The last album of the month belongs to Leonard Cohen. You Want it Darker, explores the latter part of ones life. After the last dance, the party is over and it is just you and your thoughts. A man who had come to the end of the line but still had unfinished business. You want it Darker deals with death and afterlife. He knew the end was near. One would think an album of such ominous tones would entail a sad journey. Quite the opposite occurs, fans like yours truly will hang on to every note and be thankful our dark prince left us one more album in his wake. The great ones know when to leave the party.
You Want It Darker
by Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen’s third act was spurred on by the most dire of circumstances. A crooked manager had robbed him of his millions. Cohen was retired, a well deserved retirement that had him at peace. After years of battling depression, paying his dues on the road overcoming bankruptcy, failed relationships, he was content and stable. The house always wins, Cohen decided to do what he does best. Create in the darkness. As the man put it himself “I had to go back on the road.” It seemed a cruel fate for our antihero, little did he know the love that awaited upon his return. A generation had taken those songs and reintroduced them for new listeners to enjoy. His third act brought more acclaim. What could have been the end for most, Cohen rose from the ashes proving that no matter what Mick Jagger thinks, there is truly only one dark prince. Sold out shows, a documentary, even a grammy nomination. A remarkable turn around that even had him bewildered. It all had to end and he wants us to know that it is alright. His time had come.
It all had to end and he wants us to know that it is alright.
He recorded this album as his body was betraying him. Years of chasing the light can leave battle scars. He be the first to tell you they were all worth it. The album is deeply intimate a feat created due to the fact he recorded it in a small room above his daughters house. He toiled away, tinkering and fighting, creating to the end. He made the record on a chair designed to ease his fracture back.If that does not move you, check your pulse. Songs like Leaving the Table and It Seemed the Better Way cut deep dealing with diminishing physical limitations even though the mind is clicking on all cylinders. The last waltz is an execution of pure mastery. His class is best demonstrated on the blistering Steer your Way. His Baroque delivery is a marvel and miles away from where he started. A croaky raspy tenor that emerged from a soul that had lived a hundred lives.
Cohen was a sinner, a loner, a Buddhist, a genius, a jerk, a sweetheart, a mad man, a man. Like a true man he had his flaws. Death tends to wash over certain aspects of ones’ life. Cohen wants you to know his flaws, his failures, his heartbreak, he embraced the darkness to find light. Real men do not preach, they live. You Want it Darker captures the essence of a man who walked while others talked.
He lived a life that lit and inspired too many to list. The diverse artist that hailed his genius upon hearing his passing if nothing else should show the richness of his catalogue. Among his many feats one is worth mentioning. Besides being a writer, accomplished author, singer-songwriter Cohen was a sex symbol. Cohen did the impossible. He made Canada sexy. I include this because Cohen himself chuckled at his sex symbol status. He could grow stubble put on a lovers blouse and jean jacket, practically creating the modern hipster. Or he could put on a suit and own the whole room. Christ, the man could wear a suit. Check out the suit he puts together for his greatest hits (as if he had any) album. As the kids say it is “BLACK ON BLACK”. There was a reason for all that. Even if you are falling apart you never want to show the world all the cards in your hand. Cohen taught me that even when you are down, pick yourself up get dressed and battle.
I leave you with this. I grew up in strict christian household. Secular music was forbidden. Secular music was evil and if it was not a Christian it was forbidden. It was the devils music. I would be beaten and have the sternest of lectures if caught with music. Most teenagers hide porn, I hid music. Cds littered around my room. I joke that my mother was worse than the Gestapo. She would always find my stash. One of my most memorable beatings happened when she discovered his debut album. The debut album features our anti hero on the cover, looking absolutely gangster and cool. The back of the album features a cartoon of a women in chains engulfed in fire. She looks like she was in a pit of hell. My mother went to church three times a week and on Sunday went to four services! You can imagine the look of absolute fury she had when I tried in vain to explain the artwork and concept. I was 16 years old, in sheer terror because i knew it was no use but damn if I tried. The same old thing happened. I had to rip and break the cd because I was known to go into the apartment dumpster to retrieve them after my mom threw them out. Three days later I headed to CD World in Addison, right here in Dallas, and bought his debut album again. That’s what Cohen meant to me. Cohen and his debut was worth another beating and lecture. I smile about that now and want to tell you my mother long ago changed and apologized for her ways. (She even says a prayer for my beloved Smiths so they can reunite and I can see them). When Cohen passed I phoned my mom, she told me sorry baby, I will say a little prayer for him and his family. I closed my eyes and said…
Good night dark prince see you on the other side.