Metro Morning

Leonard Cohen a 'singular, special man,' Toronto musicologist says

A musicologist who worked with him says Leonard Cohen had an "old-world graciousness. The persona you see on stage, the man who's bowing constantly, who's telling the audience what an honour it is to see them, that's how he came across in person."

'He came across like no other rock star I've ever met,' says musicologist Rob Bowman

Canadian singer and poet Leonard Cohen died Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, at the age of 82. (AFP/Getty Images)

For a Toronto musicologist, the death of acclaimed Canadian poet and musician Leonard Cohen is hitting a little closer to home.

"I found myself unbelievably grief-stricken with this news," said Rob Bowman, a musicologist and professor at York University. Bowman had the opportunity to work with Cohen in 2008, meeting his band and spending some time on the road with them. 

"He came across like no other rock star I've ever met," he said on Metro Morning.  

"Leonard has a sort of an old world graciousness to him," Bowman explained. "The persona you see on stage, the man who's bowing constantly, who's telling the audience what an honour it is to see them, that's how he came across in person." 

"A very very singular, special man." 

A wordsmith and poet

Toronto musicologist Rob Bowman says poetry was Leonard Cohen's first love. (Getty Images)

Cohen, though best known for his work as a singer-songwriter, was at heart a poet, Bowman said. 

The Canadian artist wrote five books of poetry and two novels before releasing his first album in 1967, when he was 33 years old. 

"His move towards music initially was literally a career move," said Bowman. Cohen decided to start writing music because he believed that was how he would make a living.

"He grew into it," Bowman said, with Cohen going on to record 14 albums.

Final album a farewell

Cohen's last album 'You Want It Darker' was released in October. (AFP/Getty Images)

The most recent record, You Want It Darker, was released in October, and Bowman said it addresses the idea of coming terms with death.

"It certainly was foreshadowing."

The title track, and lead single off of that album, features the refrain: "Hineni, hineni. I'm ready, my lord." 

"It means 'Here I am, I'm ready my lord,'" said Bowman, who explained that he's found listening to the song since Cohen's death incredibly moving. 

"Hearing him sing, hearing that voice, the richness, the beautifulness, the depth of feeling, his way of getting at the eternal mysteries of the human condition. He does it again in what turns out to be his farewell song," said Bowman. 

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