Music Review: You Want It Darker
You Want It Darker
Just before the winter settled in, Leonard Cohen passed away in his sleep on November 7, 2016. The singer was 82 years old. Less than a month earlier, Cohen had the sweet generosity to offer us another wonderful gift, You Want It Darker, his 14th studio album.
Leonard Cohen was a poet first. Before he even recorded his first album, in 1967 (Songs of Leonard Cohen), it was Judy Collins who sang his poem “Suzanne” on her 1966 album In My Life. Cohen’s first book, Let Us Compare Mythologies, was published in 1956, with poetry he’d written between the ages of 15 and 20. One of Cohen’s best-loved songs, “Hallelujah,” has been performed and recorded by dozens of artists—including beautiful renditions by John Cale and Jeff Buckley, a minimalist-techno version by Bono, and a sweet cover by ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro.
According to reports, Cohen’s death was sudden and unexpected. Nonetheless, the singer, who lived for some time at a Zen monastery, may have had premonitions, judging from some lyrics on You Want It Darker. On “I’m Traveling Light,” a tune basted in the flavor of a Jewish folk song, Cohen sings, “I’m traveling light / It’s au revoir / my once so bright / my fallen star. …” And on the title track he surrenders: “I’m ready, my Lord. …”
You Want It Darker was almost left uncompleted due to Leonard’s health, until his son Adam Cohen took over the production and encouraged his father to complete the recording of vocal tracks from a special medical chair. The last song on Cohen’s final album is a string section reprise of “Treaty,” a song that appears earlier on the album, except now without Cohen’s voice.
Leonard Cohen: may you be happy, peaceful, and free. (“There is a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in.” —from Cohen’s 1992 song “Anthem.”)