You Want It Darker…

“I’ve always been given to self-dramatization.  I intend to live forever.” – Leonard Cohen

I learned Leonard had died on a Friday.  I was sitting eating breakfast when my girlfriend came to the kitchen doorway.  She asked if I knew.  Knew what I said.  She told me gently.  I was grateful for that.  I put my head in my hands, then I closed my eyes.

I spent that day in studio.  In the evening I made a fire.  We cued up a playlist of Leonard’s music and opened a bottle of wine.  As we listened, I began to talk.  I needed to explain why Leonard Cohen was so important to me; and as I talked, it dawned on me how much more there was to say.

I realized that: his words, his music, his writing, and his story were woven so deeply thru every stage of my life that there was not a single period in which the thread of his song was not evident.

Wine became whisky.  I noticed there was an album I hadn’t heard called: ‘You Want It Darker’ so I cued it up.  We both listened as Leonard sang openly, simply, and truthfully, of his coming passing.

‘I’m ready, my Lord’, he sang.

Something inside of me broke then, and I wept as deeply as I ever have; long and hard, from the bone.

She held me silently for the longest time, neither intruding on my grief, nor content to let me carry its full weight alone.  This is a priceless thing I think:  to know, for at least a small time, that we do not have to be by ourselves in the dark.  I cried until there was nothing left; and when I had finished I was the clearer for it.

To me, Leonard Cohen was both: artistic paragon and fellow soldier.  I harbor a love and affection for his work that is so great it overflows onto what I knew of the man himself.

Without planning to, or meaning to, the night became an impromptu wake.  There was wine and whisky.  There was grief, and there was longing.  There were tears, there were tales, and the welcome solace of a lover’s arms.

I think he would have approved.

Thanks for reading this, I hope it finds you well. Big hug, – J


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32 Comments

  1. You’ll enjoy Luke Otley’s charcoal drawing of Leonard Cohen at Luke’s website, which is his name followed with “.com”, just like yours, under his post “The Sweetest Song”. My own tribute is at my own site, which you know, under the post “The Choir Did Sing”. The sheet music in the paiting shows “Hallelujah”.

  2. I wore my black hat (the one I worewhen I attended his concert a few years ago) and posted a photo of me crying in it on FB… very deep jagged tearing of the heart. My first two novels were named after two of his songs, “To Say Goodbye” and “The Light Gets In.” Thank you for sharing your feelings

  3. Reblogged this and commented:
    Sadly but gloriously I’ve found Leonard Cohen late in life. We miss so much during our struggle for survival. In the short time since his death his work has been an inspiration to me as I approach the final stages of my first novel. He obviously moved James Radcliffe, and this beautiful obituary is a fine tribute to a wonderful human being.

    1. Thanks for sharing this, and for your kind words – both are very much appreciated.
      – J
      P.S. Sorry for the tardiness of my reply, I’ve just arrived home from a trip to Berlin and have been off the web.

  4. Sadly but gloriously I’ve found Leonard Cohen late in life. We miss so much during our struggle for survival. In the short time since his death his work has been an inspiration to me as I approach the final stages of my first novel. He obviously moved you, and your beautiful obituary, for that is what it is, is a fine tribute to a wonderful human being.

    1. Thankyou so much for this. Yes, that is indeed what this is.
      One of the beautiful things is that, even tho the human is passed, the work remains.
      Good luck with the novel, be well,
      – J
      P.S. Sorry for the tardiness of this reply, I’ve just arrived home from a trip to Berlin and have been off the web.

  5. Beautifully written..I saw him at the Wiltern over 20 years ago. Genuine and deeply entertaining .. Since his death, for some odd reason I have taken to giving a gift of tea and oranges to two recent birthdays of singer friends of mine ..

    1. That is something quiet and beautiful. I love it.
      Thanks for your kind words, glad you liked the piece.
      Have a good one, big hug,
      – J
      P.S. Sorry for the tardiness of this reply, I’ve just arrived home from a trip to Berlin and have been off the web.

  6. I had a similar response when I found out that another artist who had a big impact on my life had passed. (This was several years ago) It’s good that you took the time to honor and process that connection and all it brought to your art and life. An unplanned wake, but a poignant one.

    1. Thankyou very much. It is both incredible and beautiful to me that we can form bonds so deep thru the work.
      Glad you liked the piece, big hug for your loss, see you,
      – J
      P.S. Sorry for the tardiness of this reply, I’ve just arrived home from a trip to Berlin and have been off the web.

    1. Thankyou right back, I am glad that you liked it.
      Have a good one, big hug,
      – J
      P.S. Sorry for the tardiness of this reply, I’ve just arrived home from a trip to Berlin and have been off the web.

    1. This means the world to me. Thankyou, I really appreciate it (and you).
      Have a good one,
      – J
      P.S. Sorry for the tardiness of this reply, I’ve just arrived home from a trip to Berlin and have been off the web.

  7. He completely would have approved! I, too, felt the passing of this great soul — this poet and seeker, this artist and sufferer — with deep sadness. What a brave and beautiful man. I appreciate your tribute.

    1. I feel you; of all the recent passings, this was the one that affected me the most.
      Glad you liked the piece, thanks for taking the time to respond.
      Have a good one,
      – J
      P.S. Sorry for the tardiness of this reply, I’ve just arrived home from a trip to Berlin and have been off the web.

    1. The work remains. It is true and it is more than adequate. Your reply is perfect.
      Have a good one,
      – J
      P.S. Sorry for the tardiness of this reply, I’ve just arrived home from a trip to Berlin and have been off the web.

  8. Mr. Cohen’s spirit filled with a bit more grace because of you, and your friend. Thank you for the beautiful words you used to describe a visceral tribute. Sending love, Mary

    1. I am not sure that this is possible, but I thank you for your kind and noble sentiment.
      Big hug,
      – J
      P.S. Sorry for the tardiness of this reply, I’ve just arrived home from a trip to Berlin and have been off the web.

  9. That was deep, personal and poignant. It’s refreshing to see the human side of a man who is not afraid to feel, express and even cry. Thank you for sharing yourself with us James!

    1. This means the world to me, thankyou so much for taking the time to write.
      I hope this finds you well, swing by anytime,
      – J
      P.S. Sorry for the tardiness of this reply, I’ve just arrived home from a trip to Berlin and have been off the web.

  10. That was so beautifully expressed. I had not become familiar with Leonard Cohen until recently, at least not the knowing that I know him familiar. My daughter sent me a song by him and I loved it and wondered why I had not known him before. Perhaps it is my age, but in my defense there are only a few artists whose names I know. I was never one to actually “know” artists so much by name so much as by, “Yes, I like that!”, recognizing their sound and his sound was one I recognized. I will have to look up that album and enjoy.
    I am so sorry for your loss and understand the passion for it. Thank you for sharing.

    1. You are most welcome. Thankyou for taking the time to read and also to respond – it is absolutely appreciated.
      Hope this finds you well, have a good one,
      – J
      P.S. Sorry for the tardiness of this reply, I’ve just arrived home from a trip to Berlin and have been off the web.

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