Leonard Cohen's son promises 'perfect cast' of artists at upcoming concert

Fans of beloved poet and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen are converging on Montreal from all over the world as Nov. 6 approaches — the date for a star-studded celebration of Cohen's music, Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen.

'Tower of Song' memorial tribute to be broadcast on CBC Radio 2 on Nov. 7, anniversary of Cohen's death

Adam Cohen contacted hundreds of artists to find the perfect cast and songs for Monday's Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Fans of beloved poet and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen are converging on Montreal from all over the world as Nov. 6 approaches — the date for a star-studded celebration of Cohen's music, Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen.

The homage concert, at Montreal's Bell Centre, will be broadcast across Canada on CBC Radio 2 the night following the concert, on the anniversary of Cohen's death, Nov. 7, beginning at 8 p.m.

The list of artists is still not complete.

"The complicated thing has been trying to limit the [number] of artists on stage. Because we don't have until Christmas, it's just one night," said Cohen's son, Adam.

Honing down dream list of artists

Adam Cohen said he and his team came up with about 20 songs they knew had to be performed, and then they contacted their dream list of artists.

"We ended up calling hundreds of people to get to the perfect cast," Adam said.

"We had all these coloured postcards on a wall, and we kept moving them. It was very exciting, actually." 

That list of artists includes BØRNS, Cœur de pirate, Elvis Costello, Lana Del Rey, Feist, Philip Glass, k.d. lang, Sting — and many more.

Leonard Cohen said that if there were to be a public event for him after his death, it had to be in Montreal. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

Aside from the radio broadcast and coverage on, CBC Television is also scheduled to air the show on Jan. 3, 2018. 

Coming home

It was Leonard Cohen's wish that any public commemoration be carried out in his hometown, and a tribute concert seems a perfect fit.

Cohen had long said he enjoyed hearing other artists interpret his work.

In this 2008 CBC interview before a tribute concert at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Cohen talks about other artists covering his songs in Montreal.

6 years ago
Duration 0:47
Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows was a musical tribute featuring renowned Canadian and international acts.

He told CBC in 2008 that he found his own voice "very limited," and it left him feeling that the music was somehow unfulfilled.

"To fulfil it and manifest it so beautifully and so skillfully means a lot to me," Cohen said.

Around that time a Montreal International Jazz Festival tribute to him was in the works, and Cohen said the fact that a tribute concert was taking place in Montreal, a place he knew so well, was "a great privilege, a great honour."

Giving back to young Canadian artists

Proceeds from the Tower of Song concert are going to three arts-granting bodies: the Canada Council for the Arts, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, and the Conseil des arts du Montréal.

These arts councils helped sustain Cohen financially in his 20s when, despite his publishing success, he still couldn't make enough money to survive as an artist.

In 1959, he received a grant from the Canada Council which funded a trip to Europe that ended in Hydra, Greece.

It was in Hydra that he bought a house, wrote, and met his muse, Marianne Ihlen.

A week of Cohen events

Nov. 6 is also the day Montreal's Musée d'art contemporain (MAC) is opening its doors to CBC for an exclusive sneak peek of its long-planned exhibition Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything.

CBC Montreal will be offering a tour of the exhibition on its Facebook page and website Monday afternoon.

The highly anticipated Cohen-themed exhibition opens Nov. 9 and runs until April 9, 2018. (Elysha Enos/CBC)

Cohen biographer Sylvie Simmons, the author of I'm Your Man, will also be at the MAC Monday for an interview the public is invited to attend. More information is available here.

That interview will air on CBC Radio One Nov. 12 at 3 p.m. ET during a special episode of Writers and Company with Eleanor Wachtel.

The MAC exhibition opens to the public Nov. 9.


Elysha Enos


Elysha Enos is a journalist with CBC Montreal.