Dance Me to the End of Love

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"Dance Me to the End of Love" is a 1984 song by Leonard Cohen. It was first performed by Cohen on his 1984 album Various Positions. It has since been recorded by various artists, and has been described as "trembling on the brink of becoming a standard".[1]

Although structured as a love song, "Dance Me to the End Of Love" was in fact inspired by the Holocaust. In an interview, Cohen said of the song:

'Dance Me to the End Of Love' ... it's curious how songs begin because the origin of the song, every song, has a kind of grain or seed that somebody hands you or the world hands you and that's why the process is so mysterious about writing a song. But that came from just hearing or reading or knowing that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet[2] was pressed into performance while this horror was going on, those were the people whose fate was this horror also. And they would be playing classical music while their fellow prisoners were being killed and burnt. So, that music, "Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin," meaning the beauty there of being the consummation of life, the end of this existence and of the passionate element in that consummation. But, it is the same language that we use for surrender to the beloved, so that the song — it's not important that anybody knows the genesis of it, because if the language comes from that passionate resource, it will be able to embrace all passionate activity.

In 1996, Welcome Books released a book called Dance Me to the End of Love, as part of its "Art & Poetry" series; the book featured the lyrics of the song alongside paintings by Henri Matisse.

Madeleine Peyroux version[edit]

"Dance Me to the End of Love"
Single by Madeleine Peyroux
from the album Careless Love
Released 2005 (2005)
Recorded 2004
Genre Jazz
Length 3:54
Label Rounder
Writer(s) Leonard Cohen
Producer(s) Larry Klein
Madeleine Peyroux singles chronology
"Don't Wait Too Long
"Dance Me to the End of Love"
"I'm All Right"

Jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux included a cover of "Dance Me to the End of Love" on her second solo album, Careless Love (2004). It was released as the second single for the album and has been a part of her concert set-list since then.

Peyroux's rendition was included on the fifth and last of the Queer as Folk soundtracks, as well as on the soundtrack of the 2009 computer game The Saboteur.

Other versions[edit]


The Scottish painter Jack Vettriano painted a painting with the same title. He has also made two other paintings named after and inspired by Leonard Cohen works: one based on Cohen's novel Beautiful Losers and the other inspired by his song "Bird on the Wire". When asked on Desert Island Discs,[3] Vettriano mentioned Leonard Cohen's album I'm Your Man as one of his must have records.


  1. ^ Dance Me To The End Of Love, Mark Steyn, 2009
  2. ^ [1] Music of the Ghettos and Camps, A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust,
  3. ^ [2] Desert Island Discs