Writing Their Own Epitaphs

The opening narration of Episode 9 of Falling Water ends with the statement: “In the end, none of us write our own epitaph. Except maybe Bob Dylan.”

I’m not sure what Bob Dylan might have written as his epitaph (though I can certainly think of a number of his lines that would fit), and I hope it will be a very long time before I find out, but I do know at least two artists this year who seem to have consciously composed their own last words.

Blackstar stands as David Bowie’s valedictory album. As Rolling Stone reported:

[Producer Tony] Visconti noticed the tone of some of the lyrics and told him, ‘You canny bastard. You’re writing a farewell album.’ Bowie simply laughed in response.”

It became hard to read the songs any other way when Bowie died on January 10, just two days after the album’s release.

Shortly before Mariann Ihlen died on July 29, Leonard Cohen wrote to his onetime muse:

Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.”

So it came as no surprise that You Want It Darker, released on October 21, sounded like farewell.

Just over two weeks later, on November 7, Cohen reached out and again grasped Marianne’s hand.


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