It's four in the morning, the end of December
I'm writing you now just to see if you're better
New York is cold, but I like where I'm living
There's music on Clinton Street all through the evening.

I hear that you're building your house deep in the desert
Are you living for nothing now, hope you're keeping some kind of record.

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night when you planned to go clear
Did you ever go clear?

Ah, the last time we saw you, you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder
You'd been to the station to meet every train
But she never turned up I'm Lili Marlene

And you treated some woman to a flake of your life
And when she got home she was nobody's wife.
Well I see you there with a rose in your teeth
One more thin gypsy thief
Well I see Jane's awake
She sends her regards.

And what can I tell you oh what can I tell you
What can I possibly say?
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
I'm glad that you stood in my way.

And if you ever come by here, be it for Jane or for me
I want you to know your enemy's sleeping, I want you to know your woman is free.

Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good so I never really tried.

And Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night when you planned to go clear

Sincerely, a friend

Lyrics submitted by ButNeverOutgunned

Famous Blue Raincoat Lyrics as written by Leonard Cohen

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Famous Blue Raincoat song meanings
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  • 0
    General CommentThis is a letter of reconciliation to an old friend who once had a drug-addled affair with the author’s wife. The author offers forgiveness and wants reassurance that his friend is doing better, “living for nothing now” (instead of living for cocaine).

    At the time of the affair, the friend, described as a “thin gypsy thief”, had a serious cocaine problem indicated by the line “You’ve been to the station to meet every train” (“Riding the train” is slang for doing cocaine). In the depths of his addiction, he was looking old, wearing the same clothes all the time until they started to fray. He had worn out his once incredibly loyal girlfriend, who had finally left him. (“Lili Marlene” is a famous German love song about an heroically loyal girlfriend waiting for her man to get back from war).

    The author refers to his old friend as “my brother, my killer”, indicating that he and Jane shared cocaine with the friend on a number of occasions. (In other words, offering the cocaine was an act of friendship, but cocaine can kill.) Eventually, Jane started doing “flake” (also slang for cocaine) with the friend a lot, and got involved with him sexually, as expressed by the lines:

    “And you treated my woman to a flake of your life
    And when she came back she was nobody's wife.”

    At the end of the affair, determined to leave town and clean up his life, and having no other possessions left to give Jane to remember him by, the friend gives her a lock of his hair.

    As much as the affair hurt the author, and as much as he disapproved of the excessive drug use, in retrospect he admits that for whatever reason, the affair was ultimately good for Jane, helping her through a rough time. He invites his friend to come for a visit saying, “Your enemy (cocaine) is sleeping, and his woman (Jane) is free.” This is to reassure his friend that returning to New York will not ignite a relapse, especially since Jane has stayed clean.

    Note 1: Much has been made of Leonard Cohen’s use of the word “clear” instead of “clean” in the song. I agree that his word choice may have been affected by his brush with Scientology, but I don’t believe that this implies that the friend in the song has joined the Scientologists. Rather, Cohen was simply using the word in the same way a Scientologist might. “You planned to go clear” means “You planned to clear your life of all the junk (drugs, etc.) which is holding you back.”

    Note 2: I believe that Cohen’s protestation that he doesn’t remember who or what the song is about exactly is a cop out. Like many artists, he doesn’t want to alienate listeners who have developed their own deeply personal interpretations of his songs by telling them what the “right” one is.
    pisomojadoon November 30, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe narrator of the famous blue rain coat song had a friend who went to the train station to pick up his girl Lil. But that girl never showed up

    That friend of the narrator then stole the narrator’s girl Jane.

    Jane went off with the friend and was spiritually cleansed by the friend in ways the narrator never thought could be done. After a time, Jane left the friend and came back to the narrator, and Jane is sleeping his apartment as this song letter is being written.

    The friend now lives a simple existence in the desert like a monk or hermit. He had decided to go "clear" or purify himself. That night he decided to go clear may be when he broke up with Jane.

    The narrator is curious if the friend ever did go clear and purify himself, and wants the friend to know that he, the narrator, forgives the friend and wishes him well.

    Jane wakes up and wants her good wishes added to the letter.

    The narrator speaks of himself as sort of a one time enemy of the friend. And the narrator speculates that maybe some day the friend will come back, either to see the narrator, or to steal Jane away from the narrator again while he is sleeping.
    The narrator does not seem too upset by these possibilities

    That is my reading of the torn blue raincoat song and it seems sort of reasonably clear, almost.

    GARYMARKBEon March 28, 2013   Link

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