you forget the name, but we were very hospitably treated at the hotel Victoria and a young man came up to me this evening and he shook my hand and he was the President of the Country & Western Music Association of Poland. That's the kind of music that is very dear to my heart. I don't know if he made it to the concert tonight, but he gave me a very beautiful pen, he gave a few pens and I really appreciate that. And I don't know somehow that dissolves all the other concerns that we've approached this evening. And for this man--I know he was a man that worked hard, because his hand was callused, and he had done some hard work in his life, and I want to dedicate this song to him and to all of us, the song I didn't write, but it's a Country & Western song that I've loved.
Color photo from 1985 © Daniel Wyszogrodzki.
Black and white photo © Lelek.