“I said I was ready to die recently. And I think I was exaggerating.”
Leonard Cohen felt obliged to reassure his fans. Days before he made that remark at a listening party for his new album, the New Yorker had published a fascinating but alarming profile of Cohen that portrayed him as a virtual invalid — faculties undulled; body wasting away. The 82-year-old poet punctuated his usual mordant wit with uncharacteristic resignation.
But then came Cohen’s gentlemanly insistence that we need not worry about him, even if it only provided temporary relief. His new record, You Want it Darker, did not offer further reassurance. Mortality-obsessed and murky, it is a late masterpiece in the vein of Mahler’s ninth (and final) symphony. A gloomy note to go out on. But what else could we expect from a man who has been dramatizing endings for as long as he’s been writing songs: “So Long, Marianne,” “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” “I Tried to Leave You,” “Dance Me to the End of Love.”
We lost a lot of artists in 2016, but none provided the type of proper benediction as Cohen.
We look back on the impact of Cohen's legendary exit in our new feature, Making Noise. Read the full piece at cbcmusic.ca/makingnoise.