by the Forward

Why Leonard Cohen Went Out on Top on 2016

The musical year of 2016 was bookended by dark valedictories: David Bowie’s “Blackstar” and Leonard Cohen’s “You Want It Darker.” Both Bowie and Cohen knew that their ends were near, and both passed on to the next realm just as their last brilliant works were released. Cohen’s final album — in particular its haunting title song — stands as one of the finest Jewish works of art of the 21st century so far. “You Want It Darker” is among Cohen’s most Jewish songs, complete with a cantorial solo and the refrain of “Hineni, Hineni… I’m ready, my Lord.” Cohen here is the shadow Abraham: ready to obey God’s terrible command, ready to die, ready to plunge yet further into the darkness, since that, apparently, is what God wants. Tragically for us all, Cohen’s prophecy proved truer than expected: While he knew his own health was fragile, he couldn’t have known that America, too, was about to fall into a period of prolonged darkness. As history turned out, “You Want It Darker” has now become the eulogy of both a brilliant songwriter and a nation.

- Jay MIchaelson
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You Want It Darker

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