11 Nov 2016

'A big spirit has departed the planet'

6:06 pm on 11 November 2016

Leonard Cohen, who performed often in New Zealand in his creatively fertile final years, wrote songs of loss, redemption and sexual desire fused with religious imagery that earned him critical and popular acclaim.

Cohen, 82, died today, after a more than 40 year career as singer, songwriter, poet and author.

The poet, Sam Hunt, opened for Cohen when he toured New Zealand in 2009.

He said performing with the Canadian troubadour was like meeting a living legend.

"Certainly [it was] a great privilege, a wonderful privilege working with him. It'd be like working with W.B Yeats in my book.

"A great poet, a lovely man. A big spirit has departed the planet."

And Mr Hunt shared some memories of his time touring with Cohen.

"The first of the two shows that I did, when I'd finished and I was coming off the stage ... this very fine, firm hand took my wrist and led me in the darkness. I couldn't see a thing. It was Leonard. He led me backstage and had a nice big red wine for me."

"On the eleventh of the eleventh - on the day Trump arrives - Leonard leaves. His timing, as always, is immaculate."

Blogger and music commentator Russell Brown said Cohen's clipped phrasing and crystal imagery set him apart from his peers.

"He guarded his privacy but let us into his life through his songs.

"'Like a bird on the wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir'. It's a brilliant and evocative and tell-you-all-you-need-to-know image."

Sarah Brazil met Leonard Cohen when he was in Wellington for a concert in 2010.

Sarah Brazil met Leonard Cohen when he was in Wellington for a concert in 2010. Photo: Supplied / Sarah Brazil

Wellington woman Sarah Brazil saw Cohen perform in Wellington three times - and once, she even met the man.

"He was sitting on a park bench kind of meditating, so I grabbed a coffee and stood around and waited until he opened his eyes and looked around.

"I went over and sat down and had a chat with him. He was very sweet and very gracious. I told him I was a long-time fan, and he asked me how old I was and how long I'd been a fan, and I sort of gushed and made a fool of myself and took a photo of him," Ms Brazil said.

'There's a crack in everything. No light yet' - Roseanne Cash

Musicians from around the world paid tribute to the Cohen.

"R.I.P. Leonard Cohen," singer-songwriter Carole King said on Twitter.

Singer Roseanne Cash echoed the lyrics from Cohen's song "Anthem" when she said in a tweet: "Leonard Cohen is dead. There's a crack in everything. No light yet."

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