Cohen’s last album includes premonitions of death
This year took two of music’s most loved icons, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie, both of whom signed off with true artistry – through elegant final albums with premonitions of death.
Cohen, whose death at age 82 was announced on November 10, just weeks earlier released his 14th and final studio album, You Want It Darker.
Like much of his work – and true to the title – the album was melancholy, with the poet and songwriter appearing to reflect at greater length on his own mortality.
On the title track, Cohen returned to biblical heritage as he reflected on the meaning of both God and music.
“Hineni, hineni / I’m ready, my Lord,” he intoned in his instantly recognizable husky voice, employing Hebrew to say “Here I Am”.
On “Leaving the Table”, Cohen wrote a dark waltz in which he questioned how harshly he should assess his own life.
“I don’t need a reason for what I became / I’ve got these excuses / They are tired and lame.
“I don’t need a pardon / No, no, there’s no one left to blame / I’m leaving the table / I’m out of the game,” he sang.
Cohen’s final public event was a listening session in his adopted home of Los Angeles for “You Want It Darker”.
He laughed off thoughts of his demise, saying, “I intend to live forever,” after telling The New Yorker magazine in a profile that he was “ready to die”.
His dramatic death following the album, which was released on October 21, paralleled the last days of rock icon Bowie.
Blackstar came out on January 8, Bowie’s birthday. He died two days later from an unannounced battle with cancer.
Blackstar, which like You Want It Darker received nearly universal critical praise, showed Bowie’s continuing experimentalism late in life as he brought in hard-edged jazz. In hindsight, fans saw ample allusions to death on the album. On the track “Lazarus”, Bowie sang of unseen scars and a final quest for freedom. In the video, Bowie was seen in a hospital bed as he retreats into a wardrobe of outfits from his career.
The album’s title track, “Blackstar”, showed a woman discovering a dead astronaut, later seen by many fans as the death of Major Tom, a recurring character since the start of Bowie’s career. – AFP