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On 26 September 1968 Leonard Cohen recorded his song "Bird on the Wire" for his album "Songs from a Room." (Judy Collins had recorded it in 1968.) He remarked that "I always begin my concert with this song. It seems to return me to my duties. It was begun in Greece and finished in a motel in Hollywood around 1969 along with everything else. Some lines were changed in Oregon. I can't seem to get it perfect. Kris Kristofferson informed me that I had stolen part of the melody from another Nashville writer. He also said that he's putting the first couple of lines on his tombstone, and I'll be hurt if he doesn't." (The melodic theft was probably John D. Loudermilk's "Turn Me On," recorded in 1961 by Mark Dinning and in 2002 by Norah Jones.)Like a bird on the wire,like a drunk in a midnight choirI have tried in my way to be free.Like a worm on a hook,like a knight from some old fashioned bookI have saved all my ribbons for thee.If I, if I have been unkind,I hope that you can just let it go by.If I, if I have been untrueI hope you know it was never to you.Like a baby, stillborn,like a beast with his hornI have torn everyone who reached out for me.But I swear by this songand by all that I have done wrongI will make it all up to thee.I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,he said to me, "You must not ask for so much."And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,she cried to me, "Hey, why not ask for more?"Oh like a bird on the wire,like a drunk in a midnight choirI have tried in my way to be freeHe frequently changed the lyrics when he sang it live. During his 1979 tour he sang "I have tried in my way to be free. / Like a worm on a hook, Like a monk bending over the book /it was the shape of our love that twisted me." By 2008 it had evolved toLike a bird on the wireLike a drunk in an old midnight choirI have tried in my way to be freeLike a worm on a hookLike a knight bent down in some old-fashioned bookIt was the shape of our love that twisted meIf I have been unkindif I have been unkindI hope you can find the way to let it all go right on byif I have been untrueif I have been untrueIt’s just that I thought a lover had to be some kind of liar tooLike a little baby stillbornLike a beast with his hornI have torn everyone who reached out for meBut I swear by this songBy all that I have done wrongI will make it all up to theeAh, don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry anymoreIt’s over now, it’s done, it has been paid forI said don’t cry, don’t cry, you were always the oneIt was you that the longing was made forLike a bird on the wireLike a drunk in an old midnight choirI have tried in my way to be free
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