Five Years After His Death, Leonard Cohen Has A New Music Video

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

It’s been five years since Leonard Cohen made his characteristically tasteful exit from the realm of the living—the Canadian poet and songwriter died on November 7, 2016, one day before the 2016 presidential election and two weeks after he released his seminal farewell record, You Want It Darker.

Nonetheless, merely being dead hasn’t diminished the quality, resonating meaning nor output of the master songwriter’s work (recall that in his 1988 tune “Tower of Song,” Cohen sang: “You’ll be hearing from me baby, long after I’m gone/ I’ll be speaking to you sweetly from a window in the Tower of Song”).

Figuratively, Cohen’s promise will always remain true—endowed with inimitable observational skills, the songs he brought into the world will forever shed invaluable light onto the greyness of the human condition. But even on a literal level, Cohen—with help from his former collaborators and family—has remained an active artist in the years since his death. In 2019, his final studio album was released: Thanks for the Dance, a collection of poems and vocal parts Cohen recorded in the period right after You Want It Darker was completed. Produced by his son, Adam Cohen, the tracks show just how sharp Cohen’s literary prowess was all the way to end.

Now, as of November 5, the music video for the tune “Puppets” is live on YouTube, marking the final official music video for new music in Cohen’s long and colorful catalog.

Directed by Daniel Askill—who previously worked on the video for Cohen’s “Happens To The Heart”—the new, emotive video features actor Bobbi Salvör Menuez walking down an uncanny alley before setting themself on fire in a poetic shot reminiscent of the self-immolation of Thích Quảng Đức, one of the more visually powerful acts of protest in the annals of resistance history.

“It has been such a gift to have the opportunity to create these visual responses to the music of Leonard Cohen,” Askill said in a statement. “Cohen has an incredible ability to create a bridge between the sublime and the prosaic—the metaphysical and political. In ‘Puppets,’ he does that while addressing dark themes with a poetic insight. This video has been born out of a wonderful, ongoing dialogue with Adam Cohen. It is in some ways a darker counterpoint to the first film we made for ‘Happens to the Heart.’ Shot on location in New York, this film follows the symbolic journey of a single figure through darkness towards a transcendence. In many ways, it is visually pointing to the idea that Leonard often beautifully evokes in different ways—that the darkness and the light of our experience is deeply entangled—and maybe at a fundamental level they are in fact one and the same.”

As Askill pointed out, for as much symbolism as there is in the video, there’s an even richer tapestry of meaning in the lyrics themselves. Watch the video above and read the full set of lyrics below:

German puppets burned the Jews
Jewish puppets did not choose
Puppet vultures eat the dead
Puppet corpses they are fed
Puppet winds and puppet waves
Puppet sailors in their graves
Puppet flower, puppet stem
Puppet time dismantles them
Puppet me and puppet you
Puppet German
Puppet Jew

Puppet Presidents command
Puppet troops to burn the land
Puppet fire, puppet flames
Feed on all the puppet names

Puppet lovers in their bliss
Turn away from all of this
Puppet reader shakes his head
Takes his puppet wife to bed
Puppet me and puppet you
Puppet German, puppet Jew

Puppet Presidents command
Puppet troops to burn the land
Puppet fire, puppet flames
Feed on all the puppet names
Puppet night comes down to play
The after act to puppet day

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