Leonard Cohen said he’s “…always been into self-dramatization.” In the year of 2016, where someone who has grown up on the songs of Cohen — if not the songs performed by Cohen himself — also has access to the material from which he drew his inspiration, this morning’s news felt like another apocalyptic sign as God above called another of his artists home.
Cohen’s official Facebook page has announced his passing at the age of 82, shortly after he gave the world one last gift it doesn’t know how to use properly: his latest album, You Want It Darker. The title of the record, along with its contents are ripe for dissection. Expect kudos galore for the album and the man to pour in in upcoming days, including this very site.
Bursting on the scene in 1967, Cohen embodied the songwriter as writer, highly articulate, literate to a fault, and indeed a tad overly dramatic. The times called for them then as now. One of his greatest songs is a song that I have come to dislike intensely: “Hallelujah.” It wasn’t because of the tune itself, or of the few worthy cover versions of it, but the multitude of incredibly awful covers that also existed. “Hallelujah” became a favorite tune for young artist to show they had chops and were sensitive, and they missed the point entirely. I think that’s a perfect assessment of Cohen’s body of song, actually. His pieces could be taken at face value and you could derive simple pleasures from them, provided you weren’t thrown off by his singular, idiosyncratic voice. You could also take the time and dig deep into them, finding treasures, demons, white hats and black hats, destruction and redemption, both in their rags of light…all dressed to kill.
Cohen’s recent communications indicated he was of failing health. He wasn’t hiding anything. We chose not to see, so God damn our violent capacity to ignore what’s staring us in the face.
Leonard Cohen, dead at 82.