This song is for those who like to maintain appearances and feel secure that their secrets remain in the closet. I think this song poetically is one of Leonard’s finest and sung below by his good friend Rufus Wainwright which just wreaks havoc on the superficial premise above that many of us hold to be true. It’s transformational how it undoes what we think about ourselves in the bigger picture and how we think others understand us.
I always found it ironically liberating to listen to.
And everybody knows that you’re in trouble
Everybody knows what you’ve been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it’s coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows
Everybody Knows is the second song to appear from Cohen’s 1988 studio album I’m Your Man. It has often been covered like many of his songs and used in soundtracks. Cohen doesn’t waste any time with tact or restraint, setting the tone for the song- “Everybody knows that the dice are loaded/Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed/Everybody knows that the war is over/Everybody knows the good guys lost.”
I think personally this song resonates so well with me because I wanted to believe that I was a private person and could maintain that. But we are social creatures and it took effort and caused me stress to maintain my facade and you end up understanding that people and society know you better than you think including many of your secrets. This song taught me, well ‘Everybody Knows‘ and who cares?
Below is Rufus Wainwright’s version of Everybody Knows at the Leonard Cohen Tribute concert for the I’m Your Man 2005 Music-Documentary. It remains one of my family’s favourite performances.