Leonard Cohen's Final Peace Was an Incredible Lesson
  • FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2016

  • Posted by: Ben Feit

[Photo Credit: Graeme Mitchell / The New Yorker]



Leonard Cohen was never one for the strongest start. At no point in his youth did he burst onto the music scene, charging out of the gate and into the hearts of fans everywhere. Instead, he was a looming presence in songwriting that many people never saw or truly appreciated. With a characteristic dark obsession in his lyrics, Cohen always appealed to a crowd towards the outer edges of music fandom. And yet, the group of musical legends who were his counterparts and admirers puts him in legendary company. He is counted among a group of lyrical legends including names like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Judy Collins.

After 50 years of putting hard work into the craft he loved, Cohen was remarkably at peace with his life and career coming to an end. David Remnick's recent profile of Cohen in The New Yorker, "Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker," painted a beautiful picture of the artist's final years. It is worth a read, if not two, even if you're not familiar with Cohen's extensive catalogue. That catalogue, including 14 studio albums, gained its last addition just three weeks ago with You Want it Darker. The amazing notion of Cohen releasing music at 82 takes on an almost mystical quality when we consider just how close this man was to death, and how at peace he was. You Want it Darker explores mortality and spirituality in a way that only Cohen could. From the beginning, he acknowledged the divine element in his music and always tried to remain tied to that feeling. But he was still finding a balance, like many artists, between demons and angels, blessings and curses. By the end, Cohen had found his place, knew where his lyrics would guide him, and was ready for an end that he knew was inevitable.

Cohen seemed to know better than many how to dwell in the past without being consumed by negativity and regret. He moved through spiritual and musical revolutions that continuously gave him new life and new force in his creative output. He could look back on long years of personal success and know that he gained the respect of talented, revered counterparts as well. Cohen seemed to be entirely satisfied at the end of a long and sometimes troublesome road, as we all hope to say one day without hesitation. As a giant in songwriting, his influence will undoubtedly live on with the same vigor that Cohen brought into his later life.

Listen to You Want it Darker above, and if you care to explore the art of songwriting, launch yourself into the entire Cohen catalogue.
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