The Millions

How Leonard Cohen and Emily Dickinson Led Me Through Dark Days

His voice came to me right before the world began to end. It was a cold evening in October of 2016—slate grey skies, the highway flat, that Sunday feeling where the worries of the week ahead overtake the pleasure of a weekend away. Leonard Cohen on the stereo, speaking more than singing. He put all casual conversation to an abrupt end.

That wasn’t the first time I heard Cohen. I knew his best-known songs, what his voice sounded like. But it was the first night I really heard him, the first night his voice reached inside and gutted me. It always seems so strange and stupid, in retrospect, when something precious is handed to you, and years go by before you accept it and give thanks for the gift. Until then, I simply hadn’t been paying attention.

On November 7, 2016, after releasing You Want It Darker, his 14th album, Cohen died at the age of 82. One day later, Donald Trump was elected President.

My introduction to Cohen’s extensive catalogue triggered a chain of events, one that continued long after the think pieces were published, after a new terror

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