Chelsea Hotel # 2 (1972-1993)

I named Janis Joplin in that song. I don't know when it started, but
I connected her name with the song, and I've been feeling very bad about
that ever since. It's an indiscretion for which I'm very sorry. And if
there is some way of apologizing to a ghost, I want to apologize now for
having committed that indiscretion.

Leonard COHEN (BBC Radio 1,1994) (read more of this interview)

<<early version sung during the 1972 tour,sometimes called "Chelsea Hotel # 1";tune is sometimes different than the studio original release.>> We can read on the backcover of "Greatest Hits" this "song note" from Leonard,about Chelsea Hotel:<<....Ron Cornelius helped me with a chord change in an earlier version>>

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
You were talking so brave and so sweet
Giving me head on the unmade bed
While the limousines wait in the street.

Those were the reasons and that was New York.
I was running for the money and the flesh
I was running for the money and the flesh
That was called love, for the workers in song
And it still is for those of us left.

Oh but you got away, didn't you baby
You just threw it all to the ground
You got away, they can’t pay you now
For making your sweet little sound, come on make it, baby
Making your sweet little sound, let’s all do it
Making your sweet little sound, I can hear it
Making your sweet little sound

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
Then I went to Tennessee
Sittin’ by the creek with Willie Yore
And Kit Marley
(see above) came to visit me

For those were the reasons and that was New York.
I was running for the money and the flesh
That was called love for the workers in song
And it still is for the few of us left.

Oh but you got away, didn't you baby
You just threw it all to the ground
You got away on your deepest dream
Making your sweet little sound on the jukebox
Making your sweet little sound on transistor radio
Making your sweet little sound, for the royalties
Making your sweet little sound, let me follow you
Making your sweet little song, let me follow you
Making your sweet little song, don’t leave me now
Making your sweet little song, all the way now
Giving me head on the unmade bed
A great surprise lying with you, baby
Making your sweet little sound.

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
That was the winter of ‘67
My friends of that year, they were trying to go queer
And me, I was just getting even.

Those were the reasons and that was New York
I was running for the fucking money and the flesh
That was called love for the workers in song
And it still is for the few of us left.

Ah but you got away, didn't you baby
You just turn your back on the pain
You got away on your wildest dream
Racing the midnight train, I can see it
Racing the midnight train with no clothes on, baby
See all your (?) torn on the ground
All of your clothing, no piece to cover you
Shining your eyes in my deepest corner
Shining your eyes in my darkest corner
Racing the midnight train, I can't catch you baby
Racing the midnight train.

(*) Kit Marley was a Rodeo champion who sold Leonard a horse during the late 60's, round Nashville.

It was the end of the 60's, the beginning of the 70's. We saw the battalion of a kind of apocalyptic vision about what the world was going be and what rock music or pop music was going to be in it. And toward the end of that time we saw the casualties, the burnt out acid heads, the dead singers, famous and obscure. This is a song that I wrote to one of those great singers that I knew. It comes out of a time when a lot musicians used to staying at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City.

I wrote this song for a great singer who died at the end of the 60's. This song uncovers that period which was so full of expectations and promises and damage done, so many casualties of obscure and famous ones and this one set of kind of musicians I used to meet at the Hotel in NY.

A long time ago there was this Hotel in NYC, where a lot of musicians used to stay. There's a very great singer who used to stay there in the old days along with lot of other very good musicians. And I used to meet her in the elevator, very late at night, around three in the morning. She wasn't looking for me, and I wasn't looking for her. But there was nobody else up at that time. I think she was looking for Kris Kristofferson. Anyway somebody a little taller than me. It really didn't…. Even Phil Ochs was taller than me in those days. He's not that tall now. Anyway she was a very great singer and the thing I loved about her was her attitude towards her audience. There was no division, there was no ambiguity about how she felt about singing. So many singers today have such a curious attitude towards their audience, and if you read the lyrics of their songs, they're filled with ambiguity about how difficult it is to be a pop-star, how difficult it is to get servants, how hard it is to shop for jewels, and the burden of being loved by everybody. These are serious problems that occupy the minds. Many of our most creative minds today are occupied by these serious problems. And in her life and in her work, she gave herself completely, and when she decided to stop giving herself, she cut out completely. And I wrote this song for her, it's for Janis Joplin.

Il y a un Hotel a New York ou viennent beaucoup d'artistes (there is a Hotel in NYC where a lot of musicians used to stay), et j'ai rencontre une grande chanteuse la-bas (and i met a great woman singer there), dans l'ascenseur (in the elevator) and after she died, i wrote her this song.  It's a very beautiful woman, i loved her attitude... est-ce que vous comprenez anglais??  (Do you speak english?) parce que moi je parle pas français, ni anglais. Une autre langue mais.. (another language, but..). I loved her attitude towards her music. You know if you study the lyrics of today, that is if you are so idle and foolish as to actually study the lyrics of today, you find that so many of the singers are concerned with the difficulties of being a popstar. A very great serious question into this world to be a popstar. The difficulties in getting servants and how hard it is to shop for jewels and there are many burdens (..) upon the shoulders of the popstars and we should.... we should understand their great suffering and anguish. Of course,here in France, anguish is profundally understood except when it concerns the popstars. And there was not of that sound of her and when she split, she split for good. And i used to met her as i said in french in the elevator. She wasn't looking for me. And i wasn't looking for her. I was looking for Brigitte Bardot. She was looking for Kris Kristofferson, someone taller than me. But we fell into each other's arms, through some process of elimination. That's the process by which everything happens. There is nothing more i can say about her, except she was a very great singer. And after she died i wrote this song for her. Janis Joplin.

There was a Hotel in NYC where a lot of musicians used to stay.And among these musicians,a very great singer,a woman;i used to bump into her,in the elevator,about three in the morning.She wasn't looking for me.I  think she was looking for kris Kristofferson,somebody taller than me.I wasn't looking for her.I was looking for Brigitte Bardot.Anyway we fell into each other's arms,through some process of elimination.That's the process by which everything happens.I also used to see her across the street at the Bronco Burger.A hamburger joint.It's not there any more.So don't go looking for a hamburger.You'll just be disappointed.It's not there any more.But this shouldn't concern you,these ups and downs of capitalism.The hamburger joints rise and fall .Ou sont les neiges d'antan? (Where are the snows of bygone days?). Anyhow I used to watch her in there (..) she was watching to see if people would put her songs  on the juke-box.(..) and she was a truly great (..).There was something great about her attitude towards her public.(..) no ambiguity.You know if you look at the lyrics of today (..) how difficult it is to be a popstar (..) getting servants,shopping for jewels,(..) all this burden and ordeals (..) on the shoulders of the popstars (..).It's one of the great catastrophies of modern times.You never got any of that sound from her or in her work.(..).I was in 24th Street NYC she said "Hey man,you're in town to read poetry to old ladies".She had a very refreshing view of my career.After she died i wrote this song for her,Janis Joplin.

A long time ago there was a hotel in New York City where a lot of musicians used to stay. Among them there was a very great singer, a woman. I used to bump into her in the elevator about three in the morning, completely by mistake. She wasn't looking for me. I think she was looking for Kris Kristofferson. And I wasn't looking for her. I was looking for...Brigitte Bardot. Anyhow, we fell into each other's arms through some process of elimination, which is the process by which most things happen and I loved...There's music going on here that is not my own. How delightful. How delightful to hear music that is not my own. Bring it up...Last time I saw her was on 23d Street. She said, "Hey man, you in town to read poetry for old ladies?" That was her view of my career. Anyhow, there was no sense of ambiguity or division in her relation with her audience, with her public, and after she split, after she died, I wrote this song for her, Janis Joplin.

I wrote this for an American singer who died a while ago. She used to stay at the Chelsea, too. I began it at a bar in a polynesian restaurant in Miami Beach in 1971 and finished it in Asmara, Ethiopia just before the throne was overturned. Ron Cornelius helped me with a chord change in an earlier version.

This prologue contains an old french ballad, that begins the same way as the usual one Leonard uses to introduce "Chelsea Hotel # 2" : "Il ya longtemps" (There's a long time ago")

Il y a longtemps...(singing) "Il y a longtemps que je t'aime,jamais je ne t'oublierai.Sur la plus haute branche,un pauvre rossignol chantait, Chante Rossignol Chante toi qui as le coeur gai, gai, gai, gai....Il y a longtemps que je t'aime, jamais je ne t'oublierai". Il ya....Oh peut-etre 15 ans,j'ai rencontre dans un ascenseur...toute ma vie sociale appartient à des ascenseurs...j'ai rencontre une tres grande chanteuse,peut-etre elle n'est pas encore oubliee, et j'ai ecrit cette chanson pour elle, c'etait Janis Joplin.

 
A long time ago.....(singing) "It's been a long time since I loved you, and never will I forget you. From the highest branch, a poor nightingale was singing, Sing nightingale! Sing! , whose heart is gay, gay, gay..... It's been a long time since I loved you, never will I forget you". It was... oh maybe 15 years ago, I met in an elevator..... all my social life belongs to elevators. I met a very great singer, maybe she's not forgotten yet, and I wrote this song for her, it was Janis Joplin.

verse variation
"..told me once again you'd prefer younger men.."

I began that song, I would say ah, the very late sixties. I'm not quite sure when I began that song. There is a version of it that I made in 1972, that I never released (*). It went through a lot of changes. I don't think it was ready to record until 1974 (**). My meeting Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel was the genesis or the seed of the song. It went through a lot of changes. That's about it.

About the dedication to Janis Joplin

As the years went by I began to relize that it was Janis Joplin who gave me the seed of the song. Often a song develops from the gift of another individual, as though somebody hands you the song. It may take years to develop. Like the song "Nancy". I remember its genesis very very clearly. It was someone I met in an all night dinner in Nashville. And I was working on the song and I couldn't break it. And I remember just standing at the Jukebox looking at the selection of songs and a young woman came up and stood beside me and said "You ought to play R7". And I spoke to her for a moment and I realized that some kind of transfer was being made, that the heart was being softened in some way by the presence of this other person. And in a sense the seed of the song was being handed over. Well, while I was working on the song I wasn't even sure it was the song Janis Joplin had given me but as I began working on it I understood what that seed, the seed gift, or the seed origin or the genesis, that thing from which the song develops, that softens the heart enough to receive ah, whatever the energies are that produce the song, that it was Janis Joplin. And as the years went by I began to want to acknowledge that gift.

About the verse "I don't mean to suggest that I loved you the best"

Well that speciffically meant I wasn't one of Janis Joplin's closest friends. I don't really know her life deeply. I'd bump into her now and then and I knew her slightly, but there was obviously some kind of rapport and I did feel some sort of closeness to her - but I didn't want to include myself for History's sake or accuracy's sake as one of her intimates. I wasn't.

(*) Leonard probably means by that the version of "Chelsea Hotel 1" as sung in the movie by Tony Palmer "Bird on A Wire" Click here.

(**) The studio version included in the album "New skin for the old ceremony", called "Chelsea Hotel 2".


It is a song I wrote a long time ago, for a very great american singer. Forgotten by some, remembered by some like the rest of us singers,all destined to be remembered or forgotten. It doesn't really matters which name is remembered and which name is forgotten. There will always be singers.This one was a great one. Her name was Janis Joplin.

I'd like to sing this song for a very great singer that I met many years ago. She's remembered by some, and forgotten by others. I met her in an elevator, in a Hotel, in NYC. One of the greatest singers of our time, she died a few years ago. Her name was Janis Joplin.

I wrote this next song a while ago, to a very great American singer, who died several years ago. I used to bump into her from time to time, at a Hotel in NY where a lot of musicians used to come. Lot of those musicians are now gone. They say the era is over. They say these are now the times of the conservative, the stable, the order. Well, perhaps that's true. She certainly stood for something that was beyond order and beyond chaos, beyond the radical and beyond the conservative. Which is what every (you know) great singer embodies, something that is not an argument and not a philosophy. Anyhow I wrote this song for her, long time ago. It's dedicated to Janis Joplin. It's called "Chelsea Hotel".

It was a long time ago (..) I met a young singer a long time ago at the "Chelsea Hotel" in NYC. I wrote this song for her after she died. It was Janis Joplin.

That was written in a brown Hotel room, in the Penn Terminal Hotel. That's outside of the Bus Terminal on the 34th Street in NYC. The Penn Terminal Hotel,the very last place. There was a really lovely room there,you couldn't open the windows. The elevator... the elevator was a lovely place,not so good as the Chelsea Hotel's, which was quite a social venture, the elevator in the Chelsea Hotel. A tiny room that you never left alone. It was on 23d Street. On 23d Street there was an automat. That's a fast food establishment. You put a coin in the wall and piece of pie comes rushing out at you ...... extremely high velocity. I wrote a quatrain about that automat. It's extremely undistinguished. And I'm afraid I'm going to inflict it on you. It goes like this "I wandered into the automat - Wearing a kind of religious hat - The peas were round and the pancakes were flat - I pray God in Heaven to keep it like that" That's not very good but .... It's not good ... (applause) ... I do not think you are discriminating ... but from the same poem there's another quatrain, equally irrelevant. It goes  << I was arrested for kissing a broom - The Judge said "Were you the bride or the groom?" - I thought for a while - And I finally spoke - "Judge I don't have to listen to that kind of joke, that's not funny".>> ... Anyhow, forgive me for indulging myself with these timeless verses. In the Chelsea Hotel, there were a lot of musicians who used to stay there. I remember Phil Ochs ... lot of musicians who aren't with us any longer ... and there was Jimi Hendrix, there was Tim Buckley. A lot of great men and women. And in the elevator one night, I met an extremely beautiful kind and compassionate young american singer. She was actually looking for Kris Kristofferson. But through some process of elimination, we fell into each other's arms. And after she died - that didn't have anything to do with my embrace; my embrace is poisonous but not fatal - but anyhow. I loved the attitude in relationship she had with the people she sang for. And when she left, she left for good. I wrote this song for her. It was Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel.

Once upon a time, there was a hotel in New York City. There was an elevator in that hotel. One evening, about three in the morning, I met a young woman in that hotel. I didn't know who she was. It turned out she was a very great singer. It was a very dismal evening in New York City. I'd been to the Bronco Burger. I had a cheeseburger. It didn't help at all. (Sings: Didn’t help at all.  The cheeseburger didn’t help all.) Went to the White Horse Tavern, looking for Dylan Thomas (Sings: But Dylan Thomas was dead). Ah, I got back to the elevator and there she was. She wasn't looking for me either. She was looking for Kris Kristofferson (Sings: Lay your head upon the pillow...).  I wasn't looking for her, I was looking for Lili Marlene. Forgive me for these circumlocutions. I later found out she was Janis Joplin and we fell into each other's arms through some divine process of elimination, which makes a compassion out of indifference. And after she died, I wrote this song for her. It's called "The Chelsea Hotel."

There was a street in NYC, called 23d street...(Rumblings from the crowd) I'm sorry, that's what it was called.... and on this street there was a Hotel. Feels quite glamorous when I look back on it......during the time I was ewtremely busy. You know I would go from the automat to the Bronco Burger, from the Bronco Burger to the automat, back to the Hotel, over to the Bronco Burger, over to the automat....it was not an exalted existence. A total dismal drag except for one evening which was illuminated by a particular moment. It was the elevator and riding the elevator through some divine, cosmic, benign mercy, there was a very beautiful young woman in the elevator, the same time as I was. It turned out she was a very great American singer, I didn't know at the time. She wasn't looking for me, and I wasn't looking for her. She was looking for Kris Kristofferson. And I was looking for....Oh I never knew whom I was looking for...Anyhow, through some divine........anyhow, it turned that this young woman was Janis Joplin. I wrote this song for her.

A long time ago,in an elevator in NYC,i met a great American singer.I don't know what that means to you who have real problems on your hands.In fact i wonder why you're concerned with my tiny neurotic sensibility at all.Anyway i'm proud to sing to a great people..

It was a long time ago in New York City. There was a very great singer who stayed at the same hotel that I stayed at. And I used to meet her in the elevator late at night. She wasn't looking for me. She was looking for Kris Kristofferson. And to be indiscreet, I wasn't looking for her, I was looking for Brigitte Bardot. But through a curious twist of fate, we found ourselves on the same elevator. A particularly dismal, brown elevator, full of aimless ups and downs, and reeking with despair. This elevator never took anyone where they wanted to go. They only took us back to our rooms. Anyhow the hotel was the Chelsea Hotel and the singer was Janis Joplin, whose voice will never die.

Je voudrais chanter une chanson que j'ai écrit il y a longtemps ... que je t'aime jamais je ne t'oublierai. C'était dans un hôtel à New-York, dans un ascenseur. Au milieu de la nuit j'ai rencontré dans cet ascenseur une très grande chanteuse américaine. Elle cherchait Kris Kristofferson et moi je cherchais Brigitte Bardot mais nous étions dans le même espace et qu'est-ce qu'on peut faire ?... J'ai écrit cette chanson pour elle, c'était Janis Joplin au Chelsea Hotel

English translation: I'd like to sing a song I wrote long time ago .... (performing an old traditional French song) "...long time since I loved you, and never will I forget you...." It was in an Hotel in NY, in an elevator. In the middle of the night I met in that elevator a very great American singer. She was looking for Kris Kristofferson, I was looking for Brigitte Bardot, but we were in the same space and what can you do when you're there. I wrote this song for her, it was Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel.

It was a long time ago, in an elevator, in the Chelsea Hotel, that I wrote this song. Oh that was a lovely elevator. God ! If I could only ride up and down up and down in that elevator all my life. I think I am riding up and down all my life. They're such pretty buttons. You could reach everyone of them. You didn't have to be a giant. You just had to be ordinary human-sized. There they were, 1 2 3 4 5 6, these buttons. Where is the elevator and these buttons. They would take me to the delights that I so richly deserved. The Penta Hotel. It's not that bad you know. It's a good Hotel. It has a very deep bathtub. I brought my fish. At this very moment my fish is sporting itself in the bathtub at the Penta Hotel. There's a lot of space for my fish. My fish is sad. It deserves the Ocean it believes. My fish is full of anxiety and ambition for the Ocean. I will have to tame my fish. My fish will be tamed in the bathtub at the Penta Hotel. It is not the only Hotel. My fish does not ride in the elevator. My fish travels through windows. My fish is a liar. I have no fish. I lied to you about my fish. My fish is a dog. He lives with an old woman. Back to the Chelsea Hotel, and the elevator in the Chelsea Hotel before I was so rudely interrupted by my rebellious thoughts. I believe I lived there once. I was a young singer trying to make it in NY. I was eating amphetamine and I was a hundred and nineteen pounds, of fury. It was late one night. I think it was a Tuesday, but I may be wrong about that. If there are any historians here, don't hold me to the fact. I have a certain poetic licence. Maybe it was Thursday, what the hell !! We're all friends. Let's say it was a Thursday night. There were no buttons in the elevator, I lied about that too. It worked on a kind of ESP, you kind of willed yourself to the floor that you lived on. I'm sorry for going on about it now like this. I'm just an old man with an electric guitar. You know how that leads you into all kinds of disasters and predicaments. One night I met a very lovely young woman in that elevator. She was dressed in leather and feather and fringes. It was the style of the time. In those days they hadn't heard about black. One thing led to another. I knew she was hungry. I could tell by her fringes. She was looking for Kris Kristofferson. A name we rarely hear these days. But my name is not that prominent either, so what have I got to complain about. And I was looking for Brigitte Bardot., but she was already establishing that intimate relationship with the seal that excluded all other human companionship. I didn't know at that time. I pressed on and on. Forever the optimist. Anyhow the young woman in that elevator was Janis Joplin, and the young man was Leonard Cohen, an unlikely combination. However, out of that grotesque union, came this song.

This is a story that I tell every time I sing this song and I'm going to keep on telling it as long as I'm singing. It's a story about a young woman that I met in an elevator in a hotel in New York City. One of the greatest singers that I ever heard. I was wandering around all night.that was a great elevator, you know. It was only about 4 feet wide. It was the very hub of my social activity. I didn't get around very much but sometimes I'd meet somebody in that elevator. Around three in the morning, I used to see this other dismal person in this elevator. And I looked into her eyes. She avoided my eyes and it became clear to me that she wasn't looking for me. She was looking for Kris Kristofferson. I said, "I am Kris Kristofferson." She said, "I thought you were a lot taller." I said, "I am a lot taller but it's just photography." And the truth be told, I wasn't looking for her; she was a kind of sad-looking girl with knotty, curling hair and a very bad complexion. I wasn't looking for her. I said, "Well, the truth be told, I'm looking for the granddaughter of Mae West," who doesn't even exist. And one thing lead to another. Well, we found ourselves together. And it was a long time later after she died that I wrote this song for her. Her name was Janis Joplin. It was at the Chelsea Hotel.

Every concert that I give, I dedicate a 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 fine elevator. We found ourselves there often. 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, "I used to be bigger but I've been sick." And we spent a little time together, and I loved the way that she sang, and she died, some odd reason, and some time 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... (laughs). It doesn't mean 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.

It was a long time ago that in this very dismal brown elevator I bumped into a very beautiful young woman. Things happened like that in those days. I never bump into anybody in the elevator. That's because I live in the ground floor. She seemed to be looking for something. I said "Are you looking for something ?" She said : "Yes" And I knew she wasn't trying to realise some unfulfilled potential of her nature, that she was actually looking (for something). "What or who are you looking for", I said. "Kris Kristofferson". I said ," I am Kris Kristofferson". I don't know what it was with that girl but she believed me. And I deceived her for many nights (..) "I thought he was a lot taller". I sat down a moment. I used to have a sun tan you see. and it was a couple of years later, I found myself at the Bar of a Polynesian restaurant in Miami Beach. (..) I was the very image of the man I wanted to be, feeling unhappy, thinking of all that I'd blown. It was a couple of years after she died, that I scribbled on a paper napkin. That is the privilege of self-indulgence. I wrote this song for her. It was Janis Joplin, at the Chelsea Hotel.

A long time ago I met a beautiful young woman in an elevator in New York City. I used to bump into her at about three in the morning every night. After a while I gathered my courage and I said to her, "Are you looking for something?" And she said, "Yes, I'm looking for something." I knew by the tone of her voice that she wasn't trying to realize some unfulfilled potential of her inner nature, that she was actually looking for something. I said, "Who or what are you looking for?" She said, "Kris Kristofferson." I said,     "I am Kris Kristofferson." And I deceived her for many nights. A long time after that, I found myself at a bar in a Polynesian restaurant in Miami Beach, leaning over a napkin and one of those drinks that they serve in a porcelain coconut shell. I was writing a song to this very lady. I was the very image of myself, 40 years old, thin, neglected with a great song on my mind. It took me a while to finish it. It's for Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel.

Many years ago, I lived in a Hotel in NYC. And late at night, sometimes in the elevator, I used to bump into a famous singer there, a young woman, who entertained thousands so gracefully and so gloriously. And I would look at her in the elevator, and she would look at me. I knew that she was actually looking for Kris Kristofferson but she would, well maybe she'd settle for me...

There was this Hotel in NYC, where I used to stay in my wild youth. Sometimes I stay there in my wild middleage. It was a wonderful place you know, you could come up to the reception desk there with three naked women a bear and a midget and they wouldn't even raise an eyebrow, just hand you your key and say, "Good night Sir". And in the elevator....the elevator was the source of my social life there. I used to meet people in the elevator there. I met a distinguished singer, a woman, in the elevator. I used to see her every night there, a very famous singer. I was a famous singer myself. But...I used to see her in that elevator, she was always alone, you know..I said "Are you looking for someone?". She said "Yes" - I said "Who ?" - She said "Kris Kristofferson" - I said "I'm Kris Kristofferson !" - She said "No he's a lot taller than you,isn't he?" - It's true. Anyway,the young woman was Janis Joplin and I wrote this song for her.

A long time ago, before there were tulips in Holland, before there were silver beads in Santa Fe, I lived in a filthy dirty Hotel in NYC. Remind me never to go there again.You couldn't eat a potato chip there. It was salted with acid. Oh the suffering we underwent there. It was in the elevator there that I bumped into a young woman. I didn't speak the first few nights, but night after night yes she was there in that same elevator. The spirit of the elevator. Hail to thee blithe spirit of the elevator.! Finally I broke the ice. I said "What floor are you going to ?" She said "I'm not looking for you, I'm looking for Kris Kristofferson !" I said "I am Kris Kristofferson". For several nights she believed I was Kris Kristofferson. It was only when I stood up that she found that I was Leonard Cohen. Anyway…..where was I ? Yeah, I wrote this song for Janis Joplin, "Chelsea Hotel".

I used to notice about three in the morning every night there was this young woman there.I've seen her night after night, finally I gathered my courage and I said "Are you looking for someone?" She said "Yes I'm looking for Kris Kristofferson" I said "You're in luck,I am Kris Kristofferson !" And you know : she believed me,It was just a measure of her desperation that she was ready to accept me as Kris Kristofferson.I talked about my helicopter about my horses in Tennessee.A couple of years after she died I was sittin' at this bar in Miami Beach...one of the less glorious episodes of my life...a Polynesian restaurant, waiting for my spare ribs and my thai cocktail... a dismal moment...and I started to write this song on a napkin for Janis Joplin,the "Chelsea Hotel".....

Years ago, I used to live in a hotel in New York City. It was a very good hotel. And even though it seemed very shabby it was quite sophisticated. In fact at 3 in the morning you could go up to the desk accompanied by a brachycephalic teenager and a polar bear and ask for your key, and they'd give it to you without raising an eyebrow. It was in this hotel's elevator that I noticed a young woman huddling in the corner. And after 3 or 4 nights I gathered my courage and I asked her if she was looking for someone. She said, "Yes, I'm looking for Kris Kristofferson" I said, "My dear Lady you're in luck, I'm Kris Kristofferson" I knew she didn't believe me, but we spent some time together there and a couple of years after she died I was thinking about her, thinking about those nights in that hotel. I was sitting at a bar in Miami Beach, a particularly poisonous Polynesian restaurant where they serve you drinks in ceramic coconut shells. It's a place to be avoided. I hope I never meet any of you there. And I was thinking of this young woman who was a very great singer and I began this song for her. It was Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel...

About a thousand years ago I used to live in this hotel in New York City, a very good hotel. In the elevator of that hotel, early in the morning I used to bump into a young woman. After about a week, I gathered my courage and I said to her, "Are you looking for someone?" She said, "Yes,I'm looking for Kris Kristofferson." I said, "Little Lady, you're in luck. I'm Kris Kristofferson. "Those were very generous times as you may have read.So she never lead on that she really knew I wasn't Kris Kristofferson. Maybe I was Kris Kristofferson. I wasn't wearing cowboy boots until that moment. A couple of years later I was sitting at the bar of this Polynesian restaurant in Miami Beach, some place I hope I never bump into you. They serve drinks in ceramic coconut shells. All up and down the boulevards there are real coconut trees with real coconut shells. There is some arcane meaning in all of that but I couldn't penetrate it. I was sitting at that bar and this young woman's presence became very strong and I wrote this song for Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel.

A thousand years ago I used to live at this Hotel...( Applause )... I thought I saw you there. Every evening about three in the morning I'd bump into this young woman in the elevator, and after a couple of weeks I gathered up my courage and I asked her, "Are you looking for someone?" And she said, "Yes I'm looking for Kris Kristofferson". I said, "Lucky Lady, you're in luck, I am Kris Kristofferson." Such was the generosity of the age that she never let on. Anyhow it was a couple of years later, after she passed away, that I was sitting at this bar in Miami Beach and drinking poisonous cocktails out of these ceramic coconut shells. I don't know why they use ceramic coconut shells because the whole place was infested with real coconut trees. These are arcane mysteries I will never penetrate. Anyhow her presence came on very strong and I wrote this song for Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel.

About a 1,000 years ago I was staying  in this Hotel in NYC. It wasn't a bad Hotel, it wasn't a good Hotel but in the elevator there I begin to bump into  a young woman late at night. After a couple of weeks i gathered my courage and I said to her "Are you looking for someone?" She said "Yes, I'm looking for Kris Kristofferson" I said "Lucky Lady, You're in luck, I am Kris Kristofferson". Such was the generosity of those times. A couple of years later, after this young woman had passed from this vale of tears, I found myself sitting at a Bar in a Polynesian restaurant in Miami Beach. It was a Bar where they served cocktails in ceramic coconut shells.This was a mystery I could not penetrate, because the very trees in Boulevards were lined with coconut trees, bearing true and authentic coconut shells. Why they would choose to serve their drinks in ceramic coconut shells escapes me until this very day.As I say I was sitting at the Bar of this Polynesian restaurant when the presence of this young woman came upon me very strongly. And upon a napkin I began that song, for Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel.

A thousand years ago I lived at this Hotel in NYC. I was a frequent rider of the elevator on this Hotel. I will continuously leave my room and come back. I was an expert on the buttons of that elevator. One of the few technologies I really ever mastered. The door opened. I walked in. Put my finger right on the button. No hesitation. Great sense of mastery in those days. Late in the morning, early in the evening. I noticed a young woman in that elevator. She was riding it with as much delight as I was. Even though she commanded huge audiences, riding that elevator was the only thing she really knew how to do. My lung gathered my courage. I said to her "Are  you looking for someone?"  She said  "Yes, I'm looking for Kris Kristofferson  "I said  "Little Lady, you're in luck, I am Kris Kristofferson."  Those were generous times. Even though she knew that I was someone shorter than Kris Kristofferson, she never led on. Great generosity prevailed in those doom decades. Anyhow I wrote this song for Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel.

A long time ago, I left my hometown of Montreal and I went down to NY to try to break into that infernal enterprise called show-business. I stayed in a very agreeable Hotel there, a very sophisticated place. You could go up at two in the morning to the frontdesk accompanied by a pygmy and a polar bear, ask for your key and without a raised eyebrow, they just hand it to you and say "Have a nice night Mr Cohen". It was in the elevator of this Hotel that I began to notice night after night a young woman who happened to be riding that diabolical vehicle just the same time as I. Afterwhile I gathered my courage and I said to her : "Are you looking for someone ?" She said "Yes, I'm looking for Kris Kristofferson". I said "Little Lady, you're in luck, I am kris Kristofferson". Such was the generosity of those times that she didn't lead on, not even once. It was some time after she passed from this vale of tears that I found myself at a bar, in a Polynesian restaurant, in Miami beach, drinking an alcoholic beverage from a ceramic coconut shell. This was a mystery I could not penetrate. Because there was real coconut shells on every tree on the boulevard. The song came. It's for Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel.

That was written with Janis Joplin in mind. A couple of years after she died I was in a Polynesian restaurant in Miami and the thought of her was very strong. I started writing that lyric and finished it in a town in the north of Ethiopia. I went there after the Yom Kippur War for some odd reason, and I ended up in the Imperial Hotel finishing that song, getting the last chorus: "I need you, I don't need you, and all that jiving around."

I was in the manager's office downstairs and on the wall I saw a picture of a woman. It remembered to me the time that I left Montreal for New York City. My mother said to me, even though I was a grown man, "Watch out for those people Leonard, they aren't like we are." I was deeply offended by her presumption of giving a man of such (?) this advice but after I'd lost the copyright to "Suzanne" and "The Stranger Song" and "Dress Rehearsal Rag," I think I knew what she was talking about. There was however some compensations, some consolations, a sophisticated hotel on 23rd Street. You can enter with a pigmy and a polar bear and not an eyebrow was raised, the key was just shoved across the counter.  I used to ride the elevator late at night, up and down.I noticed that there was a young woman in that elevator.  I did not know the great fame, the renowned she had attained. All I knew was that she was a nightrider like myself, trying to pass the hours of the early morning. I gathered my courage and I summoned the most razor-like approach that I could carve for her presence and I said, "Are you looking for someone?" She said, "Yes I'm looking for Kris Kristofferson." I said, "Lucky lady, you're in luck tonight. I'm Kris Kristofferson." Well, such was the generosity of those times that she never called me on it.  A couple of years later after she passed over to the other side, I found myself at this bar in a Polynesian restaurant in Miami Beach. Life leads the thoughtful man on a path of many windings. I was drinking a cocktail out of a ceramic coconut.  This was an imponderable mystery because the entire place was frothing with actual, authentic coconuts. I hold these mysteries on the level of the trinity. Not only can they not be
penetrated but there is no need to penetrate them.  They are comforting in their obscurity. The very obscurity is what offers such solace. I think we can take a lesson from this. Many of the mysteries that seem to beset us, just lie back on them and relax. The thought of the young woman came to me very strongly as I sat at that bar and I wrote this song for Janis Joplin.

Special Spanish edition "Circulo de lectores"

Home


© 1998-2009 www.leonardcohensite.com - Production et Management : Patrice Clos et Olivier Mory.  Contact webmaster