June 9th, 2015


racing the midnight train

I did find a very nice hotel down in New York City, a very sophisticated hotel. You could go up there, up to the desk at 2 o'clock in the morning accompanied by a pygmy and a polar bear, and ask for your key, and they'd say, “Good night, Mr Cohen.”
It was in the elevator of that hotel that I began to notice that there was a young woman often in that narrow cubicle. After several nights, I gathered my courage and I said to her, “Are you looking for someone?” She said, “Yes, I'm looking for Kris Kristofferson.” I said, “Lucky lady, I'm Kris Kristofferson.” Such was the generosity of those times that she never let on.


You got away, didn't you baby
You just turned your back on the pain
You got away in your wildest dreams
Racing the midnight train
I can see you now
Racing the midnight train
with no clothes on
See all your tickets
torn on the gravel
All of your clothes and
no case to cover you
Shining your eyes in
my deepest corner
Shining your eyes in
my darkest corner
Racing the midnight train
I can't catch you baby
Racing the midnight train

Again Cohen refers to the redemptive power of song: “Shining your eyes in // my darkest corner.” But for Janis Joplin, as for Leonard Cohen, performance is also a desperate affair. The “midnight train” is surely death. Janis Joplin, for the few brief glorious years of her career, raced with it, against it, ahead of it; but finally, this is a race which a singer must lose. You catch the train, or the train catches you.