Leonard Cohen’s influence spans generations

by Morgan Buell

leonard cohen pencil drawing

In the wake of such an iconic musician’s death, many admirers of his — both young and old — have been reflecting on his influence on their lives.

“Leonard Cohen’s physical presence is gone,” said Nelia Palma, a translator at the Congrégation de Notre-Dame Mother House on Sherbrooke W. “But his large body of work will remain for us and for future generations to appreciate.”

There is an intergenerational scope to Cohen’s work, shown to Palma when her daughter, Lauren, chose a Cohen song to study with her singing teacher. “Of all the popular songs a teen could have chosen, she picked Hallelujah.”

Palma said the singing teacher was somewhat surprised by Lauren’s choice but it became her favourite. “The song absolutely resonated with my daughter’s young soul.” She recalled how hearing her daughter practicing would bring her to tears.

The appreciation for Cohen extends to Hanna Hughes, who started listening to Cohen when she was 13. A soon-to-be high school graduate and amateur poet, Hanna wants to study English literature or art history in university.

“There was an openness and effortlessness in his poetry and lyrics,” Hanna said. “It really felt raw and beautiful without being too ornate.”

Palma mentioned Nobel Prize laureate Bob Dylan, saying how she felt Cohen should have been honoured for his work. “He wrote about life, love, beauty, faith, fear, despair, hope, pain and redemption.”

Josée Sarrazin, an archivist and one of Palma’s colleagues, shared her experience of Leonard Cohen’s music. “He was always part of my life, but mostly my adult life,” said Sarrazin. “When I visited a dear friend in Scotland, I gave him one of Cohen’s poetry anthologies because it felt like a real emblem of Montreal.

“His death shocked me the same way that David Bowie’s did. They really were two influential pillars of music,” Sarrazin said. She added that she felt that Cohen’s voice was a reassuring one and that she felt as though he were a paternal figure to her. She said she believes many others feel similarly.

Timelessness has been a word attributed to Cohen numerous times, and despite his death
his music seems unlikely to leave the hearts
of his admirers.

Palma reflected on Cohen’s death, remembering his song, You Want it Darker, playing on the radio as she was driving home a mere two weeks before he died.

“True to his now inimitable style, his music was stark, his voice languid and deep, and his lyrics haunting.”

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