Judy wrote the saddest song She showed it to a boy in school today Judy, where did you go wrong? You used to make me smile when I was down Judy was a teenage rebel She did it with a boy when she was young She gave herself to books and learning She gave herself to being number one Judy, I don't know you if you're gonna show me everything Judy, I don't know you if you're gonna show me everything
Judy got a book at school She went under the covers with her torch She fell asleep till it was morning She dreamt about the girl who stole a horse Judy never felt so good except when she was sleeping Judy never felt so good except when she was sleeping
Judy, let's go for a walk We can kiss and do whatever you want But you will be disappointed You will fall asleep with ants in your pants Judy, you're just trying to find and keep the dream of horses And the song she wrote was Judy and the Dream of Horses Dream of Horses, Dream of Horses You dream of horses
The best looking boys are taken The best looking girls are staying inside So Judy, where does that leave you? Walking the street from morning to night With a star upon your shoulder lighting up the path that you walk With a parrot on your shoulder, saying everything when you talk If you're ever feeling blue Then write another song about your dream of horses Write a song about your dream of horses Call it Judy And The Dream Of Horses Call it Judy And The Dream Of Horses You dream of horses
O barco vai de saída Adeus ao cais de Alfama Se agora eu vou de partida Levo-te comigo ó cana verde Lembra-te de mim ó meu amor Lembra-te de mim nesta aventura P'ra lá da loucura P'ra lá do Equador
Ah mas que ingrata ventura Bem me posso queixar da Pátria a pouca fartura Cheia de mágoas ai quebra-mar Com tantos perigos ai minha vida Com tantos medos e sobressaltos Que eu já vou aos saltos Que eu vou de fugida
Sem contar essa história escondida Por servir de criado a essa senhora Serviu-se ela também tão sedutora Foi pecado Foi pecado E foi pecado sim senhor Que vida boa era a de Lisboa
Gingão de roda batida corsário sem cruzado ao som do baile mandado em terra de pimenta e maravilha com sonhos de prata e fantasia com sonhos da cor do arco-íris desvairas se o vires desvairas magia
Já tenho a vela enfunada marrano sem vergonha judeu sem coisa nem fronha vou de viagem ai que largada só vejo cores ai que alegria só vejo piratas e tesouros são pratas, são ouros, são noites, são dias
Vou no espantoso trono das águas vou no tremendo assopro dos ventos vou por cima dos meus pensamentos arrepia arrepia e arrepia sim senhor que vida boa era a de Lisboa
O mar das águas ardendo o delírio dos céus a fúria do barlavento arreia a vela e vai marujo ao leme vira o barco e cai marujo ao mar vira o barco na curva da morte e olha a minha sorte olha o meu azar
e depois do barco virado grandes urros e gritos na salvação dos aflitos estala, mata, agarra, ai quem me ajuda reza, implora, escapa, ai que pagode reza, treme, heróis e eunucos são mouros são turcos são mouros acode!
Aquilo é uma tempestade medonha aquilo vai p'ra lá do que é eterno aquilo era o retrato do inferno vai ao fundo vou ao fundo e vai ao fundo sim senhor que vida boa era a de Lisboa
It wasn’t an email from God, but it was close. Leonard Cohen had written to ask if Gideon Zelermyer, the cantor of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim near Montreal — Cohen’s childhood synagogue — was interested in recording with him.
Zelermyer was soon sitting inside the synagogue’s sanctuary with a few members of Shaar’s all-male choir, playing with different arrangements for “You Want It Darker,” the title track of Cohen’s 14th and final studio album. Some of the words Cohen had given them to work with were familiar; they were borrowed from two of Judaism’s holiest prayers. One is the Kaddish, recited by mourners after the death of a loved one. The other is the High Holy Days prayer Hineni — literally, “Here I am” — a personal entreaty to God, the worshiper asking plaintively for mercy. The choir’s voices are the first sounds you hear on the album, their ethereal harmonics giving way to sparse instrumentation and Cohen’s weary, subterranean growl, then returning to back up the song’s choruses and final movement.
This was hardly the first time that Cohen had drawn on his Judaism for his music. Though he had a complicated relationship with his religious inheritance, it provided a natural vocabulary for him; it was what he knew, and its stories of human suffering and, occasionally, redemption suited his poet’s pull toward the existential. But never before have Cohen’s biblical references felt so charged, so dark, so pointed. “Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name,” he sings. “Vilified, crucified, in the human frame. A million candles burning for the help that never came. You want it darker.” Then, echoing the words that Abraham spoke as he answered God’s command to sacrifice his only son: “Hineni, I’m ready, my Lord.”
You can’t listen to these words without thinking about the fact that Cohen was dying when he recorded them. It’s one thing to meditate on faith and mortality when death is an abstraction. It is surely another when you can feel it bearing down on you. And yet the choir’s harmonies manage to transform the song, lifting Cohen’s solitary struggle into something universal, even eternal.
Cohen once said that he did not think of himself as a religious person, but his life was in many ways an extended spiritual journey. Buddhism, Scientology, kabbalah, Hare Krishna, Hinduism — Cohen sampled them all. Yet in his final years, he found himself drawn back to the 171-year-old synagogue where he had become a bar mitzvah, where both his grandfather and great-grandfather served as presidents, where a photograph of his Hebrew-school class taken in 1949 still hangs on the wall. Cohen was living in Los Angeles, but a cousin in Montreal sent him a recording of Zelermyer and his choir, reuniting Cohen with sounds that had never stopped echoing in his head. He and the cantor struck up an email correspondence. “May your voice reach that Place and bring down the blessings,” Cohen wrote Zelermyer in 2008, before the High Holy Days. (“He can’t write anything normally, can he?” the cantor remembers thinking.) And then several years later came the note, asking for help with a new record. As Cohen put it, “I’m looking for a sound like the Shaar choir and cantor of my youth.”
In October, the record-release event for “You Want It Darker” was held at the residence of the Canadian consul general in Los Angeles. Zelermyer was seated with the other V.I.P.s in the front row. It was the first time he had met Cohen in person. It would also be the last. Weeks later, Cohen’s coffin was lowered into the earth at Shaar Hashomayim’s cemetery. Zelermyer stood next to Cohen’s family as they recited the Kaddish.♦
Jonathan Mahler is a staff writer for the magazine.
If you are the dealer, I'm out of the game If you are the healer, it means I'm broken and lame If thine is the glory then mine must be the shame You want it darker We kill the flame
Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name Vilified, crucified, in the human frame A million candles burning for the help that never came You want it darker
Hineni, hineni I'm ready, my lord
There's a lover in the story But the story's still the same There's a lullaby for suffering And a paradox to blame But it's written in the scriptures And it's not some idle claim You want it darker We kill the flame
They're lining up the prisoners And the guards are taking aim I struggled with some demons They were middle class and tame I didn't know I had permission to murder and to maim You want it darker
Hineni, hineni I'm ready, my lord
Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name Vilified, crucified, in the human frame A million candles burning for the love that never came You want it darker We kill the flame
If you are the dealer, let me out of the game If you are the healer, I'm broken and lame If thine is the glory, mine must be the shame You want it darker
This flower is scorched This film is on On a maddening loop These clothes These clothes don't fit us right I'm to blame It's all the same It's all the same
You come to me with a bone in your hand You come to me with your hair curled tight You come to me with positions You come to me with excuses Ducked out in a row You wear me out You wear me out
We've been through fake-a-breakdown Self hurt Plastics, collections Self help, self pain, EST, psychics, fuck all I was central I had control I lost my head I need this I need this A paper weight, junk garage Winter rain, a honey pot Crazy, all the lovers have been tagged A hotline, a wanted ad It's crazy what you could've had It's crazy what you could've had It's crazy what you could've had I need I need this It's crazy what you could've had It's crazy what you could've had I need I need this It's crazy what you could've had It's crazy what you could've had I need I, I need this It's crazy what you could've had I need this It's crazy what you could've had It's crazy what you could've had I need this I, I need this It's crazy what you could've had It's crazy what you could've had
You want to go out Friday And you want to go forever You know that it sounds childish That you dreamt of alligators You hope that we are with you And you hope you're recognized You want to go forever You see it in my eyes I'm lost in the confusion And it doesn't seem to matter You really can't believe it And you hope it's getting better
You want to trust the doctors Their procedure is the best But the last try was a failure And the intern was a mess And they did the same to Matthew And he bled 'til Sunday night They're saying don't be frightened But you're weakened by the sight of it You lock into a pattern And you know that it's the last ditch You're trying to see through it And it doesn't make sense But they're saying don't be frightened And they're killing alligators And they're hog-tied And accepting of the struggle
You want to trust religion And you know it's allegory But the people who are followers Have written their own story So you look up to the heavens And you hope that it's a spaceship And it's something from your childhood You're thinking don't be frightened
You want to climb the ladder You want to see forever You want to go out Friday And you want to go forever And you want to cross your DNA To cross your DNA with something reptile
And you're questioning the sciences And questioning religion You're looking like an idiot And you no longer care And you want to bridge the schism, A built-in mechanism to protect you And you're looking for salvation And you're looking for deliverance You're looking like an idiot And you no longer care 'Cause you want to climb the ladder You want to go forever And you want to go out Friday You want to go forever
I got your letter today And I miss you all so much, here I can't wait to see you all And I'm counting the days, dear I still believe that there's gold At the end of the world And I'll come home To Illinois On the day after tomorrow
It is so hard And it's cold here And I'm tired of taking orders And I miss old Rockford town Up by the Wisconsin border But I miss you won't believe Shoveling snow and raking leaves And my plane will touch tomorrow On the day after tomorrow
I close my eyes Every night And I dream that I can hold you They fill us full of lies Everyone buys About what it means to be a soldier I still don't know how I'm supposed to feel About all the blood that's been spilled Look out on the street Get me back home On the day after tomorrow
You can't deny The other side Don't want to die Any more than we do What I'm trying to say, Is don't they pray To the same God that we do? Tell me, how does God choose? Whose prayers does he refuse? Who turns the wheel? And who throws the dice On the day after tomorrow?
Mmmmmmm... I'm not fighting For justice I am not fighting For freedom I am fighting For my life And another day In the world here I just do what I've been told You're just the gravel on the road And the one's that are lucky One's come home On the day after tomorrow
And the summer It too will fade And with it comes the winter's frost, dear And I know we too are made Of all the things that we have lost here I'll be twenty-one today I've been saving all my pay And my plane will touch down On the day after tomorrow And my plane it will touch down On the day after tomorrow
And if the snow buries my, my neighborhood. And if my parents are crying Then I'll dig a tunnel from my window to yours, Yeah, a tunnel from my window to yours.
You climb out the chimney, And meet me in the middle, the middle of the town. And since there's no one else around, We let our hair grow long, And forget all we used to know. Then our skin gets thicker from Living out in the snow.
You change all the lead Sleepin' in my head, As the day grows dim I hear you sing a golden hymn
Then we tried to name our babies But we forgot all the names that The names we used to know. But sometimes, we remember our bedrooms, And our parents' bedrooms, And the bedrooms of our friends. Then we think of our parents, Well what ever happened to them?!
You change all the lead Sleepin' in my head to gold, As the day grows dim, I hear you sing a golden hymn, The song I've been trying to say.
Purify the colors, purify my mind. Purify the colors, purify my mind, And spread the ashes of the colors, Over this heart of mine!
Well she's up against the register with an apron and a spatula, Yesterday's deliveries, tickets for the bachelors She's a moving violation from her conk down to her shoes, Well, it's just an invitation to the blues
And you feel just like Cagney, she looks like Rita Hayworth At the counter of the Schwab's drugstore You wonder if she might be single, she's a loner and likes to mingle Got to be patient, try and pick up a clue
She said "How you gonna like 'em, over medium or scrambled?", You say "Anyway's the only way", be careful not to gamble On a guy with a suitcase and a ticket getting out of here It's a tired bus station and an old pair of shoes This ain't nothing but an invitation to the blues
But you can't take your eyes off her, get another cup of java, It's just the way she pours it for you, joking with the customers Mercy mercy, Mr. Percy, there ain't nothing back in Jersey But a broken-down jalopy of a man I left behind And the dream that I was chasing, and a battle with booze And an open invitation to the blues
But she used to have a sugar daddy and a candy-apple Caddy, And a bank account and everything, accustomed to the finer things He probably left her for a socialite, and he didn't 'cept at night, And then he's drunk and never even told her that her cared So they took the registration, and the car-keys and her shoes And left her with an invitation to the blues
'Cause there's a Continental Trailways leaving local bus tonight, good evening You can have my seat, I'm sticking round here for a while Get me a room at the Squire, the filling station's hiring, And I can eat here every night, what the hell have I got to lose? Got a crazy sensation, go or stay? now I gotta choose, And I'll accept your invitation to the blues