Light and breezy wordplay has never been a hallmark of Leonard Cohen’s work, so it probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that the 82-year-old poet-musician maintains a healthy relationship with his own mortality. Despite the fact that his 14th studio album is set to drop later this month, Cohen’s failing health is likely to keep him from touring in support of it. And, as is evidenced in a recent New Yorker profile, he seems at peace with wrapping up both his career and his life.
“As I approach the end of my life, I have even less and less interest in examining what have got to be very superficial evaluations or opinions about the significance of one’s life or one’s work,” he explained. “I was never given to it when I was healthy, and I am less given to it now.”
Later, after reciting some lyrics he’d been tinkering with, he laid down some cold reality. “I don’t think I’ll be able to finish those songs,” he admitted. “Maybe, who knows? And maybe I’ll get a second wind, I don’t know. But I don’t dare attach myself to a spiritual strategy. I don’t dare do that. I’ve got some work to do. Take care of business. I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.”
Death has clearly been on Cohen’s mind lately. When he got word that Marianne Ihlen—the real life subject of some of his more drearily romantic songs (“So Long, Marianne,” “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”)—was on the cusp of death a few months ago, he sent her a letter that read: “Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart, and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.”
Cohen’s latest album You Want It Darker is scheduled for release on October 21.