In 2016, David Remnick spoke with the masterly songwriter as he looked back on his career and life.
Leonard Cohen: A Final Interview
Leonard Cohen, who died this week, was one of our greatest songwriters—Bob Dylan told Cohen that he considered him his nearest rival—and is a figure of almost cult-like devotion among fans. He began as a poet in the vein of Allen Ginsberg and Frank O’Hara before releasing his first album, in 1967. Suffering from terrible anxiety, not much tamed by alcohol and drugs, he conquered his fear of performing onstage after decades of Zen practice. David Remnick sat down with Cohen this summer at his home in Los Angeles to discuss his career, spiritual influences, triumphant final tours, and preparing for his end. “I am ready to die,” Cohen said. He was already suffering from a number of health problems. “At a certain point, if you still have your marbles and are not faced with serious financial challenges, you have a chance to put your house in order. It’s a cliché, but it’s underestimated as an analgesic on all levels. Putting your house in order, if you can do it, is one of the most comforting activities, and the benefits of it are incalculable.”
Remnick’s Profile of Cohen offers a look into the introspection of the musician’s final days: