Leonard Cohen captured ‘essence of human life’, President says

Lissadell co-owner says 2010 concerts made up ‘one of most incredible weekends in my life’

Leonard Cohen, the influential singer-songwriter, at the Mayflower Hotel by Central Park in New York  2001. Photograph: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

Leonard Cohen, the influential singer-songwriter, at the Mayflower Hotel by Central Park in New York 2001. Photograph: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

 

President Michael D Higgins was among those to pay tribute to musician Leonard Cohen whose “lasting legacy and his work will continue to inspire current and future generations.”

“Cohen captured not just feelings of loneliness and loss, but also the essence of human life: love, beauty, humour, as well as social and political engagement,” Mr Higgins said in a statement following Cohen’s death.

He noted how the singer was “ deeply influenced by William Butler Yeats and he made a very warm connection with his Irish audiences - a fact that he valued and emphasised to me when I met him in Dublin.”

There were hints that Leonard Cohen would not live much longer, but in a year that has already taken away Prince, David Bowie and George Martin, his death , announced via a Facebook post on Thursday , still came as a shock to many.

“It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away. We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries,” the post said.

‘Incredible, sublime’

Eddie Walsh, the co-owner of Lissadell House in Co Sligo where Cohen played two concerts in 2010, said he was “a man dedicated to art, dedicated to professionalism, incredible, sublime”.

“It was one of most incredible weekends in my life. He played two magical very special concerts. We even had a rainbow over Ben Bulben one of the nights. They were two of the longest concerts he ever played because he was so blown away by Lissadell,” Mr Walsh told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

DJ Dave Fanning said on the Ryan Tubridy Show on RTÉ Radio 1 that the late singer “ was the best I’ve ever met”.

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys paid tribute to her “personal favourite”.

She said his “music had an ability to reach into your soul and speak to your inner thoughts, your hopes and your fears. His music brought solace and joy to so many. The world has lost one of its true music legends and indeed one of its greatest modern poets. He will be sincerely missed by his Irish fans and millions more around the globe.”

Labour spokesperson on the Arts and former tánaiste, Joan Burton, expressed her sadness at the news.

She said: “I am so sad to hear of Leonard Cohen’s passing and offer my sincere condolences to his family, friends and indeed his many fans in Ireland and around the world.

“His concert at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham in Dublin in 2008, not withstanding the pouring rain, was one of the best of my life, and an evening I will never forget.

“Through his music and lyrics, Leonard Cohen touched so many people, and with his great love of WB Yeats, he had a special affinity with Ireland. His thousands of Irish fans will remember fondly his concerts at Lissadell House in Sligo in 2010, held just a short distance from the birthplace of the poet.

“My own favourite Leonard Cohen song, Hallelujah, was covered by many artists down the years - just one example of his influence.

“Sleep well Leonard, you were one of the people who made the world better.”

Awash in tributes

Twitter was awash in tributes from singers, writers, poets and public figures mourning the loss of the Canadian-born musical giant.

The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, sent out two tweets, first in French and then in English.

“No other artist’s music felt or sounded like Leonard Cohen’s. Yet his work resonated across generations,” Mr Trudeau wrote. “Canada and the world will miss him.”

Mr Trudeau then quoted from one of Cohen’s best-known songs, Hallelujah (1984), which took the artist five years to write and has been covered by hundreds of artists – including, most famously, Jeff Buckley.

Musicians across all genres, from hip-hop to pop to rock, tweeted out their condolences, including Ben Folds, Peter Hook from Joy Division and New Order, KD Lang, Slash, Lily Allen and Bette Midler. “Another magical voice stilled,” wrote Midler.

American composer Eric Whiteacre tweeted: “ Leonard Cohen has passed, one of the truest and purest poets I know. There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

Australian actor Russell Crowe wrote: “Dear Leonard Cohen, thanks for the quiet nights, the reflection, the perspective, the wry smiles and the truth #towerofsong”

US Actress Mia Farrow quoted the singer, tweeting: “I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.-Leonard Cohen”

Joy Division and New Order co-founder Peter Hook tweeted: “RIP Leonard Cohen — God bless. X”

Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland said: “A brilliant Canadian artist passed today. Leonard Cohen, rest in peace. Hallelujah.”

Canadian director Ron Howard tweeted: “One of my favorite singer-poets. RIP Legendary Musician Leonard Cohen.”

US singer-songwriter Ben Folds tweeted: “Kids. Take a moment to listen to Leonard Cohen’s song Going Home when you can. RIP L Cohen and thank you.”

Unfinished poems

Cohen alluded to his own death in a recent and wide-ranging interview with New Yorker editor David Remnick, in which he talked about his unfinished poems and lyrics.

“The big change is the proximity to death,” he says. “I am a tidy kind of guy. I like to tie up the strings if I can. If I can’t, that’s OK. But my natural thrust is to finish things that I’ve begun.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to finish those songs,” he continued. “Maybe, who knows? And maybe I’ll get a second wind, I don’t know. But I don’t dare attach myself to a spiritual strategy. I don’t dare do that. I’ve got some work to do. Take care of business. I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.”

The New Yorker has published the audio of that interview online.

Writers too were mourning the loss, including Gary Shteyngart, who quoted from Cohen’s song Everybody Knows.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of hit Broadway musical Hamilton, tweeted lyrics from Suzanne.

Many pointed out the auspicious timing of Cohen’s death, just one day after the United States surprised many by electing Donald Trump. “He got out just in time,” said podcaster and comedian Marc Maron.

Canadian comedian and actor Mark Critch had a similar take: “Leonard knew when to leave a party.”

Rob Lowe tweeted : “I’ve experienced the loss of many legends, but never have I seen so many works quoted in their passing.”

Neil Portnow, chief executive of the Recording Academy who honoured Cohen with a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2010, said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Grammy Award winner and 2010 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Leonard Cohen.

“During an influential career that spanned more than five decades, Leonard became one of the most revered pop poets and a musical touchstone for many songwriters. His extraordinary talent had a profound impact on countless singers and songwriters, as well as the wider culture.

“We have lost a cherished artist and our sincerest condolences go out to Leonard’s family, friends, and collaborators. He will be missed terribly.”

Former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello said the artist was “one of the greatest, deepest and wisest to ever bless us with his songs”.

Carole King tweeted: “R.I.P Leonard Cohen.”

Canadian director Ron Howard tweeted: “One of my favorite singer-poets. RIP Legendary Musician Leonard Cohen.”

US comedian Sarah Silverman tweeted: “RIP Leonard Cohen. Ugh. It feels pointed, this death. It’s making us remember songs like Come Healing which is a good one for these days.”

‘Such sad news’

American singer-songwriter Regina Spektor wrote on twitter; “Such sad news ... The great Leonard Cohen has passed away. Thank’s for what your music has done for humanity ... Kindness, love, beauty, poetry.”

Jennifer Hudson tweeted: “RIP Leonard Cohen. Thank you for you dedication to music, & writing one of my favorite songs to sing “Hallelujah”.

Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig wrote on Twitter: “Leonard Cohen, what a guy - first album at 33 - dropped “Hallelujah” at 50 - first arena shows in his 70s He did it til the end. RIP”

Harry Potter author JK Rowling and model and activist Bianca Jagger tweeted: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in,” from his song Anthem.

Singer Rosanne Cash, the daughter of country music star Johnny Cash, referred to the same song, writing: “Leonard Cohen is dead. There’s a crack in everything. No light yet.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of Broadway musicals Hamilton and In The Heights, tweeted: “Like a bird on the wire, Like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried, in my way, to be free,” from Cohen’s much-covered song Bird On The Wire.

Cohen’s manager Robert Kory told Rolling Stone: “Unmatched in his creativity, insight and crippling candour, Leonard Cohen was a true visionary whose voice will be sorely missed.

“I was blessed to call him a friend, and for me to serve that bold artistic spirit first hand, was a privilege and great gift. He leaves behind a legacy of work that will bring insight, inspiration and healing for generations to come.”

Culture Club singer Boy George wrote: “We have lost a great artist, poet and poignant force of energy. R.I.P Leonard Cohen.”

Canadian singer Alanis Morissette simply wrote Cohen’s name with a crying face emoji.

Singer and actor Justin Timberlake hailed Cohen as “a spirit and soul beyond compare”.

Reuters/PA/Guardian