Leonard Cohen VS Enrique Morente First We Take Manhattan |2 Versions, 2 Stories, 1 Meaning
What is the difference between Leonard Cohen and Enrique Morente’s versions of First We Take Manhattan? what does the song mean? how did a Spanish flamenco singer end up covering a song by a Canadian singer-songwriter? This is the story of 2 unforgettable versions.
Reading Time | 6 min
Listening Time | 10 min
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Story behind First We Take Manhattan
- Video Enrique Morente Manhattan and Leonard Cohen First We Take Manhattan
- Trembol | Why is First We Take Manhattan so exciting?
- What is the meaning of First We Take Manhattan?
- You can’t miss | The best of First We Take Manhattan
- This is what it says | First We Take Manhattan Lyrics in Spanish
- Omega, more than just a record
- Much more | Covers, Live
- Technical Note about First We Take Manhattan
Story behind First We Take Manhattan
1996 | ENRIQUE MORENTE & LAGARTIJA NICK
Enrique Morente and Leonard Cohen met in Madrid in 1992, and such was the chemistry that the cantaor promised the poet to adapt some of his songs to flamenco, including ‘Manhattan‘. That would be the seed of one of the most praised albums in the history of flamenco, ‘Omega‘, released in 1996 by Enrique Morente, together with the Spanish rock group Lagartija Nick. ‘Manhattan‘ would be chosen as the first single for the 20th anniversary edition of Omega.
1987 | LEONARD COHEN
Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Norman Cohen is the original author of ‘First We Take Manhattan‘, although curiously, it was his former backing singer, Jennifer Warnes, who you may know for ‘I’ve had the time of my life‘ from Dirty Dancing, the first to sing it on a tribute album to Leonard. In 1998, Leonard Cohen would release his 8th album, ‘I’m you man‘, including the song.
Enrique Morente Manhattan (First We Take Manhattan)
Leonard Cohen First We Take Manhattan
Trembol | Why is Enrique Morente’s version of Manhattan as moving as Leonard Cohen’s original?
As often happens to me, I come to a song because of the emotion it awakens in me, then I hallucinate with the story behind it and finally I share it with you 😜 I like flamenco, although I’m not a fan, I’m usually more hooked on flamenco fusion tracks, so ‘Omega‘, the album by Enrique Morente and Lagartija Nick, which mixes rock-punk with flamenco vocals, is one of my all-time favourites. Especially ‘Manhattan‘, which I would define as exciting music that oozes danger. Enrique Morente joked when the album was released:
If the previous album was for friars, this one is for squatters.That’s right, 13 songs that revolutionised flamenco and Spanish music, thanks to 2 things:
- Enrique Morente’s promise to the musician and poet Leonard Cohen that he would cover some of his songs such as: First We Take Manhattan, Pequeño Vals Vienes or Aleluya.
- Federico García Lorca’s work ‘Poeta en Nueva York (Poet in New York)‘ which inspired songs such as: La aurora en Nueva York or Ciudad sin sueño.
What is the meaning of First We Take Manhattan?
The first thing to know is that Enrique Morente and Lagartija Nick’s version of Manhattan is not an exact translation of Leonard Cohen’s original First We Take Manhattan, although it maintains the essence and the same message, but what is that message? The lyrics are a little misleading, suggesting religious themes with references to prayer. It also talks about birthmarks and signs in the sky, something that makes us think it speaks of the end times. Not that this is all wrong, but in fact, as Leonard Cohen himself has explained, ‘First we take Manhattan‘ is about terrorism 💣
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.
You can’t miss ⭐️ The best of First We Take Manhattan
1. The intro with the Spanish guitar in Enrique Morente’s version. Danger and anguish.
2. ¡Primero tomaremos Manhattan, luego conquistaremos Berlín!
3. The verse sung only by the choir, led by a young Estrella Morente, daughter of Enrique Morente.
1. The synthesiser and choir complementing Leonard Cohen’s voice in the second verse.
2. The verse sung by the choir alone sounds for a moment like a commercial pop song.
3. First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin!
This is what it says | First We Take Manhattan lyrics
LYRICS LEONARD COHEN | FIRST WE TAKE MANHATTAN | ENGLISH
They sentenced me to 20 years of boredom For trying to change the system from within I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin I’m guided by a signal in the heavens (Guided, guided) I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin (I am guided by) I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons (Ooh, ooh) First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin I’d really like to live beside you, baby I love your body and your spirit and your clothes But you see that line there moving through the station? I told you, I told you, told you I was one of those Ah, you loved me as a loser, but now you’re worried that I just might win You know the way to stop me, but you don’t have the discipline How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin I don’t like your fashion business, mister And I don’t like these drugs that keep you thin I don’t like what happened to my sister First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin I’d really like to live beside you, baby I love your body and your spirit and your clothes But you see that line there moving through the station? I told you, I told you, told you I was one of those And I thank you for those items that you sent me, ha ha ha ha The monkey and the plywood violin I practiced every night, now I’m ready First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin I am guided Ah, remember me, I used to live for music (Baby) Remember me, I brought your groceries in (Ooh, baby, yeah) Well, it’s Father’s Day, and everybody’s wounded First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
LYRICS ENRIQUE MORENTE | MANHATTAN | SPANISH
Me condenaron a veinte años de hastío por intentar cambiar el sistema desde dentro. Ahora vengo a desquitarme, primero conquistaremos Manhattan, después conquistaremos Berlín. Me guía una señal en los cielos, me guía una marca de mi piel, me guía la belleza en nuestras armas, primero conquistaremos Manhattan, después conquistaremos Berlín. Quisiera estar siempre contigo. Me gusta tu cuerpo, tu espíritu y tu ropa, pero ¿ves esa fila que avanza en la estación? Te dije, ya te dije, que yo, ay que yo era uno de ellos. Me amaste como perdedor y te preocupa que pueda vencer. Sabes cómo detenerme y no me sabes tú comprender. ¿Cuántas veces recé para yo volver a empezar? Primero conquistaremos Manhattan, después conquistaremos Berlín. Recuerda que yo vivía para la música, recuerda que de mí te mantenías. Hoy es el día del padre y estamos heridos, después conquistaremos Berlín. Quisiera estar siempre contigo. Me gusta tu cuerpo, tu espíritu y tu ropa, pero ¿ves esa fila que avanza en la estación? Te dije, ya te dije, que yo, ay que yo era uno de ellos.
Songwriter: Leonard Cohen | Lyrics First We Take Manhattan © Stranger Music Inc. | Adaptation: Enrique Morente, Alberto Manzano | Background Image: Google Images
Omega, more than a record
Omega changed the course of flamenco history, but what is Omega?
- Omega is an album released in 1996, re-issued in 2006 and the title of a documentary that tells the genesis and creation of the project.
- Omega is the fusion of Enrique Morente’s flamenco with the band Lagartija Nick’s rock.
- Omega is the poetry of Federico García Lorca and the adaptation of songs by Leonard Cohen.
- Omega is Estrella Morente (Enrique’s daughter), Antonio Arias (leader of Lagartija Nick), Tomatito, Vicente Amigo, Alberto Manzano, Lee Ranaldo (of Sonic Youth), Laura García Lorca (Lorca’s niece), Isidro Muñoz, Cañizares…
- In 1995, Antonio and Jesús Arias, brothers and leaders of the rock band Lagartija Nick proposed to Morente an idea they had been thinking about for a long time, to record some poems by Lorca mixing punk music and flamenco. Enrique accepted without hesitation and incorporated it into the concept of ‘Omega’.
- The recording of the album took place in 1996, during several months in which Enrique and Lagartija Nick let themselves be carried away by their instinct. With a strong anarchic and experimental spirit they shaped Omega.
- The first public performance was at the Albéniz theatre in a flamenco cycle. Flamenco purists didn’t understand it and criticised it voraciously.
- Time puts everything in its place, and today ‘Omega’ is a cult album.
Much more | First We Take Manhattan Live, covers, etc.
‘First we take Manhattan’ has been covered dozens of times. Some examples to highlight:
Enrique Morente ‘Manhattan’ live
Leonard Cohen ‘First We Take Manhattan’ live
Technical Note about First We Take Manhattan
Enrique Morente and Lagartija Nick Manhattan
- 🎼 Details: Although the track is considered to be exclusively by Enrique Morente, the truth is that his daughter Estrella Morente sings more than half of the song, making Manhattan an intergenerational anthem.
- 🎤 Genre: Manhattan is a flamenco rock song.
- 🥁 Instruments: In addition to Enrique Morente and his daughter Estrella vocals, we find the members of Lagartija Nick playing bass, electric guitar, drums and percussion. There are even some flamenco guitar arrangements and some hand-clapping by Enrique Morente’s wife, Aurora Carbonell.
Leonard Cohen First We Take Manhattan
- 🎼 Details: The promotional video for First We Take Manhattan included an intro talking about an actual bombing of the German-Arab Society, which occurred in Berlin in 1986.
- 🎤 Genre: First We Take Manhattan was originally a Pop song, until Jeff Fisher, a Canadian soundtracks composer, transformed it for Cohen into the techno-funk we all know.
- 🥁 Instruments: The whole track is driven by a guitar played by Steve Ray Vaughan, Jeff Fisher‘s keyboards and the vocals of Hawaiian singer Anjani.
- 🎹 Key: First We Take Manhattan is originally played in A minor. The main chords are: Dm – Am – Dm – Am – Dm – Am – G – F – E – Am