Adam Cohen on Leonard: It was daunting finishing my dad’s last music’
Leonard Cohens final songs can now be heard on the album Thanks for the Dance. Here his son Adam talks about their emotionally complex relationship
There are some songs Im half way through that are not bad, Leonard Cohen said in his final interview, published in the New Yorker on 17 October 2016. I dont think Ill be able to finish those songs. Three weeks later, on 7 November, having released his 14th album, You Want It Darker, Cohen died in his sleep after a fall in his home in Los Angeles. The task of finishing those songs was passed, at Cohens request, to his son, Adam. The results can be heard on Thanks for the Dance, released last Friday.
Essentially, I wanted to take the listener on an unconscious journey through the sonic signatures of my fathers career, without it sounding like a regurgitation, says Adam Cohen, who, in his soft Canadian cadences and carefully constructed sentences, can sound uncannily like his father. My dad always rejected invitations from producers like Rick Rubin and Don Was to make a retro record that sounded like his older stuff. He said he didnt want to do the nostalgia act.
What is immediately striking about Thanks for the Dance is how organic these meticulously constructed songs sound, given that five of them were assembled from the barest musical sketches and four others from lyrics Leonard had recited, but not put to music. It sounds, above all, like a labour of love, and one that is entirely faithful to Cohens abiding spirit.
Thats good to hear, says Adam, smiling, For me, it is very much a continuation of You Want It Darker, on which I worked with him for the first time, when he was in quite bad shape. This, though, was a more daunting undertaking. We had to ensure that he was with us all the way as we give these songs a musical language that he had already developed.