NEW YORK—As the incoming presidential administration demonstrates increasing disdain for the media and a range of free expression norms, author Neil Gaiman and musician Amanda Palmer have released a new arrangement of Leonard Cohen‘s raspy spoken word song “Democracy” to benefit PEN America’s work to defend the freedom to write at home and abroad.

The newly-recorded song is accompanied by an animated video by Olga Nunes featuring original illustrations by David Mack, the New York Times bestselling author and graphic novelist who illustrated Gaiman’s American Gods.

“No one becomes a writer, artist, cartoonist, or journalist because it will be easy. Now this work may get a lot harder,” Gaiman and Palmer, who are married, said in a letter. “We want to speak out. PEN America is rising to the occasion, leading a massive mobilization of writers and their supporters.”

PEN America and other rights-focused organizations have reported unprecedented public support in the wake of the presidential election as they work to marshal the resources necessary to defend free expression, independent journalism, and other civil liberties and social justice causes targeted by President-elect Donald J. Trump and members of his incoming administration.

“We’re humbled by the outpouring of support from writers and artists around the world as we enter what threaten to be very dark days for free expression in this country,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN America. “We are so grateful to Neil and Amanda, and to the many others who have offered their time and expertise, organized their communities, and opened their wallets to defend the First Amendment against all odds.”

Cohen, who passed away in November, originally wrote “Democracy” in response to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. He told author Paul Zollo of the song in 1996, “I asked myself, ‘Where is democracy really coming?’ And it was the U.S.A….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.”

For a donation of one dollar or more, book- and music-lovers alike can purchase the song for download on Bandcamp; all proceeds benefit PEN America. Limited prints of original artwork by Vladimir Zimakov, created for the project, will also be sold to benefit the writers’ free expression organization. 


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.



Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications:, +1.646.779.4830