I'm Your Man (Leonard Cohen album)

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I'm Your Man
I'm Your Man - Leonard Cohen.jpg
Studio album by Leonard Cohen
Released February 2, 1988
Recorded August to November 1987;
Studio Tempo in Montréal (Québec),
Rock Steady in Los Angeles (usA) [1]
Genre Synthpop
Length 40:41
Label Columbia
Producer Leonard Cohen, Roscoe Beck, Jean-Michel Reusser, Michel Robidoux
Leonard Cohen chronology
Various Positions
I'm Your Man
The Future

I'm Your Man is the eighth studio album by Leonard Cohen,[2] released in 1988. The album marked Cohen's further move to a more modern sound, with many songs having a synthpop production.


Although Columbia had refused to release Cohen's 1985 album Various Positions in the U.S., he remained with the label and toured in support of the release. He also co-wrote and co-composed the film Night Magic, starring Carole Laure and Nick Mancuso, with fellow Quebecer Lewis Furey. The film garnered two Genie Award nominations for Best Original Song at the 7th Genie Awards for the songs "Angel Eyes" and "Fire," with "Angel Eyes" winning. In February 1986, Cohen appeared on the popular TV series Miami Vice playing Francois Zolan, a senior executive in Interpol. A year later, long-time backup singer Jennifer Warnes, who had scored a smash in 1982 with "Up Where We Belong," a duet with Joe Cocker that appeared on the soundtrack to An Officer and a Gentleman, released Famous Blue Raincoat, a collection of Cohen songs. It was with this momentum that Cohen recorded I'm Your Man, which would be hailed by critics as his "comeback" album.


I'm Your Man was recorded in Los Angeles and Montreal and employed four producers: Roscoe Beck, Jean-Michel Reusser, Michel Robidoux, and Cohen himself. The LP would give Cohen an updated, contemporary 80s sound, featuring songs composed primarily on keyboards and delivered in Cohen's increasingly gravelly rasp. Cohen's sound had started to evolve on his last album Various Positions but it is more successfully realized on this LP. In his book Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life, biographer Anthony Reynolds observes, "...in almost every respect I'm Your Man marked not so much a progression but an evolutionary leap forward...Cohen's new musical canvas was rich and wide, with its bold and bald use of sequencers, drum machines, synclavier and synths all mixed exotically with the lingering eastern European textures of the bouzouki, the oud, and the heart rending (old Russian school) violin." Cohen felt his singing had improved as well, telling Adrian Deevoy of The Q Magazine in 1991, “Sometimes I can’t stand the sound of my voice. It went through periods. The first and second records it sounded right. Then I stopped being able to find the right voice for the songs. The songs were good and the intention was good but the voice wasn’t really up to it. I lost it for a while. When I did Various Positions it was coming back and when I got to I’m Your Man I was in full stride.” In 1997 he reiterated to Nigel Williamson of Uncut, "On I'm Your Man, my voice had settled and I didn't feel ambiguous about it. I could at last deliver the songs with the authority and intensity required."


The album includes some of the singer's most popular songs and concert staples, including the single "Ain't No Cure For Love," "First We Take Manhattan," "Tower of Song," and "Everybody Knows," which was a collaboration with Cohen's backup singer Sharon Robinson. "Everybody Knows" is known for its somber tone and repetition of the title at the beginning of most verses. Featuring phrases such as "Everybody knows that the dice are loaded" and "Everybody knows that the good guys lost", the song has been variously described by critics as "bitterly pessimistic" yet funny,[3] or, more strongly, a "bleak prophecy about the end of the world as we know it."[4] The lyrics include references to AIDS,[5] social problems,[6] and relationship and religion issues.[7] The album's opening track, "First We Take Manhattan" (originally called "In Old Berlin"), deals with geo-political ideas, specifically extremism, as he explained himself in a backstage interview:[8]

I think it means exactly what it says. It is a terrorist song. I think it's a response to terrorism. There's something about terrorism that I've always admired. The fact that there are no alibis or no compromises. That position is always very attractive. I don't like it when it's manifested on the physical plane - I don't really enjoy the terrorist activities – but Psychic Terrorism. I remember there was a great poem by Irving Layton that I once read - I'll give you a paraphrase of it - it was "Well, you guys blow up an occasional airline and kill a few children here and there," he says. But our terrorists, Jesus, Freud, Marx, Einstein. The whole world is still quaking...

"Take This Waltz" was originally released as part the 1986 Federico García Lorca tribute album Poets in New York (Poetas en Nueva York)[9] and as a single. It reached number one in Spain in 1986.[10] The song appears on I'm Your Man in slightly re-arranged version (with addition of violin and Jennifer Warnes's duet vocals, both absent from the 1986 version). The song's lyrics are a loose translation of the poem "Pequeño vals vienés" by the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca (one of Cohen's favorite poets). The poem was first published in Lorca's seminal book Poet in New York|Poeta en Nueva York. In his 2010 Cohen biography, Anthony Reynolds claims that the unorthodox "Jazz Police" was Cohen's response to his band's effort to introduce augmented fifths and sevenths to their playing. He "policed" such jazz intrusions, although he "wasn't sure of the lyric's meaning and grew to dislike the conceit." The genesis of "Tower of Song" is described in Ira Nadel's 1996 Cohen memoir Various Positions:

"Tower of Song" is the keynote work of I'm Your Man. With it Cohen wanted to "make a definitive statement about the heroic enterprise of the craft" of songwriting. In the early eighties he called the work "Raise My Voice in Song." His concern was with the aging songwriter, and the "necessity to transcend one's own failure by manifesting as the singer, as the songwriter." He had abandoned the song, but one night in Montreal he finished the lyrics and called an engineer and recorded it in one take with a toy synthesizer.

Cohen revised the song, which contains the rumination, "I was born like this, I had no choice/I was born with the gift of a golden voice." Ever mindful of his reputation as a "flat singer" among critics, audiences always erupt when Cohen sings these lines live. Cohen also cites Hank Williams, a songwriter he has professed great admiration for, in the song ("...a hundred floors above me..."). Cohen recited the lyrics in full when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Although Cohen had earned a reputation among critics and some listeners for excessive gloominess, several tracks on the album displayed his wry sense of humor and playfulness, such as the lascivious title track and "I Can't Forget," which he cited in a BBC interview with John Archer after the album's release as an example of his simpler approach: "I had to go back to the beginning and determine where I was in regard to my own song and I realized that I'd have to find another kind of language that was much flatter, which I think this record has...I began that lyric just trying to locate myself...That was really close to the bone, and that's where I like to keep my lyrics now." In the Paul Zollo book Songwriters on Songwriting, Cohen said of the song "I'm Your Man": "I sweated over that one. I really sweated over it. I can show you the notebook for that. It started off as a song called "I Cried Enough for You." It was related to a version of "Waiting for a Miracle" that I recorded. The rhyme scheme was developed by toeing the line with that musical version that I put down. But it didn't work." "Ain't No Cure For Love," with its slick AOR sound, was chosen as the first single. Although I'm Your Man did not do as well in the United States as it did in other countries, CBS Records awarded Cohen with the Crystal Globe award, reserved for artists who have sold more than five million albums overseas, to which Cohen famously quipped, "I have always been touched by the modesty of their interest in my work."

Album cover[edit]

The album cover may be Cohen's most memorable, featuring the dapper singer eating a banana. As recounted in Ira Nadel's Various Positions, Cohen was at a Los Angeles warehouse to watch the filming of Jennifer Warnes's video "First We Take Manhattan" and was photographed by publicist Sharon Weisz in his dark glasses, charcoal gray pin-striped suit, and white T-shirt chomping on a banana: "Sharon showed it to me later and it seemed to sum me up perfectly. 'Here's this guy looking cool,' I thought, 'in shades and a nice suit. He seems to have a grip on things, an idea of himself.' And it suddenly occurred to be that's everyone's dilemma: at the times we think we're the coolest, what everyone else sees is a guy with his mouth full of banana." Cohen liked the image so much that he not only used it for the album cover but as the poster images of his 1988 world tour.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[11]
Robert Christgau A−[12]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[13]

I'm Your Man was hailed by critics as a return to form. It was number 1 in Norway for 16 weeks.[14] The album is silver in the UK and gold in Canada.[citation needed]and topped the charts in the United Kingdom, where it went silver. In the original Rolling Stone review, David Browne called it "the first Cohen album that can be listened to during the daylight hours." Jason Ankeny of AllMusic writes that I'm Your Man "re-establishes Leonard Cohen's mastery. Against a backdrop of keyboards and propulsive rhythms, Cohen surveys the global landscape with a precise, unflinching eye: the opening 'First We Take Manhattan' is an ominous fantasy of commercial success bundled in crypto-fascist imagery, while the remarkable 'Everybody Knows' is a cynical catalog of the land mines littering the surface of love in the age of AIDS." It was ranked 51 on Pitchfork Media's list of the 100 best albums of the 1980s.[15] Tom Waits has named it one of his favourite albums.[16] Slant Magazine listed the album at number 29 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s".[17] In a Rolling Stone top ten readers poll, three songs from the album - "I'm Your Man," "Tower of Song," and "Everybody Knows" - were voted the best Leonard Cohen songs of all time, ranking #10, #8 and #4, respectively.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Leonard Cohen except where noted.[2]

No. Title Length
1. "First We Take Manhattan"   6:01
2. "Ain't No Cure for Love"   4:50
3. "Everybody Knows" (Cohen, Sharon Robinson) 5:36
4. "I'm Your Man"   4:28
5. "Take This Waltz" (Cohen, Federico García Lorca) 5:59
6. "Jazz Police" (Cohen, Jeff Fisher) 3:53
7. "I Can't Forget"   4:31
8. "Tower of Song"   5:37


Liner Notes:[18]
Written, produced, arranged and played by Leonard Cohen.
Vocals by Leonard Cohen and Jennifer Warnes.
Ian Terry [19] with François Deschamps [20] at Studio Tempo in Montréal,[21]
Leanne Ungar [22] at Rock Steady in Los Angeles.
Mixing engineer:
Leanne Ungar at Rock Steady in Los Angeles, second engineer: Fred Echelard [23]

Production by Leonard Cohen.
Production co-ordination: Roscoe Beck.
Technical co-ordination: Leanne Ungar

Song covers[edit]

In film[edit]

  • The album's title track appears on the soundtrack of the 2002 film Secretary.
  • A 2006 tribute film and album to Cohen were titled Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man.
  • "Everybody Knows" was in the movie/documentary King of Kong (A Fistfull of Quarters) and Atom Egoyan's film Exotica. It also featured in Pump Up the Volume.
  • Cohen's "Hallelujah" was featured in the 2009 film Watchmen and was included on the official soundtrack. Though absent from the official soundtrack, "First We Take Manhattan" was also featured in the film's closing credits.
  • A film released in 2011 starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen is entitled Take This Waltz and the Cohen song plays during the climax of the film.
  • The 2014 film Life Itself, directed by Steve James, reveals that the song once saved the life of Roger Ebert. Ebert states that after a complicated surgery he was due to leave the hospital for home, but stayed in his room to listen to I'm Your Man in full. Ebert claims that had he left as planned before the song's end, he would have died, as the medical procedure did not take and he began bleeding from an artery in his neck.


  1. ^ Discogs - I'm your Man reMastered-vinyl-LP 2011 Columbia / Music On Vinyl (MOVLP424) Europe
  2. ^ a b Ankeny, Jason. "I'm Your Man". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  3. ^ Browne, David (June 16, 1988). Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man : Music Reviews. Rolling Stone. Accessed July 14, 2006.
  4. ^ Holden, Stephen (June 21, 2006). 'Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man': A Documentary Song of Praise. New York Times. Accessed July 14, 2006.
  5. ^ Stephen Scobie, Intricate preparations: writing Leonard Cohen, ECW Press, 2000, ISBN 1-55022-433-6, p. 123.
  6. ^ Maurice Ratcliff, The complete guide to the music of Leonard Cohen, Omnibus Press, 1999, ISBN 0-7119-7508-6, p. 81.
  7. ^ Barry Alan Farber, Rock 'n' roll wisdom: what psychologically astute lyrics teach about life and love, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007, ISBN 0-275-99164-4, p. 25.
  8. ^ http://www.boelters.de/LC/OrigZit.html#manh
  9. ^ Poets In New York at Discogs (list of releases)
  10. ^ http://thisisspain.info/towns-and-cities/granada/history
  11. ^ Ankeny, Jason. I'm Your Man (Leonard Cohen album) at AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
  12. ^ Christgau, Robert. Leonard Cohen. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
  13. ^ Rolling Stone 16 June 1988
  14. ^ "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man - VG-lista. Offisielle hitlister fra og med 1958". Lista.vg.no. 2006-06-01. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  15. ^ Pitchfork Staff (2002-11-20). "Top 100 Albums of the 1980s". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  16. ^ Waits, Tom (2005-03-20). "It's perfect madness". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  17. ^ Best Albums of the 1980s | Music | Slant Magazine
  18. ^ Discogs - I'm your Man images, CD 1988 Columbia (CK 44191) Canada)
  19. ^ Discogs - Ian Terry profile and significant discography
  20. ^ Discogs - François Deschamps discography
  21. ^ Discogs - Studio Tempo (aka Tempo Studios) profile and discography
  22. ^ Discogs Leanne Ungar profile and significant discography
  23. ^ Discog - Fred Echelard discography

External links[edit]