Yesterday I wrote the final scene of Sixty-Six Seconds, my contribution to next year's Urban Enemies anthology. It's a story about Fontaine, the demonic bounty hunter from the Harmony Black series, carrying out an impossible assignment: capturing four fugitive souls, the last members of the Redemption Choir, over the course of a single cold and rainy night in Detroit. Well, that's the plot. What it's about is a doomed and bitter romance, and a man divided between cynicism and love, making bad choices because it's all he knows how to do.
I listened to a lot of Leonard Cohen, writing this story. Music is a big part of my process; I use it for brainstorming, for outlining, for getting the feelings I'm trying to evoke into my head so I can attempt the alchemy of conveying it on paper. And this particular story was very So Long Marianne. A little Everybody Knows.
I was listening to Cohen when I was told that he died.
That makes two of my musical heroes whom this year has taken. And that word, again and again. Taken, taken, taken. 2016 is a hungry monster and it feels like nothing will ever be right again. Some of our greatest voices and imaginations silenced, while the venal and small are rewarded.
But enough about that. I don't think Cohen would have wanted that kind of grief. He knew he was on his way out; he said as much, blunt as ever, in an interview after the release of his final album, You Want It Darker. Much like Bowie's Blackstar, it was an album composed and performed by a man who knew he was dying. His last words, his closing bow.
Cohen was a radical, a visionary who explored style and transformed himself (also like Bowie) again and again over the course of his fifty-year career. The beats changed but his talent for wordplay, his ability to weave words into evocative imagery, his emotional strength, never did. He had a skill for finding raw nerves. He sang of loss and of rage, of cynicism and hope, in a way few others could hope to match. He was a master of the business of breaking hearts.
And he reminded us of the beauty of broken things. Because, as he sang in Anthem, There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.
Thank you, Mr. Cohen, for the music. Thank you for the inspiration. Thank you for your legacy; you are gone but the songs remain, and always will. And goodnight.
Now the crickets are singing, the vesper bells ringing
The cat's curled asleep in his chair
I'll go down to Bill's bar, I can make it that far
And I'll see if my friends are still there
Yes and here's to the few, who forgive what you do
And the fewer who don't even care
And the night comes on
It's very calm
I want to cross over, I want to go home
But she says, go back, go back to the world
-- "Night Comes On," Leonard Cohen