12 Nov 2016

Leonard Cohen Tribute on Music 101

From RNZ Music, 1:00 pm on 12 November 2016
Leonard Cohen has died, aged 82.

Leonard Cohen has died, aged 82. Photo: AFP

Music 101 pays tribute to the life and career of Leonard Cohen. Poet Sam Hunt, Cohen's biographer Sylvie Simmons, and Professor of Religious Studies Paul Morris join Alex Behan to reflect on Cohen's craft, we play some audience favourites, and The Webb Sisters play a cover version of one of his songs. 

We asked the Music 101 audience to tell us what Leonard's music meant to them - here are some of the responses we got. 

"In the early 70's my parents received a hand-me-down Akai Stereo system from my Uncle. It came with three cassettes - The songs of Leonard Cohen (1967); Simon & Garfunkel and a Mozart compilation.The stereo was only allowed to be used when my parents had guests around, so I was in charge (10 years old) of putting the the music on as they came in the door. Leonard was my first choice and I got to know his music inside and out.
I took up poetry early on with his style a source of inspiration. Even today at 53, I can say his music still rings in my ear whenever I sit down to write!


"There is a truly appalling and almost cosmic symmetry in the fact that in the same week the incarnation of all that is vile, crass, shallow, violent, divisive, dishonest and obscene takes centre stage, an artist whose work is so sublime, profound and truthful, and who was the embodiment of grace, humility, humour and generosity should leave us.
These are dark times indeed, but in his wonderful music there remains a sanctuary of Truth in this post-truth world.
These lines from "Sisters of Mercy" could as well be applied to the solace provided by his words and music as to the people who inspired them:

If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn,
They will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem


"The first time I (and several others) heard of Leonard Cohen was in 1966, at the NZ National Film Unit, Miramar, Wellington.
We were in the habit of going regularly to the Canadian High Commssion to borrow 16mm prints of their latest National Film Board productions. One such experimental film was Angel, by Derek May. The music was performed by the Stormy Clovers and written by Leonard Cohen.
I still think the music is excellent. Here is a link to The whole film (about 8 minutes"


"Far ouuuut... What a surreal few days.

At Leonard Cohen's Auckland show a few years back I remember thinking how it was the last show of his tour and at his age could potentially be the last tour he does. I certainly hoped it wouldn't be and the way he was running and skipping all over the stage you'd think he'd be living a long long time after. I was sitting next to my Dad who introduced me to Mr Cohen's music at a young age. Then as he played 'Suzanne' followed by 'Chelsea Hotel # 2' it hit me that we could be witnessing a legend playing these classic songs live for the last time (in this kind of setting anyway). Maybe it was a morbid thought... but with his passing today it confirms how truely privileged I and that audience was.

Leonard Cohen taught me the importance of words in songwriting and how it's possible not only to have a voice but through painstaking craft songs can age like a kauri tree with deep, wise roots. Even if one of his songs only just brushes by you, it's hard to deny there's something more going on beyond the surface. Although I didn't know Leonard Cohen I also saw him as life teacher and spiritual guide. Watching many interviews and documentaries about him and reading his poetry. I hope to one day have even an ounce of his class.

Rest In Peace Leonard Cohen. I feel sad but I also feel like you'll have no trouble getting around what ever the 'next life' is."

Ben Tolich / Mali Mali

"I am 2 months older than Leonard.That last concert at Vector when he said ”Goodbye, my friends”, I felt we all knew what he meant. His last album “You want it Darker” is, for me, beautifully unsettling.."


"You got me singing
Even though the world is gone
You got me thinking
I'd like to carry on

You got me singing
Even tho' it all looks grim
You got me singing
The Hallelujah hymn"

I discovered Leonard Cohen during a long hospital stay - and although the sounds were sad, he got me singing like I'd like to carry on." 


"I have seen Leonard Cohen live three times. The most memorable was in London, Ontario in 2008. The stadium was full - about 60,000 people, there were three generations of families in attendance.
The show was epic … three hours long and the opening song of the third hour was  Hallejuah, there was complete silence in the stadium, and no applause at the end of the song, the entire audience transfixed.
Vale Leonard!


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