On April 22, a day after Prince's death, Leonard Cohen posted one of his old songs to his Facebook page. It was "Who By Fire" from 1974's New Skin for the Old Ceremony. He quoted from the song in the caption:
Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling?
Leonard Cohen was readying himself.
A few months on, we're approaching the release of Cohen's 14th studio album. You Want It Darker is coming out on October 21, and by all accounts it seems to be Cohen's Final Statement.
New Yorker editor David Remnick profiled Cohen for the magazine's new issue, but you can read the whole thing online. And you should. Remnick treats Cohen as the grand poet that he is and always has been: "death-haunted," "charming," and, now, preparing for the end. He details Cohen's romance with Marianne Ihlen in the 1960s and her death in July this year. He quotes the letter that Cohen sent to Ihlen on her deathbed after learning of her illness, a short note in which he said, "I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine."
Remnick interviews Bob Dylan to ask about Cohen and finds him to be responsive and incisive: "His gift or genius is in his connection to the music of the spheres," says Dylan. "He is a tough-minded lover who doesn't recognize the brush-off. Leonard's always above it all."
Remnick writes about Cohen's religious past, his time committing to Zen Buddhism in particular. And his interviews with Cohen are matter-of-fact about the end of things, the artist talking about having a "chance to put your house in order." It's difficult.
You should go read it. You should listen back to "Who By Fire" and "A Singer Must Die," and, yeah, "Chelsea Hotel #2, and everything else off New Skin for the Old Ceremony. You should go back and listen to Songs from a Room and Songs of Love and Hate, then jump forward and listen to the unexpected, culturally critical I'm Your Man and his devastating 1992 LP The Future. You should go through Old Ideas and Popular Problems, his recent albums, both of which are mournful and rich and witty and great.
And yeah, you should listen to You Want It Darker when it comes out. Leonard Cohen won't be with us for long. Don't wait until he's gone.
Lead photo via Jean-Claude Deutsch on Instagram.
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