Leonard Cohen ~ You Want It Darker [2⊘16]

A good friend of mine taught me a valuable lesson when I was a younger man. As he knew I had a predisposition towards the new and perfect, he instead encouraged me to seek beauty in the ill-used and oft-damaged. He showed me how scarred things display their flaws freely and should be embraced for the history they openly convey. In a Japanese household, if a beloved piece of pottery is damaged, it is often repaired with gold dust, then loved just as before or even moreso with a thereafter prominent presentation, a philosophy known as Kintsugi. The gold does not seek to diminish the damage, rather to celebrate it. My friend often found broken things and cherished them.

If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory, then mine must be the shame
You want it darker

I do not always understand why an artist decides against releasing a video for an iconic work of theirs, though I am sure Leonard Cohen simply lacked opportunity in this case. Sadly, he would die mere days after releasing his final album You Want It Darker. The images taken from the album’s photoshoot show him sitting, likely because he was wheelchair-bound by that time. The entire album would be conceived in his living room due to mobility issues. Shared Cohen, “In a certain sense, this particular predicament is filled with many fewer distractions than other times in my life and actually enables me to work with a little more concentration and continuity than when I had duties of making a living, being a husband, [and] being a father.”


Over a musical career that spanned nearly five decades, Mr. Cohen wrote songs that addressed—in spare language that could be both oblique and telling—themes of love and faith, despair and exaltation, solitude and connection, war and politics. It’s inevitable that Mr. Cohen will be remembered above all for his lyrics. They are terse and acrobatic, scriptural and bawdy, vividly descriptive and enduringly ambiguous, never far from either a riddle or a punch line.

New York Times obituary, November 10, 2016

Cohen too was a proponent of seeing beauty in brokenness. From his song aptly titled “Anthem” would come some of his most iconic lyrics: “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” He would later lament it takes him so long to finish songs because “Nothing works. After a while, if you stick with the song long enough it will yield. But long enough is way beyond any reasonable estimation of what you think long enough may be… ‘Anthem’ took a decade to write. And I’ve recorded it three times.” Interestingly, it would end up appearing on the soundtrack to Oliver Stone’s 1994 film Natural Born Killers.

“Magnified, sanctified, be the holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning, for the help that never came
You want it darker”

I had heard of Cohen, primarily from his contemporary standard, “Hallelujah” for which he is best known. However, this namesake track was brought to my attention by a newer blog I have been following, made by a brilliant woman, poet, and serial sharer-of-darkness named, jai (preferring her name to remain uncapitalized). She posted the video on her blog, Dark Matter, which I highly recommend, as her works are often lovelier, though darker than most, as requested.

“They’re lining up the prisoners, and the guards are taking aim
I struggle with some demons, they were middle-class and tame
I didn’t know I had permission, to murder and to maim
You want it darker”


Leonard Cohen’s

A truly staggering amount of information on Leonard Cohen via Wikipedia
Cover Art Courtesy of The Guardian and Michael Putland/The Mac

13 thoughts on “Leonard Cohen ~ You Want It Darker [2⊘16]

  1. He is one of the few human beings that made getting older seem cool. Cohen was like a fine wine that absolutely got better with age…the humor was always there and he never strayed from his roots as being Jewish either, which I always admired….Funny how Christians adopted “Hallelujah” as their own. Yet overlook these lyrics that I believe were an obvious reference to Christ “You say I took the name in vain I don’t even know the name”

    1. So well stated, Stephen. There is simply an enormous amount of information to share regarding Cohen’s life and I’m glad you brought some of it up. I read (somewhere) that coming from the 60s and 70s he is often lumped in with the likes of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, some pretty heady company. I always consider it a balancing act to write just enough interesting copy and factual information to be fun to read and informative without scaring readers away with a overwhelming number of words. In the case of newer artists, this is easy-peasy, but with someone like Leonard… good lord. Thanks as always for reaching out and sharing. 💀

  2. Thanks so much for the link 😁

    A wise friend with wise words.
    Very intriguing and very much enjoyable. New to me but great I think. 🤍

    1. He is one of many unheralded mentors in my life that I have been truly blessed with having known and learned from. Blessings to you, Destiny, I appreciate your feedback. 💀🖤

  3. As usual, your write up on Cohen strikes that perfect balance between not too little and not too much. I imagine it will inspire others to do a little research on their own about him. Leonard Cohen was unique, something rarely found in the music world nowadays—both singer and poet.
    Thank you for the link to my site, though it wasn’t necessary. You took the subject and made it your own. 🖤

    1. Thank you, jai. I ended up publishing it too quickly and scrrambled to try to fix so many errors last night, argh. Sometimes my tone is off and it becomes an internal battle for me to write properly. It’s a strange thing that’s only happened a few times now, thankfully. I’ll further review it today now. As for the link, credit where credit is due. I only hope my readers take the time to bathe in the beauty of your art. 🖤

      1. I have to go back and fix errors on a regular basis. Like I mentioned before, when editing our own work, often, we see what we expect to see.
        Again, thank you for the ping back. If someone drops by because of it, they’re always welcome, but if not, no problem. I write because I have to. If someone wishes to read it, fine; if not, that’s okay too. 🖤

  4. You definitely need not have worried about balance or tone. As a Canadian follower/lover of Cohen since teenage-hood, I can tell you the text was just right, and also interesting even to someone like me who knows all the lyrics (well, most) and all the history. I recently saw the Leonard Cohen exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto and realized standing in its midst how futile it is to try to boil down the (as you say) enormous amount of information, even in an art exhibition (although seeing his notebooks and the corrected copy for the lyrics to Hallelujah was amazing). I thoroughly enjoyed your post.

    1. I appreciate your kind words and feedback. The final product is far far better as a result of the battle I waged with myself last night, lol. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the best of what is written here is written by my subconscious, the rest is because I was not listening well enough. Cohen’s oeuvre is huge and he was such an open and giving person that much has been learned and written about him. I have now added a link to his ginormous Wikipedia page. I wish I had been able to attend that exhibition and witness his notebooks especially. Thank you for sharing, J. 💀

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