Leonard Cohen offers up his ideas on mortality shortly before his death
Leonard Cohen spent much of his life laying down truths across his career. Be it on record or while standing at the mic, one thing you were always guaranteed when you crossed paths with the Canadian musician is that you were going to learn something.
Much of the time, that ‘something’ was an overarching profundity you had never expected to witness and it was delivered with a subtle smile and a glinting eye. Cohen continued this trait right up until his death as this short animated clip will show.
The New Yorker’s David Remnick joined Cohen a month before the singer’s death in 2016 to speak with him about growing old and working within the confinement of that paradigm. Naturally, it made for a tantalising conversation that saw Cohen philosophies about the slowing of life and the finality of death.
Cohen had completed his final album, You Want It Darker, but was still intent on finishing up hundreds of unfinished pieces of poetry and music. It was a process that Cohen had tried to hasten with the knowledge of his impending mortality. In fact, he argued it helped his work: “In a certain sense, this particular predicament is a filled with many less distractions than other periods of my life and actually enables me to work with a little more concentration and continuity,” he commented.
Adding: “The only thing that mitigates against full production is just the condition of my body. There are times I just have to lie down. Sometimes, it’s just like ‘you’re losing too much weight now, man.’ You’re dying but you don’t have to cooperate so enthusiastically with the process.”
“It’s just one of many noted moments of truly beautiful thinking and, as ever with Cohen, wordsmithery. “It’s very compassionate at this stage,” states Cohen. “I mean more than any time in my life, I don’t have that voice in my head saying ‘you’re fucking up!’ That’s a tremendous blessing, really. I took care of business and I’m ready to die.”
Offering advice to those facing their own truth, Cohen says: “At a certain point, if you still have your marbles and are not faced with serious financial challenges, you have a chance to put your house in order,” in the clip below.
“It’s a cliché, but it’s underestimated as an analgesic on all levels. Putting your house in order, if you can do it, is one of the most comforting activities, and the benefits of it are incalculable.”
The singer also provides a reading of one of his unfinished songs, a track that he’s certain he won’t be able to finish, “unless I get a second wind, I don’t know”. The song was finished for his posthumous record Thanks for the Dance. Below you can watch the short animation as well as find the entire interview.