Leonard Cohen was a singer, novelist, musician, and poet. A revered and hugely influential artist, his work spanned nearly 50 years.
Leonard Cohen said the following about this song:
'This was when the Berlin Wall came down and everyone was saying democracy is coming to the east. And I was like that gloomy fellow who always turns up at a party to ruin the orgy or something. And I said, "I don’t think it’s going to happen that way. I don’t think this is such a good idea. I think a lot of suffering will be the consequence of this wall coming down." But then I asked myself, "Where is democracy really coming?" And it was the U.S.A....So while everyone was rejoicing, I thought it wasn’t going to be like that, euphoric, the honeymoon. So it was these world events that occasioned the song. And also the love of America. Because I think the irony of America is transcendent in the song. It’s not an ironic song. It’s a song of deep intimacy and affirmation of the experiment of democracy in this country. That this is really where the experiment is unfolding. This is really where the races confront one another, where the classes, where the genders, where even the sexual orientations confront one another. This is the real laboratory of democracy.'
It's coming through a hole in the air, from those nights in Tiananmen Square. It's coming from the feel that this ain't exactly real, or it's real, but it ain't exactly there. From the wars against disorder, from the sirens night and day, from the fires of the homeless, from the ashes of the gay: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. It's coming through a crack in the wall; on a visionary flood of alcohol; from the staggering account of the Sermon on the Mount which I don't pretend to understand at all. It's coming from the silence on the dock of the bay, from the brave, the bold, the battered heart of Chevrolet: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. It's coming from the sorrow in the street, the holy places where the races meet; from the homicidal bitchin' that goes down in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat. From the wells of disappointment where the women kneel to pray for the grace of God in the desert here and the desert far away: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. Sail on, sail on O mighty Ship of State! To the Shores of Need Past the Reefs of Greed Through the Squalls of Hate Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on. It's coming to America first, the cradle of the best and of the worst. It's here they got the range and the machinery for change and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. It's here the family's broken and it's here the lonely say that the heart has got to open in a fundamental way: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. It's coming from the women and the men. O baby, we'll be making love again. We'll be going down so deep the river's going to weep, and the mountain's going to shout Amen! It's coming like the tidal flood beneath the lunar sway, imperial, mysterious, in amorous array: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A. Sail on, sail on ... I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean I love the country but I can't stand the scene. And I'm neither left or right I'm just staying home tonight, getting lost in that hopeless little screen. But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags that Time cannot decay, I'm junk but I'm still holding up this little wild bouquet: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.