On March 22, E Street Band saxophonist Jake Clemons (the nephew of the late Clarence Clemons) released a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Democracy. The song will be on his next album, due out in May. Together with the release of the song, tour dates were announced, including shows in the Netherlands, New Jersey (USA), the UK and Ireland.
Unlike Cohen’s original, Clemons version of Democracy is a straightforward rock anthem. The lyrics on the surface patriotic, inspiring and prophetic but when examined closely more profound and ambiguous.
As Cohen wrote this song in 1992, the Berlin Wall had just come down and Eastern Europe was experiencing a democratic resurrection- changes of society that don’t come without a great amount of suffering. The lyrics are a cynical reminder that America is not the democracy it claims to be, but that it is coming.
From the dock of the bay, from the brave, the bold, the battered Heart of Chevrolet. Democracy is coming to the U.S.A
Cohen died just a day before Donald Trump was elected president, so there’s no way to know his reaction. However, it seems to me that the lyrics of Democracy is as important and relevant as ever and I think it’s very clever of Clemons to chose this song to cover.
Tickets to the upcoming tour with announced dates in Belfast, Dunkalk, Dublin, Limerick, Clonakilty, Cork, Glasgow, Sheffield, Liverpool, Oxford and London go on general sale on March 29.
(Youtube video by courtesy of Dan French)
This is Clemons’ statement/press release to the song:
“My father, a man whose greatest pride lay within his service to his country, instilled in me a firm belief that our flag, our nation should represent the certain unalienable rights of all people, that we are all created equal, that we are stronger as a whole, and that our rights as a collective whole deserve to be defended,” Clemons said in a press release. “Democracy, a mighty ship that would sail for the people and by the people, well, it’s slow. It is here, but it’s not. We are both waiting for it and simultaneously seem to be warring against it.
“When then, will the identity that promised to bind us together in precious liberty finally ring true; ‘FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE’? When will we resolve to become truly UNITED as that powerful force claiming that grander posture of ‘WE, THE PEOPLE’? This was the promise made, one that I have to hold on to, be it desperately, one that my father would proudly sacrifice time & time again for. It is slow … but it’s coming. This is Democracy.”