The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Leonard Cohen's last studio album (2016)
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Post by yopietro » Fri Nov 18, 2016 8:53 am

I was thinking back to a moment in the David Remnick interview, which was such a beautiful piece. The time when Leonard gets furious with the interviewer for being late. At first, it seemed a bit surprising and out of character. But it dawned on me that Leonard spoke in the interview of wanting to tie up loose ends in his creative life. There was still work to do. And a knowledge of limited time. So perhaps he was angry because time was so precious, and he had lost a few hours that he could have otherwise put toward trying to complete his works.
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Post by Alan_1 » Fri Nov 18, 2016 10:36 pm

A review of You Want it Darker on 'The Quietus' by Ben Hewitt
Kris Kristofferson once told Leonard Cohen that he wanted to steal the opening lines from ‘Bird On A Wire’ to be inscribed on his tombstone. The surprising thing is that he was actually able to choose at all: “Like a bird on a wire/ Like a drunk in a midnight choir/ I have tried, in my way, to be free” is perfect, but then, so is “There is a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in” from ‘Anthem’; so’s “Dance me to the end of love” or “Nevermind, we’re ugly but we have the music” or “And even though it all went wrong/ I’ll stand before the Lord of Song/ With nothing on my tongue/ But Hallelujah”. More than anyone else, Leonard Cohen seemed to write epitaphs rather than couplets, his words like pennies on your eyes to keep you rich and help you pay the tollman. In some sense, his music has always felt like it’s got half an eye on the great journey beyond, a soundtrack for taking the final step. As Kurt Cobain sang on ‘Pennyroyal Tea’: “Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld/ So I can sigh eternally.”

It’s for that reason that You Want It Darker, released on Cohen’s 82nd birthday and three weeks before his death, feels so different to David Bowie’s Blackstar, 2016’s other great stage-managed exit. Bowie’s final album came, to us, as a huge shock to the system, a mysterious document hiding all manner of hints and clues as to what its creator was facing. With Cohen, there’s no such surprise - not just because he himself had spoken candidly about the possibility this album would be his swansong, but because its final-curtain themes of life, love, spirituality and meaning are the same ones he’d been teasing meaning from for decades; he’d started wrestling with one of the songs here, according to Rolling Stone, at least a decade ago. “I’m ready my lord,” he grumbles on the title track - that croaking baritone somehow deeper and sootier than ever - probably because, in some ways, it feels like he’s always been sharpening his pen for these final despatches.

Much of Cohen’s finest work has also been fuelled by the power of fresh discoveries and the pleasures of walking upon untrodden ground, whether it’s the leap from guitars to cheap, Casio-inspired keyboards on Various Positions, the modern cold snaps of I’m You Man or dystopian terror of The Future. I don’t think it’s sacrilege to say that, sonically, there isn’t the same sense of startling reinvention with the stately sound of You Want It Darker, although it’s undeniably grander, lusher, more beautiful than its forbears; its melancholy mixture of string laments, orchestral flourishes and sombre choirs virtually compel you to bow your head in hushed reverence. Instead, it draws its power from the way Cohen chooses to confront his dwindling mortality. It’s tempting to remember how, on ‘So Long, Marianne’, he once defended himself from charges of cowardice by insisting: “I never said that I was brave.” Because it’s bravery more than anything else that defines You Want It Darker - not in some sense of syrupy, stiff upper-lipped sentiment, but in the way he resigns himself to messy endings and resists the glib need for neat conclusions. If this was imagined as, potentially, an artistic last will and testament, any sense of finality is scuppered by doubt and anxiety; after all those years slogging away in the Tower of Song, the big questions still remain unanswered. And however prepared he is, he’s not beyond a touch of bitterness, either. “If you are the dealer, let me out of the game/ If you are the healer, I’m broken and lame/ If thine is the glory, mine must be the shame,” he sings, still sore that the game’s been rigged all along.

There’s a similar weary frustration to ‘Treaty’, too, in which Cohen takes on a higher power but comes away with little comfort or clarity. “I’ve seen you change water into wine/ I’ve seen you change it back too,” he sighs over gentle piano, still unsure where he stands, before ruefully concluding: “Only one of us was real and that was me.” On the half-mournful, half-menacing ‘It Seemed The Better Way’, a wailing violin is replaced by the cold hum of an organ as Cohen growls “Sounded like the truth/ But it’s not the truth.” Elsewhere, meanwhile, there are nods to the past and admissions that time has had its victory over him. The showy flamenco finger-picking on ‘Travelling Light’ makes a mockery of Cohen remembering how he “used to play one mean guitar”, while ‘Leaving The Table’ does the unthinkable by having him confess that his beloved libido is no more. Once, on ‘I’m Your Man’, he boasted of how “the beast won’t go to sleep”; here, that same “wretched” monster now lies “tame”. Leonard Cohen without a hard-on? The flaccid ravens truly have left the tower.
Given that Cohen was known as the Poet Laureate of Pessimism even when he wasn’t writing about his impending death, it’s easy to think of You Want It Darker as morbid. But as ever, there’s a wry humour and warmth in the gloom: it’s impossible to resist a grin when, in the throes of existential crisis, he wickedly sings “I struggled with some demons/ They were middle-class and tame”, or how, on ‘On The Level’, he seemingly references his famed stint as a Zen monk on Mount Baldy (“I’m living in this temple/ Where they tell you what to do”) and then complains about a time when his conscience bested him, mean-spiritedly steering him away from a naughty decision: “I was fighting with temptation/ But I didn’t want to win/ A man like me don’t like to see/ Temptation caving in.”

‘If I Didn’t Have Your Love’, meanwhile, feels like Cohen’s tribute to one of his constant inspirations; he’s had countless muses - Suzanne, Marianne and more - but here, the who feels less important than that what: it’s as if he’s whispering sweet nothings to the feeling itself, recognising the importance of a sensation he’s eternally hungry for: “If the stars were all unpinned, and a cold and bitter wind/ Swallowed up the world without a trace/ Oh well, that’s where I would be.”

The unique events surrounding its release make it virtually impossible to know how or where to rank You Want It Darker among Cohen’s back catalogue, beyond the easy statement that, as with 2014’s Popular Problems, it’s obvious his powers hadn’t been dimmed by time; that this album sounds like such a final farewell that it’s difficult to see where he’d have gone next; that, he’d probably have still pulled it off, because he usually did. More pertinent, perhaps, would be to acknowledge that while there was always a good chance this was supposed to be ‘the end’, the album doesn’t end with a full stop but instead loops back to the near-beginning. On the final track, he offers up a string reprise of ‘Treaty’, allowing the start and finish lines to overlap. It feels like the best possible ending: a reassurance that, come what may, there’ll always be time to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.
This is the link to it: ... bum-review
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Post by Roy » Mon Nov 21, 2016 5:48 am

Rabbi Sacks on Leonard Cohen and parsha Vayera
The Official Halls of Fame Biographies of Leonard Cohen
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Post by sourire » Sun Dec 04, 2016 9:06 pm

Sunday Times Culture magazine 04/12/16:

100 Best Records of the Year: No. 6 Leonard Cohen You Want It Darker

'Deadlines focus the mind, and the approach of the ultimate deadline brought forth some of Cohen's finest work: the songs as perfectly crafted as ever, the production (by his son, Adam) the most sympathetic his music has ever received.'

Good to read praise for Adam, too.
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Post by solongleonard » Wed Sep 20, 2017 11:20 pm

Roy wrote:
Mon Nov 21, 2016 5:48 am
Rabbi Sacks on Leonard Cohen and parsha Vayera

I wish Leonard a Happy New Year for this evening. I just watched this Rabbi Sacks piece for the first time. Thank you for finding it. It's a very lovely tribute.
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Post by B4real » Sat May 02, 2020 5:46 am

Nearly four years have gone by since YWID. This is a reflection by Paul Zollo who was at the launch and has also interviewed Leonard in the early 1990's. There are some previously repeated quotations but it's a moving read -
Thanks Paul! ... evelation/

Leonard Cohen: A Revelation In The Heart

Paul Zollo
April 30, 2020
On Leonard’s final earthly appearance to herald his last album, “You Want It Darker.”

“If I knew where the great songs came from,” Leonard Cohen famously said, “I would go there more often.” In fact, during his 82 years of life, he went there a whole lot more than most humans ever do, and with a devotion to songwriting almost religious in its fervor, resulting in a bounty of miracle songs.

That songwriting for him was more of a calling than a job was never more evident than in the final year of his life when, immobilized in great pain, knowing the end was near, he devoted himself to one final task: writing and recording a new album of songs. It’s a mission accomplished, as he released the remarkable You Want It Darker in the final month of his life. Produced by his beloved son, Adam Cohen, it’s his ultimate masterpiece, the final brick in his Tower of Song.

Weakened by illness, rather than do a series of interviews to promote the album, he decided to do one single press event to which journalists from around the world, including a few lucky Americans like this writer, were invited. Held at the beautiful Canadian Consulate in the stately Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, it was a remarkable night of reverence and love for Cohen, peopled only by those writers who have been devoted to him for decades, as well as a few famous friends and collaborators.

“There was something holy about it,” said the Anglo-Greek singer-songwriter Athena Andreadis, who sang the haunting background vocals on “Traveling Light,” a track from the new album. “I have never felt anything quite like it. It was his final gift to us, and such a beautiful one. Just to be in his presence was a great privilege, and to share this delivery of his final work. I will never forget it.”

The press event happened October 13, 2016, which was the 75th birthday of Paul Simon, and the same day we learned that Bob Dylan, a songwriter, had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

That songs could be considered as important as literature was no news to anyone there knowing of Leonard’s lifetime of greatness. Throughout the night, one comment kept popping up among the press: “If they gave that award to any songwriter, it should have been Leonard.”

Dylan would probably agree. Throughout the decades he has consistently sung Cohen’s praises, saying at one point that Cohen wasn’t even writing songs anymore, he was writing prayers. Cohen, in return, has expressed great awe at Dylan’s work and his vast range. “That kind of genius,” he said, “can manifest all the forms and styles.”

Leonard, like Dylan, was so celebrated through the decades for his expansive poetic brilliance with words that the full measure of his genius was often missed. Songs, as we know, are not created to be read on the page, like a poem, but to be heard. And to be sung. It is the crucial merger of language with melody – music ancient and modern – that distinguished Leonard’s work, and instilled his songs with timeless grace.

“When people talk about Leonard, they fail to mention his melodies,” said Dylan, “which to me, along with his lyrics, are his greatest genius. Even the counterpoint lines—they give a celestial character and melodic lift to every one of his songs. As far as I know, no one else comes close to this in modern music… His gift or genius is in his connection to the music of the spheres.”

It’s true Leonard forever joked about his own limitations as a musician (“Every guitarist has chops,” he said. “Me, I only have one chop. But it’s a good one.”) Yet he composed music of great grace and power, as simple and elegant as his words. “Hallelujah” would never have become a standard if not for that ingenious ascending melody, which matches the words impeccably, and goes straight to the heart.

The truth remains that, unlike almost every songwriter who arrived in Dylan’s wake and was impacted forever by him, Cohen was on his own spiritual and poetic path from the start. As the poet Allen Ginsberg said, “When Dylan came out, he blew everyone’s mind. Everyone except Leonard Cohen, that is.”

On this night, after dinner and drinks amid candles under moonlight, with poster-sized passages of his lyrics from the new album illuminated throughout the garden, we were ushered into a small chapel-like space for a listening session. Handed lyric books, we all sat in silence, united by the presence of greatness, and in awe of the realms he could access even while fighting for his life. His voice, surrounded by his son’s production, resounded more deeply than ever, resonating like the voice of God himself.

When the album was over (and many were still drying their tears), the great man himself appeared at the back of the room, in a dark suit and fedora, walking with a cane. The whole room rose to its feet and cheered. He slowly walked down the aisle, as if at a wedding, smiling that beatific Cohen smile.

Before anyone could ask a question, he addressed the assembled crowd, and, as was his way, opened with a joke. “Some of you have come from a long, long way to be here and I appreciate it,” he said. “Some of you have driven across Los Angeles, which takes about the same time.”

The first question concerned his health, as he’d made recent statements about the end being near. Again his whimsical charm surfaced. “I said I was ready to die, recently. And I think I was exaggerating.” Huge laughter erupted, with some sense of relief that maybe he was out of the darkness. Then he added, “I’ve always been into self-dramatization. I intend to live forever.” We cheered. We believed him because we wanted to. Rarely have I felt that kind of unanimous love and awe for an artist, and it was clear that Cohen felt it, too.

Less than a month to this day he was gone. Although he promised eternity, his recognition of death’s imminence was already spelled out in the songs we had just heard, as it was in the second answer he offered that night:
“If you’re lucky,” he said, “you can keep the vehicle healthy and responsive over the years. If you’re lucky. Your own intentions have very little to do with this. You can keep the body as well-oiled and receptive as possible. But whether you’re actually going to be able to go for the long haul is really not your own choice.”

He was a humble man, but never falsely so. He embraced the greatness of his work with a kind of parental pride more than any kind of ownership. When asked how he maintained such excellence throughout the decades, he said, “I don’t know, but I think that as any songwriter knows, and I think Bob Dylan knows this better than any of us, you don’t write the songs anyhow.”

Back in 1992 when I first interviewed him and admitted that “Suzanne” seemed like a songwriting miracle, he didn’t disagree: “It is a miracle,” he said, and then first delivered his great, “If I knew where the great songs came from” line. But this first time around, it came with an addendum: “It’s much like the life of a Catholic nun,” he said. “You’re married to a mystery.”

It’s a mystery he’s embraced over his career with unflagging fidelity. Even in his last years, when the pain made it impossible to play an instrument, he never stopped writing. Instead, he wrote mostly just words, and turned to Adam, and to songwriters Sharon Robinson and Patrick Leonard, to compose music for his lyrics.

“I felt like the luckiest guy in the world,” Patrick Leonard said. “Here Leonard Cohen is sending me lyrics. It was amazing to me. Still is.” Some of the songs, Patrick said, took a full seven years to complete. “But it was mostly him changing small words. He would work and rework a lyric a thousand times to get it perfect.”

Asked how Cohen responded to his music, he said, “When he liked something, he would email me right away. If he didn’t like it, I would hear nothing. And I would know it was time to start over.”

Cohen, however, was quick to establish on this night that there was nothing heroic about taking years to write a single song. “The fact that my songs take a long time to write,” he said, “is no guarantee of their excellence. It just takes a long time for me. I’m very slow. It comes by dribbles and drops. Some people are graced with a flow. Some people are graced with something less than a flow. I’m one of those.”

When repeatedly pressed to disclose his working methods, he said the process remains as mysterious as when he began, but that the work has grown even harder. The only personal detail divulged was that he long ago learned to keep his surroundings sparse and simple to counter the chaos in his mind.

“Everybody has a kind of magical system that they employ in the hopes that this will open up the channels,” he said. “My mind was always very cluttered so I took great pains to simplify my environment. Because if my environment were half as cluttered as my mind, I wouldn’t be able to make it from room to room. This system has worked for me, even though I have had to sweat over every word. That’s just me. For some people it comes faster, for some it comes slower.”

This echoed a statement he made in our first interview: “My immediate realm of thought is bureaucratic and like a traffic jam,” he said. “My ordinary state of mind is very much like the waiting room at the DMV… So to penetrate this chattering and this meaningless debate that is occupying most of my attention, I have to come up with something that really speaks to my deepest interest. Otherwise I just nod off in one way or another. So to find that song, that urgent song, takes a lot of versions and a lot of work and a lot of sweat.”

“That urgent song.” There, in that phrase, is the yearning, the boundless appetite, to realize that song completely. Yet despite this urgency and ambition, he was never one to subscribe to the school of instant songwriting, of writing and recording something immediately to capture its essence. Quite the opposite. He believed in the power of work, and questioned the very premise of inspiration.

“Why shouldn’t my work be hard? Almost everybody’s work is hard. One is distracted by this notion that there is such a thing as inspiration, that it comes fast and easy. And some people are graced by that style. I’m not. So I have to work as hard as any stiff, to come up with the payload.”

His obsession with Sisyphean labor surfaced many times, as he described himself as a prisoner of song, forced to work or perish. “Freedom and restriction,” he said, “are just luxurious terms to one who is locked in a dungeon in the tower of song. These are just … ideas. I don’t have the sense of restriction or freedom. I just have the sense of work. I have the sense of hard labor.”

Yet, despite that self-portrait, it was clear his greatest contentment was not just in the finished song, but in the process itself. “I think unemployment is the great affliction of man,” he said. “Even people with jobs are unemployed. In fact, most people with jobs are unemployed. I can say, happily and gratefully, that I am fully employed …. We have a sense here that it’s smart not to work. The hustle, the con, these have been elevated to a very high position in our morality. And probably if I could mount a con or a hustle in terms of my own work I would … But I am a working stiff. It takes me months and months of full employment to break the code of the song. To find out if there can be a song there.”

Asked how he broke that code, he offered his vision of what songwriting is.
“I try anything that I can bring to it,” he said. “Thought, meditation, drinking, disillusion, insomnia, vacations. Because once the song enters the mill, it’s worked on by everything that I can summon. And I need everything. I try everything. I try to ignore it, try to repress it, try to get high, try to get intoxicated, try to get sober, all the versions of myself that I can summon are summoned to participate in this project, this work force.”

“In your experience, do any of these things work better than others?” I asked.
“No, he said. “Nothing works. Nothing works. After a while, if you stick with a song long enough it will yield. But long enough is way beyond any reasonable estimation of what you think long enough may be. In fact, long enough is way beyond. It’s abandoning that idea of what you think long enough may be.”

The title song of You Want It Darker revolves around the image of a flame being extinguished, a poignant symbol of death. Ostensibly a song of darkness, it’s also one of acceptance, of readying one’s self for the end.

Magnified and sanctified
Be Thy Holy Name
Vilified and crucified
In the human frame
A million candles burning
For the help that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame
Hineni Hineni
I’m ready, my Lord.

Hineni, in the ancient Hebrew of his ancestors, means “I’m here,” followed in English, with “I’m ready, my Lord.”
When asked about this, he said, “I don’t really know the genesis, the origin, enabling that declaration of readiness, no matter what the outcome. That is a part of everyone’s soul. We all are motivated by deep impulses and deep appetites to serve, even though we may not be able to locate that which are willing to serve. So this is just a part of my nature. And I think it would also be my nature to offer one’s self when the emergency becomes articulate. It’s only when the emergency becomes articulate that we can locate that willingness to serve.”

A kind of stunned silence followed, as the crowd absorbed the fullness of what he said. Sensing this, he added, “That’s getting too heavy. I’m sorry. Strike that.” Much laughter. Even weakened, his voice softer than ever, the man knew how to work a crowd.

When asked his opinion of Dylan’s award, he said, “To me, giving that award to Dylan is like pinning a medal on Mt. Everest for being the highest mountain.”

When Adam took the stage to sit next to his father, Cohen smiled with an exultant openness rarely revealed in photos. “My son,” he said with glee, and the whole room laughed. Adam, he said, was both a gifted singer-songwriter and producer, and came in to rescue this album when it might have gone unfinished. “To have this kind of microscopic attention to my music,” the elder Cohen said, “was very great.”

Adam, who produced the album and co-wrote “Traveling Light” with his father and Patrick Leonard, spoke about his gratitude for his life with Cohen, and for the opportunity to work so closely together. “Just to be in my father’s company, for me,” he said, “was a great privilege.”
To which Cohen quipped, to much laughter: “Truth is, we’re not a very tight family.”

The first time Cohen completely surrendered to the idea of devoting his entire life to songwriting, he said in 1992, was when he spent months working on the song “Suzanne,” and came to recognize his destiny.
“At a certain point I realized I only had one ball in my hand, and that was the song,” he said. “Everything else had been wrecked or compromised and I couldn’t go back, and I was a one-ball juggler. I’d do incredible things with that ball to justify the absurdity of the presentation. Because what are you going to do with that ball? You don’t have three anymore. You’ve just got one. And maybe only one arm. What are you going to do? You can flip it off your wrist, or bounce it off your head. You have to come up with some pretty good moves. You have to learn them from scratch. And that’s what I learned, that you have to learn them from scratch.”

This dedication never waned. Often he’d labor for months working on one verse alone, only to discard it, as he did with many from the epic “Democracy” from 1992’s The Future. He shared some of these discards with me, all of which were faithfully archived in bound journals, and said, “I’m very happy to be able to speak this way to fellow craftsmen. Some people may find it encouraging to see how slow and painstaking is the process.”
Then he showed this:

From the church where the outcasts can hide
Or the mosque where the blood is dignified.
Like the fingers on your hand,
Like the hourglass of sand,
We can separate but not divide
From the eye above the pyramid
And the dollar’s cruel display
From the law behind the law,
Behind the law we still obey
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

When asked why he would write something so compelling only to abandon it, his answer was as eloquent as the lyric itself. “Because I didn’t want to compromise the anthemic, hymn-like quality,” he said.” I didn’t want it to get too punchy. I didn’t want to start a fight in the song. I wanted a revelation in the heart rather than a confrontation or a call-to-arms or a defense.”

A revelation in the heart. A dynamic that sings throughout all his songs since the beginning, this luminous juncture of brilliance and heart. As he wrote in a verse he didn’t cut from “Democracy”: “And it’s here the family’s broken and it’s here the lonely say, the heart has got to open in a fundamental way.” His was an open heart.

Even his explanation of his need to fully develop a verse before rejecting it was beautiful: “Before I can discard a verse,” he said, “I have to write it. Even if it’s bad. And it’s just as hard to write a bad verse as a good verse. I can’t discard a verse before it is written because it is the writing of the verse that produces whatever delights or interests or facets that are going to catch the light. The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.”

That the work became his religion is evident to anyone who knows the songs, which resonate with holiness and deep, ancient wisdom. As Dylan explained, these songs all resound with timeless sanctity. At the final event, Cohen explained that although the Bible and religion have informed and shaped his songs over the years, it was always the work, more than anything, which was his religion.

“I’ve never thought of myself as a religious person,” he said. “I don’t have any spiritual strategy. I kind of limped along, as so many of us do in these realms. Occasionally I have felt the grace of another presence in my life. But I can’t build any kind of spiritual structure on that.”

But when it comes to the work, the songs themselves, it is there that the Bible matters most. “I feel that this is a vocabulary that I grew up with,” he said. “This Biblical landscape is very familiar to me, and it’s natural that I use those landmarks as references. Once they were universal references and everybody understood and knew them and repeated them. That’s no longer the case today. But it is still my landscape. I try to make those references. I try to make sure they’re not too obscure. But outside of that I dare not claim anything in the spiritual realm as my own.”

Regarding his perpetual aim for perfection, his answer echoed both Dylan and The Bible:
“At a certain point,” he said, “when the Jews were first commanded to raise an altar, the commandment was on unhewn stone. Apparently the god that wanted that particular altar didn’t want slick, didn’t want smooth. He wanted an unhewn stone placed on another unhewn stone … Now I think Dylan has lines, hundreds of great lines that have the feel of unhewn stone. But they really fit in there. But they’re not smoothed out. It’s inspired but not polished.”

Cohen, however, as we know, would polish his stones until they shone like diamonds. Rarely did they reveal any axe-marks, especially these final ones. To the very end his objective remained to work and rework the songs to a realm of almost impossible perfection, each one built tight as a brick, never a wasted word. On these last songs, each lyric is compressed into compact, essential lines, perfectly metered and rhymed. The brevity of the lines, as if delivered by someone short of breath, not long for this world, is hauntingly poignant.

But if the road
Leads back to you
Must I forget
The things I knew
When I was friends
With one or two
We used to do
I’m traveling light

At the conclusion of our last night with him, he left us all with hope that we would see and hear from him again. “Thanks for coming, friends,” he said warmly. “I really appreciate it. I really appreciated your standing up when I came into the room. Hoping to do this again. I intend to stick around until 120.”

He also admitted to a fondness for hummingbirds. “I have always loved those magical little creatures,” he said, and recited a recently composed song about them, only words so far, no music.

Listen to the hummingbird
Whose wings you cannot see
Listen to the hummingbird
Don’t listen to me
Listen to the butterfly
Whose days but number three
Listen to the butterfly
Don’t listen to me
Listen to the mind of God
Which doesn’t need to be
Listen to the mind of God
Don’t listen to me

After the applause faded, he added, “I would say the hummingbird deserves royalties on that one.” When asked if it would be on the next album, he said, softly, “God willing.”

That a songwriter and singer would end a long and remarkable career with the statement, “Don’t listen to me,” says everything about the soul of Leonard Cohen. At the end he pointed us all away from this light shining on him to the light inside all things, the source of all songs. The place where great songs come from.

It’s where he is now.

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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Post by B4real » Tue May 05, 2020 2:27 am

I thought I’d add a few relative things to the above.
At the YWID launch Paul had a short conversation with Leonard as follows:

Mr. Leonard Cohen: Paul did one--.
Mr. Paul Zollo: --Hi, Chris--.
Mr. Leonard Cohen: --of the best interviews I've ever done--.
Mr. Chris Douridas: --Yes--.
Mr. Leonard Cohen: --Many years ago. I really appreciate that, Paul. I don't know if I've let you know that.
Mr. Paul Zollo: Thank you. You just did, and that's a great honor. Thank you, Leonard.
Mr. Chris Douridas: It's true. And it turns up in a book, Cohen On Cohen, which--or at least part of it does, right?
Mr. Paul Zollo: That's right.
Mr. Chris Douridas: Yeah. It's a wonderful interview.
Mr. Paul Zollo: Thank you.
Well, Leonard, you made your famous joke, "If I knew where the great songs came from I'd go there more often." --

It was about 20 years ago when I first discovered the LC Files. Actually it was my librarian who gave me the link.
She had noted my constant requests for LC's books which she kindly found for me from all over Australia. She thought I obviously would like more info :) I avidly read everything there including the 1992 interview they are referring to - Songwriters on Songwriting. I have to agree with Leonard as it was one of the best interviews I had read about him with lots of info. If anyone is interested in reading it, here is the link -

And I’m guessing (I haven't read it) this is the book Chris refers to - Leonard Cohen On Leonard Cohen - ... gKiQvD_BwE
It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to B4real ~ me
Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy ~ me ...... The magic of art is the truth of its lies ~ me ...... Only left-handers are in their right mind!
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Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Post by B4real » Tue Jul 13, 2021 11:59 pm

Love Letter To A Record: Anita Lester On Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Want it Darker’
ANITA LESTER - JUL. 13, 2021 ... it-darker/

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Dear ‘You Want it Darker’,

You changed my life.

To speak about the impact this record has had on me can only be prefaced with the acknowledgment of the journey it has taken me on in my own world. I am currently a person who is tied to the name Leonard Cohen. In 2016 I covered the title track from the aforementioned record You Want it Darker on my roof in London. I posted it online, it went mini-viral and I received recognition from Leonard, his closest people and his social media. He died a month or so later.

This lightning strike took me around the world, where I met many fans and friends of his, was given the blessing to perform his music at my show ‘Ladies Who Sing Leonard’ and the cover was also featured on film and television, including The Walking Dead, which has gifted me a whole new world of weird and wonderful fans.

Rabbi Leonard Cohen had anointed me with his knowing wink, from beyond the stars. To be honest, there are records I love of his more – Songs of Love and Hate, Songs From a Room, The Future, Songs of Leonard Cohen. I truly consider him to be the greatest lyricist of all time, with songs that move you deeply, so it’s hard.

But we are nothing but our context and You Want it Darker spoke to my own world at the right moment, like a great body of music can only do.

The opening track – the title track – begins with a choir to the heavens. It feels religious, which many of his more solemn and famous songs actually are at their core. He speaks, he doesn’t sing, and recites what can only be described as his interpretation of the Jewish mourner’s prayer. The song then rings out with a single word “Hineni, Hineni”. In Hebrew this means “I am here” or “here I am”.

I cried when I heard this for the first time. I knew the song immediately and for some reason it painted a portrait of my flawed and departed father, who I believe knew on some level, he was to have a short life.

I am not religious but I understand the need for a god. I feel his God, like mine, came in many forms – sometimes in prayer, sometimes in sex, sometimes in wine and sun, sometimes in beauty. In this song, I felt him calling out for his father too – someone who dealt his cards – and he seemed calm and resigned to it.

This record is all about fate and something greater than ourselves.

It continues into ‘Treaty’, in which Cohen speaks about a lover who he can’t hold beyond death. He speaks to God about the fact he is frustrated that something can hold so much power yet still divine so much suffering.

‘On the Level’ is a breath after the previous two. Perhaps Leonard is talking to his son or himself as a younger man, to just ‘let it go’ and ‘enjoy the ride’. I like the humour and placement of this song, as he’s just annihilated his listeners but immediately follows up with the sentiment of: don’t take it so seriously.

Oh but wait. Because just as Leonard reminds you that we are nothing but skin and bone and blood, he pronounces he’s ‘Leaving the Table’…which is exactly as it proclaims.

This song clearly articulates the content and rhythm of this album – speaking to the relative pain of something as small as a heartbreak and as big as the Holocaust. He’s leaving his lover’s table, but he’s also leaving the banquet of life.

‘If I Didn’t Have Your Love’ is the most beautiful dedication to a lover. It uses one of my own favourite cosmic metaphors of the sun, moon and stars, to show that nothing would shine without the feelings of being able to give and receive that one love that swallows you completely.

‘Travelling Light’ was another that caught me a little off-guard. I mentioned before he indirectly speaks to the plight of his people during WWII, and though I feel this song echoes the sentiments of ‘Leaving the Table’, I think it also is melodically, melancholically, honouring those who left this world with no notice, no possessions, other than those connections and memories they made.

Additionally, oud and violin are such deeply cutting instruments for many Jewish people, so having those elements is another visceral nod. And if you weren’t sure we are in a holy home ‘It Seemed a Better Way’ welcomes back that choir (which by the way are Cantors from a Synagogue in Montreal). He is no longer talking to a lover. He is speaking to himself in the grave. He is speaking to God. This song is a prayer so deep, you hear his voice shake and crack. You hear him truly.

It is no secret that Leonard Cohen is not particularly easy listening, but rather an experience. This album encapsulates that.

‘Steer Your Way’, I can’t say for certain but seems as though he is singing from the perspective of his ghost rising up above the world he once knew and loved. He smiles at the women, land, pain, memories, days, thoughts, years, and prayers, that he leaves behind. It has the same colours as David Bowie’s Blackstar – that knowing penetrates – that warmth and comfort in accepting that it is the legacy of every living thing to die and ascend, but instead of seeing it through fear, he views it through light.

Yet another reason, he is my Rabbi.

And to finish, a reprise – no need to say much more, but to honour his love and life through his boat of music and lyric.


I could only be so lucky to share his sails.

There is much to say about Leonard Cohen’s final album before his death. It is devastating and inspiring and profoundly him.

As a lover of his work, but also an artist who is constantly searching for my own voice, I feel part of his existential crisis was that he most probably wanted to say more – wanted to keep adventuring.

For those who aren’t sure of Leonard, but who love ‘Hallelujah’, or ‘Suzanne’, all his work is like that – You just have to give it time and space and be okay with facing the darkness. It may actually bring you closer to yourself.

To finish, a line from his posthumous album – another offering, but from the mind of his son Adam. This work musically and lyrically is a masterpiece. Though cheeky to include, this line is so big so I simply must, as it says so little and so very much. From ‘Happens to the Heart’ of the album Thanks for the Dance:

I was selling holy trinkets, I was dressing kind of sharp
I let pussy in the kitchen and a panther in the yard
In the prison of the gifted I was friendly with the guards
So I never had to witness what happens to the heart.

Anita Lester is a Melbourne-based multidisciplinary artist. Recently, she unveiled new single ‘Sun and Moon and Stars’ – a song written in the midst of 2020, recorded to tape and produced by fellow Australian troubadours Husky (Husky Gawenda, Gideon Preiss and Jules Pascoe).

“It’s been a long journey for me in this world of music and I’ve always been told that when you hit 35 it’s kind of all over,” says Anita of the single. “When the world silenced and I was left with what was important, I realised there is no limitation, except for the one that you create. I’m attempting to normalise making art outside of the boundaries of a very conservative industry and showing that with growth, the best art is made.”

Lester will play a single launch show this August at Melbourne’s Chapel Off Chapel -
In the meantime, you can watch the clip here -
It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to B4real ~ me
Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy ~ me ...... The magic of art is the truth of its lies ~ me ...... Only left-handers are in their right mind!
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Joined: Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:13 am

Re: The Darker album: Interviews and reviews in the media

Post by comet » Thu Jan 06, 2022 4:12 pm

Thanks Anita,
I Should have guessed you might be here.
Your recordings from Chapel off chapel are a pleasure to listen to.
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