Nfld. & Labrador

Newfoundland artists mourn Leonard Cohen: 'It's almost been like a journey'

The organizer of an annual Leonard Cohen tribute concert in St. John's says she's reeling from his death.

Creator of annual Cohen tribute calls artist's death a major loss for Canada

The creator of an annual Leonard Cohen tribute in St. John's says the singer-songwriter-poet's death leaves a major hole in Canadian culture. (Sandro Campardo/Keystone/The Associated Press)

The organizer of an annual Leonard Cohen tribute concert in St. John's says she's reeling from his death.

"It's almost impossible for me to express what an effect he's had on so many people," singer Vicky Hynes told CBC.

"His songs, his writings, everything down through the years. It's almost been like a journey, and it was the same on his last CD. It seemed like he was saying goodbye to us in so many words. It's blowing my mind here, I can't believe this."

Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen died this week at the age of 82. (Getty Images)

Hynes said Cohen's death is a major loss for Canadian culture.

"My sister only called me like two minutes ago and told me the news and I'm absolutely in shock." 

Hynes said she was worried Cohen was not well when he didn't do interviews for his newest album, You Want It Darker, released just three weeks ago.

"I thought something was rather amiss when the CD was released and on [CBC radio show] q, Tom Power had a very short interview with his son, Adam Cohen," she said. "And I thought to myself, wow, that's different. His son is out speaking about this project."

Geraldine Hollett, lead singer of The Once, says Leonard Cohen was unique and an important influence on Canadian music. (YouTube)

Geraldine Hollett of The Once, who recorded Cohen's Anthem and Coming Back To You for their own debut album, said she didn't want the news to be true. The band heard the news after performing in Mississauga Thursday night.

"He was just a funny man, and a good man, and a great poet, and he seemed to live life so much," she said. "It feels crazy that people like that have to go. I don't get it."

Hollett said Cohen set the standard for singer-songwriters.

"If you're going to be a singer-songwriter, he's the bar," she said. "He's a self-professed poet who happened to put some music to his work, thank goodness for the rest of us. Amelia Curran, I think, is doing it. She's more like him, but in her own complete style. He just influences you."

As news of Cohen's death spread, Newfoundland artists weighed in on Twitter, including Power.

Hynes met Cohen once, when she was invited to bring a handful of people from the Feast of Cohen show to the sound check for his last St. John's concert.

"It was almost like a private concert for us," said Hynes, adding that Cohen met with the group afterward. "It was quite a moment. He didn't say much, but it was an honour just for him to take the time out of his busy schedule," said Hynes.

Hynes is in the midst of planning the 17th annual Feast of Cohen show, which celebrates his music, scheduled for Jan. 6-7 at the LSPU Hall and featuring artists including Amelia Curran, Roger Howse and Brianna Gosse.

The Once themselves played at the Feast of Cohen before they'd released their first album, remembered Hollett.

"It was fun to take his words and not recreate but add something to it," she said. "You don't want to shag up something when it's that important. There's a reason why Hallelujah was done by a billion people, and probably right every time, because everybody revered it."

January's shows will have an added significance, said Hynes, as St. John's remembers the man who was a poet long before he was a musician.

"It's in the richness of the lyric that he wraps around your heart and your brain, like poet Agnes Walsh said."

With files from Geoff Bartlett and the St. John's Morning Show