A poet consumed only honey and cigarettes, and after some years, he found a singing voice, raspy and Vegas-velvety smooth, a new medium to continue his teaching about love and religion, death and life. Even more hoarse and silky at age 82, Leonard Cohen gave us You Want it Darker last year. The title track opens:
If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame
I’m ready, my lord
[I looked it up so my dear readers wouldn’t have to – the word ‘Hineni’ means ‘Here I am’ in a spiritual sense, what Abraham says to God to indicate his readiness in Genesis 22:1. (thanks, Wikipedia!) We’re a full-service organization at CommunityNoise.blog.]
I’ve been wanting to write this piece about the forever-last albums that each David Bowie and Leonard Cohen gave to us before their deaths last year. I wanted the timing to be apart from the events and the anniversaries; too much competition, too many empty accolades. When I sat down last December to write, I involuntarily started cataloguing the deaths in my life, little vignettes about the sweet girl in high school, my dad, an aunt, my grandmother, my college comrade, John Lennon, a colleague’s suicide, cousin Herbie. I once attended a funeral in New York, on vacation, for a man I never met. Cathartic, maybe, but useless for this assignment.
The complexities of death are interesting, painful, full of life. I’ve always leaned more towards Dylan Thomas’ way of thinking:
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
If you say “I’m ready” I’ll hope that you had a wonderful long life: Do not Go Gentle into that Good Night. If you’re unhappy, seek the wonders, not the pills.
Listening to Darker, I very nearly weep. It’s beautiful, sorrowful, soulful, sexy. Only Cohen could make pending death sound sexy, it isn’t, but that voice, my goodness. I’m so happy to have this one last gift.
And I think that’s it. He didn’t die in haste, anger, or fear; he was old and sick and had time to think this through. He was at peace, offering one last gift to whoever was out there. I think that’s the game: be at peace.
Writing up the Bowie album will have to wait.
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