Lorca, Cohen and The Alhambra


Myth and admiration come together in one place, two people and one song


Leonard Cohen, who died in 2016, was a great admirer of Federico García Lorca. Years ago he decided to dedicate Take this waltz, a song based on Lorca’s poem Little Viennese Waltz, to him. And he could only record it in one place: looking at the Alhambra as its walls reddened in the evening sun.

Between 1929 and 1930, Federico García Lorca had an idyll with New York, with its streets, with its essence, the result of living there during that period in his life. And it was there, in New York, that Lorca revealed his true condition by falling in love with a man. His declaration of love was Little Viennese Waltz. Never has one seen – nor will one ever see – such a wealth of surreal images, of daydreams, of words that sound like musical notes without the need for staves to support them.

Many decades later, Leonard Cohen, a lover of Lorca’s work, decided to pay tribute to him in the best way he knew how: by putting words to the feelings of the poet from Granada. To do so, he chose perhaps the greatest collection of dreams in the form of Lorca’s poem, that Little Viennese Waltz full of fresh garlands of the plain, a waltz that dies in the arms of love, dipping its tail in the sea.

A song that, as he confessed in an interview in 1988, cost him 150 hours of work and a depression; for it was not just a matter of translating Lorca, but of recreating and setting to music one of Federico García Lorca’s jewels. Not just any jewel, but possibly the best.

Then, where to record it. And Cohen had it clear: looking at the walls of the Alhambra reddened with the evening sun spreading its lament in a sea of carmenes.

The result could only be this:

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