The Origins Of “Puppets” From The Posthumous Leonard Cohen Thanks For The Dance Album

The posthumous Leonard Cohen album, Thanks For The Dance, will be released Nov 2019. However, one of its tracks, “Puppets,” was a topic covered in the June 24, 2006 Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas KCRW interview. While the primary focus was the Blue Alert album, the show also featured two songs by Leonard Cohen that were written for possible use in an album on which he was then working. The songs were demo versions described as part of a “forthcoming” Leonard Cohen album then (i.e., June 2006) being developed during the same time Cohen was writing Book Of Longing and producing Anjani’s Blue Alert.1 As Leonard put it, “… I have dozens of lyrics I’m setting to music now.”

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He went on to say, speaking specifically of these two songs,

I don’t even know if these tracks are going to survive [to make it on the album], although people like them. Well, ‘people’ is like my son and my daughter.

… They [the two songs] are very raw, both in the presentation and in the delivery and in the subject matter. It’s a kind of uncovered emotion that surprised me too when I listened to it. It sounds real.

Both songs evolved from poems published in Book Of Longing by Leonard Cohen (Ecco, May 9, 2006).

One of those songs was “Puppets,”2 the lyrics of which are listed below. The lyrics Leonard sings, however, are not identical to the words of the poem.

Puppets By Leonard Cohen

German puppets
burnt the Jews
Jewish puppets
did not choose

Puppet vultures
eat the dead
Puppet corpses
they are fed

Puppet winds and
puppet waves
Puppet sailors
in their graves

Puppet flower
Puppet stem
Puppet Time
dismantles them

Puppet me and
puppet you
Puppet German
Puppet Jew

Puppet presidents
command
puppet troops to
burn the land

Puppet fire
puppet flames
feed on all the
puppet names

Puppet lovers
in their bliss
turn away from
all of this

Puppet reader
shakes his head
takes his puppet
wife to bed

Puppet night
comes down to say
the epilogue to
puppet day

While I first posted this rendition of Puppets Jan 5, 2009,  a 2015 Martin Ferrabee video offers a unique perspective on this Leonard Cohen work.

“Puppets” German puppets burnt the Jews Jewish puppets did not choose.
Video by Martin Ferrabee

DrHGuy Note: The melody played in the background of “Puppets” is Havah Nagilah (literally, “Let us rejoice”), a song of celebration.

I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). Most of the content of this entry was originally posted at 1HeckOfAGuy.com Jan 5, 2009.
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  1. In the interview, Leonard agrees that the album is “forthcoming,” but, no doubt hearkening to previous problems with record companies, wisely declines the host’s request that he predict when the album will come out, noting only “It’s hard to say.” []
  2. The other song was The Book Of Longing” []

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