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Never lament casually

Posted on 14 February 2018

"Never... lament casually. If one is to express the great inevitable defeat that awaits us all, it must be done with the strict confines of dignity and beauty."


I’ve been reading the One Week, One Band feature on Leonard Cohen by Sabina Tang and enjoying it immensely. Since getting an iPad for Christmas I’ve found myself wanting to read liner notes while listening to albums and while that doesn’t exist, features like this one and Pitchfork’s Sunday Reviews are a pretty good substitute.

I became a fan of Cohen with 2014’s release of Popular Problems and the single “Almost Like the Blues“, the same week he turned 81. His voice was just so deep and rich and full of, not life, per se, but of a life lived. And it kept going. Listen to “Almost Like the Blues” and then compare it to “You Want It Darker” from 2016, released just weeks before his death. Hear the register drop.

He was getting better with age.

That’s captured in Tang’s opening quote from Ezra Koenig, tweeted on the day of Cohen’s death:

– first album at 33
– dropped “Hallelujah” at 50
– first arena shows in his 70s
He did it til the end. RIP

The quote I’ve drawn above (an idea taken from Austin Kleon I’m trying out) captures something about Cohen’s music that is so appealing to me. He provides a model of how to get older, how to recognise it will end, and to see it as both an inevitable defeat and a thing of beauty.

As Tang writes,

“He worked as if he had a rock polisher in his torso. The world was comprised of a few raw materials – Love, Sex, Death, God – that went tumbling around, for years, until they fell back out smooth and timeless as river pebble, hitting the ground with the finality of pronouncement. It took time, so he was a patient guy”

He did not lament casually. Or, in his own words:

“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
You want it darker
Hineni, hineni
Hineni, hineni
I’m ready, my lord”
You want it darker? Kill the flame.

Filed under: music, quotes

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