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Chelsea Hotel Lyrics

Chelsea Hotel Lyrics Sung by Leonard Cohen

(scroll down to watch the video)

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,
we were running for the money and the flesh.
And that was called love for the workers in song
probably still is for those of them left.
Ah but you got away, didn’t you babe,
you just turned your back on the crowd,
you got away, I never once heard you say,
I need you, I don’t need you,
I need you, I don’t need you
and all of that jiving around.

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
you were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again you preferred handsome men
but for me you would make an exception.
And clenching your fist for the ones like us
who are oppressed by the figures of beauty,
you fixed yourself, you said, “Well never mind,
we are ugly but we have the music.”

And then you got away, didn’t you babe…

I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can’t keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
that’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.

Enjoy This Video – Chelsea Hotel Lyrics Sung by Leonard Cohen

Some Facts and Insights into Chelsea Hotel Lyrics and Leonard Cohen

“Chelsea Hotel”, the precursor to “Chelsea Hotel #2”, was only performed live and co-written by Cohen and his guitarist Ron Cornelius. “Chelsea Hotel #2” refers to a sexual encounter in the Chelsea Hotel, probably New York City’s most famous Bohemian hostelry. For some years, when performing this song live, Cohen would tell a story that made it clear that the person whom he was singing about was Janis Joplin. Cohen would eventually come to regret his choice to make people aware that the song was about Joplin, and the graphic detail in which the song describes their brief relationship. In a 1994 broadcast on the BBC, Cohen said it was “an indiscretion for which I’m very sorry, and if there is some way of apologizing to the ghost, I want to apologise now, for having committed that indiscretion.”

Leonard’s publicist unbeknown to him, revealed that this song was about his secret affair with Janis Joplin. While it did great for the record publicity, it really angered Cohen that someone he trusted had leaked this personal information.

The song includes reflections about a moment between two conventionally unattractive people, communing as both homely and immensely talented. The affair was short, but they “had the music” a lot better than most anyone else alive at the time. More importantly Janis “got away” because she died from a heroine overdose. The song is just as much about all the musicians who didn’t surviving the lifestyle, the drugs, the decade…

Regarding the lyrics towards the end of the song: “I’ll never confess, that I loved you the best. I can’t keep track of each fallen robin. I remember you well in the Chelsea hotel, that’s all I don’t even think of you that often”– to some, this may seem to be a sarcastic line, as if to say to himself “I want to seem like I don’t care, but underneath I really do care about the death of this lover. But I don’t want to admit it to myself or else I might feel really sad about it”. But there’s another meaning here. Perhaps to say he really cared after the fact, this could be hypocritical and a lie, because in reality, maybe he really didn’t care about her and brushed her aside like so many of the other fallen robins he dated. It may seem mean, but perhaps that is the truth, that he really didn’t care and to lie and say that he did, would dishonor her life and death. But again, he may have had the other emotion as well at the same time. Double meanings like this in Cohen’s lyrics appear intentional and one of the things that make him such a fascinating, meaningful and credible writer.

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