Montreal concert celebrates Cohen

Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen

MONTREAL • Montreal this week celebrates Leonard Cohen, its native son who became one of the foremost songwriters of the contemporary era.

But the singer, who died one year ago, probably would not have wanted it.

"In all honesty, I think it's better that he's not here for this," admitted his son and producer, Adam Cohen, who spearheaded the anniversary commemorations.

"One of his chief distinguishing characteristics was his modesty. I think he would have shied away from this event and tried to discourage us from making this visible and big and bothering anyone by inviting them."

The anniversary's highlight will be a tribute concert yesterday night at Montreal's Bell Centre arena that features a wide range of artists who were influenced by the singer.

Performers at the concert, dubbed Tower Of Song, will include songwriters Sting and Elvis Costello, grunge rocker Courtney Love, pop singer Lana Del Rey and composer Philip Glass.

The city's modern art museum, the Musee d'Art Contemporain, will also inaugurate an exhibition on his life, titled A Crack In Everything, a lyric from Anthem, his song of finding hope in bleakness.

Adam Cohen said he felt a filial duty to put together the tribute, no matter how much his late father would have resisted it.

"I really wanted to put on display the span of influence that he had and give people an opportunity - and especially in this town, Montreal - to come and praise him and celebrate his songs and lift them into the night in one joyous, sentimental and touching occasion."

Cohen, 82, died in his adopted home of Los Angeles on Nov 7 last year - one day before United States President Donald Trump's stunning election upset. The singer was buried in accordance with his wishes - in an unadorned pine casket placed next to his parents' in a Jewish cemetery in Montreal.

Cohen entered music relatively late in life after a promising literary career. Hallelujah, a majestic, meditative ballad, became his most identifiable song.

He returned to touring in the 2000s - in part because his former manager stole much of his savings - and packed arenas.

"There were a lot of people from his generation that became nostalgia acts. He was never a nostalgia act. He kept pertinent all the way to the end," Adam Cohen said.

"If he continues that trajectory, it wouldn't surprise me, if civilisation is still around in a couple hundred years, if some of his songs were sung down by the river as someone does his laundry. It's that kind of catalogue," he added with a laugh.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'Montreal concert celebrates Cohen'. Subscribe