Leonard Cohen’s last letter

Leonard Cohen’s last letter


norman lebrecht

November 11, 2016

It was a death he foretold to a mutual friend, in an email sent 30 days ago, on October 12.

He would have liked to be part of our project, Leonard wrote, but his strength was fading and he was confined to bed. And more, besides.

He did not need to write that letter. We knew he was gravely ill. But Leonard never left his lines unfinished. Seldom have I seen evidence of death faced with greater courage, certainty – and exquisite courtesy.

Aside from being his country’s greatest musician and the poet of our lives, Leonard Cohen was the kindest, most considerate of men. A mensch in a world full of monsters.

‘I am ready, my Lord,’ he whispered in what would be his final song.

leonard cohen's hat

Leonard Cohen died last night at the age of 82.

May his precious soul rest in peace.

leonard cohen israel

During the summer, he said this to David Remnick of the New Yorker:

What is on Cohen’s mind now is family, friends, and the work at hand. “I’ve had a family to support, so there’s no sense of virtue attached to it,” he said. “I’ve never sold widely enough to be able to relax about money. I had two kids and their mother to support and my own life. So there was never an option of cutting out. Now it’s a habit. And there’s the element of time, which is powerful, with its incentive to finish up. Now I haven’t gotten near finishing up. I’ve finished up a few things. I don’t know how many other things I’ll be able to get to, because at this particular stage I experience deep fatigue. . . . There are times when I just have to lie down. I can’t play anymore, and my back goes fast also. Spiritual things, baruch Hashem”—thank God—“have fallen into place, for which I am deeply grateful.”

And so, everlastingly, are we.

leonard cohen israel


  • Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

    Terribly sad. But, if he teaches us one thing, it is that there is hope, even in despair.

    “There is a crack in everything.
    That’s how the light gets in.”
    ― Leonard Cohen, Selected Poems, 1956-1968

  • V.Lind says:

    In Canada we celebrate Remembrance Day today, November 11. Aside from the ceremonials, which are widely and exhaustively covered, the rest of the day’s media seems to have been devoted to memorials to Leonard Cohen. Canadians woke up to the news of his death and the coverage then switched to the War Memorials. There is something rather Cohenesque about the symmetry — a sombre day anyway, intensified by his loss, but somehow the confluence gives the right tone to remembering both the veterans and the old troubadour.

    And he would have thought so: I had not heard this till it was played on CBC this morning:


  • Holly Golightly says:

    Some people have expressed surprise that Dylan was recognized by the Nobel committee while Cohen was not. I have a simple answer/theory to that; Dylan’s music was muscular, alive, relevant and he didn’t try to pontificate.

    • John says:

      Maybe you could wait a few days after Leonard Cohen’s death to offer your critical appraisals. He was a great artist and it would be nice if we called time out from this sort of thing to just recognize the gifts he left us with.

      • V.Lind says:

        Agreed. I do not know a fraction of his vast body of work, but I never had the sense of being pontificated at, but even if LulaMae believes so, today is not the day. And it seems unnecessarily brutal to a man renowned throughout the music world for his grace and personal generosity. Bob Dylan had rather greater tribute to pay, and I suspect he knows more about the music they both practised than the poster above.

        Spite is very Trumpian.