Poet, musician, novelist, ladies’ man, monk, actor… Leonard Norman Cohen, one of Canada’s most influential cultural icons was born on Sept. 21, 1934 in Montreal. Whether from a mountaintop at a Buddhist retreat in California, on the Greek island of Hydra or strolling along the streets of his beloved ville d’amour, the melancholy bard of popular music has delighted fans worldwide with his poetry, novels and music.
Leonard Cohen’s towering songbook fits no category save its own, but they finally found a house big enough to hold him. Cohen’s overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame came during Monday night’s ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.
Between the inductions of Madonna, John Mellencamp, the Ventures, Gamble & Huff and Little Walter, Lou Reed took the podium to offer a generous tribute to his fellow rock poet.
Reed mentioned William S. Burroughs and Cohen as contemporaries, citing Naked Lunch and Beautiful Losers, and saying “one of them got more attention. I was always surprised by that.” Reed then quoted lavishly from the Cohen oeuvre from typewritten remarks, from First We Take Manhattan, Hey That’s No Way to Say Goodbye, Anthem and Cohen’s latest work Book of Longing. It was, appropriately, a most writerly induction for Montreal’s greatest living artist.
Cohen pronounced the induction “such and unlikely event” and “not a distinction I coveted,” while joking that music critic Jon Landau once said “I have seen the future of rock ‘n’ roll, and he is not Leonard Cohen.” Then came the perfect recital of Tower of Song before Damien Rice serenaded the hall with Hallelujah.
The evening was doubly celebratory for Montrealers as it was accompanied by the announcement of Cohen’s first live dates in Montreal in 15 years, with three shows at Place des Arts – June 23, 24 and 25 – as part of this year’s Montreal International Jazz Festival. There is also talk of an album.
Details at Montreal Gazette