Song of the Week – Lazarus, David Bowie; You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen; Jesus Alone, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds


My mind has been unnaturally fixated on mortality lately. Today marks the 39th year anniversary of my father’s passing. A few weeks ago I lost a very dear friend of mine at the far too young age of 61 after a short but very nasty battle with cancer. I was fortunate to have a long conversation with her in February when it appeared that her late 2016 surgery had bought her more time. Sadly, she took a terrible turn for the worse shortly afterward.

2016 was an especially hard year for rock deaths. A number of very important artists died during the year – Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, Keith Emerson, Paul Kantner, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Greg Lake and George Michael to name a few.

Bowie was first, on January 10th, just 2 days after the release of Blackstar. He was struggling with cancer but chose to keep his illness private and focused on his work. An example to all of us, he worked right up until has passing and left us with one of the best albums of his storied career – yes, even compared to his iconic 70s and 80s classics.

The song “Lazarus”, released as the second single from the album, has often been cited for lyrics that hinted at the artist’s struggle to deal with his illness and impending mortality:

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now

In an eerily similar circumstance, Leonard Cohen released his last album – You Want It Darker – on his 82nd birthday, less than two months before his death from complications after a fall.

In an article in the February 2017 issue of Mojo, referring to the title track, Sylvie Simmons wrote:

In his final album, he sang himself back home. “Hineni,” he sang. “I am ready”’, accompanied by the cantor and choir of Congregational Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal, the synagogue his great grandfather founded, and in whose cemetery he would be buried on November 10, in a private ceremony, next to his parents.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds also released a superb album in 2016 called Skeleton Tree. The album was initiated in late 2014 but took a much different turn after the death of Cave’s 15 year old, twin son Arthur who fell from a cliff in England in July, 2015. The tragedy initially debilitated Cave but eventually he channeled his grief into a very moving work, the making of which he had documented for a film called One More Time With Feeling.

The album’s opener is “Jesus Alone.”

It includes a line “You fell from the sky, crash landed in a field…” that could only be described as a premonition since it was written before Arthur’s demise.

At least when we have to deal with such sadness, we have exceptional art to help us to process our emotions and feel community with others that have suffered similar experiences.

Enjoy… until next week.

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