Listen: Bob Dylan Covers Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” in Montreal

Currently, Bob Dylan is on his Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour. Over the weekend he played in Montreal, Quebec, hometown of the late songwriter Leonard Cohen. While there, he covered one of Cohen’s classics.

During Sunday night’s concert, Dylan played “Dance Me to the End of Love” in honor of the late songwriter. Listen to the cover below.

Cohen originally released the song on his 1984 album, Various Positions. Over the years several artists have covered the song. At this point, it’s close to becoming the second of Cohen’s songs to become a standard. The other is his iconic “Hallelujah” from the same album.

While many believe “Dance Me to the End of Love” to be a love song, the Holocaust inspired Cohen to write it. He said it came from “just hearing or reading or knowing about that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet was pressed into performance while this horror was going on. … 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 thereof being the consummation of life, the end of this existence, and of the passionate element in that consummation.”

This is far from the first time Dylan has covered Cohen’s songs. By all accounts, the two songwriters were friends. However, it is not clear how close they were. It is clear that Dylan and Cohen held a deep mutual respect for one another. This respect centered around their love for and impact on the art of songwriting.

When asked to comment on Various Positions in the past, Dylan said, “These are more than songs. These are prayers.” Dylan further praised Cohen’s writing. “When people talk about Leonard, they fail to mention his melodies,” he said. He added that his melodies, coupled with his lyrics were Cohen’s greatest genius. “Even the counterpoint lines—they give a celestial character and melodic lift to every one of his songs. As far as I know, no one else comes close to this in modern music. His gift or genius is in his connection to the music of the spheres.”

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