Leonard Cohen’s “Take This Waltz”

Canadian singer, songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen cites Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca as the catalyst for his extraordinary life and career. Such was the influence of the Spaniard, Cohen named his daughter (Lorca) after him.

Cohen was asked to translate one of Lorca’s poems and set it to music. The result was the delightful “Take This Waltz,” featured on the 1988 album “I’m Your Man.” The lyrics are based on Lorca’s poem “Little Viennese Waltz,” and Cohen’s version includes numerous references to the city. The song begins, for example…

Now in Vienna there’s ten pretty women
There’s a shoulder where Death comes to cry

In a 1992 interview Cohen noted it took 150 hours to get the translation right, “…just to get it into English that resembled – I would never presume to say duplicated – the greatness of Lorca’s poem.”

The Canadian is no stranger to Vienna itself, having performed here on several occasions. In 1984, he said of local audiences, “In Vienna, there’s a certain value placed on vulnerability. They like to feel you struggling. They’re warm, compassionate.”