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Adam Cohen on the 'sense of duty' in giving his father Leonard a proper sendoff

Adam Cohen, son of Leonard Cohen holds up an honour award for his father at the gala Adisq awards ceremony in Montreal on October 29, 2017. When Leonard Cohen died nearly a year ago, his son Adam was immediately pulled into a whirlwind of business responsibilities tied to the legacy of the poet laureate. Legal approvals loomed over the use of Leonard's image, finishing touches were needed on an upcoming book of his poetry and questions circulated over the direction of his extensive music catalogue. On top of that, he was overseeing plans for the star-studded memorial concert set for Monday night at the Bell Centre. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
November 03, 2017 - 1:16 PM

TORONTO - When Leonard Cohen died nearly a year ago, his son Adam was immediately pulled into a whirlwind of business responsibilities tied to the legacy of the poet laureate.

Legal approvals loomed over the use of the legend's image, finishing touches were needed on an upcoming book of his poetry, and questions circulated over the direction of his extensive music catalogue.

On top of that, Adam Cohen has been overseeing plans for a star-studded memorial concert set for Monday night at the Bell Centre.

The barrage of demands left him with few opportunities to mourn the loss of his father.

"There is a moment where I'm going to have to just capitulate and let the thing be," he said in a phone interview from his Montreal home.

"But I've been driven by this sense of duty to give him a really beautiful launch."

Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen will feature performers including Sting, k.d. lang, Lana Del Rey, Courtney Love and Philip Glass, who will take the stage to deliver homages to the raspy-voiced artist who thrived in both weighty introspectiveness and prescient social commentary.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend the ceremony, which is being recorded for radio and TV. The CBC will mark Tuesday's one-year anniversary of Cohen's death with a broadcast of the concert on CBC Radio 2 and a stream at CBCMusic.ca. It will air on CBC-TV on Jan. 3, 2018.

Choosing the right performers was challenging, Adam Cohen said. He wanted musicians who would surprise and delight an arena crowd, but also serve his father's songs well.

Knowing that Sting previously sang "Sisters of Mercy" made him a sure bet, he said, while Del Rey was eager to perform "Chelsea Hotel #2."

But not every musician could adjust their busy schedules to make the Montreal date.

"People make money more from touring now than anything, so there were a whole bunch of artists who wanted to do this but simply weren't available," he said.

"I would've loved Nina Simone," he added, pointing to the vocal powerhouse who died in 2003.

Even with some acts missing from the bill, the sheer size of this tribute would've stunned his father, he said.

Others set to perform include Elvis Costello, Feist, Damien Rice, Ron Sexsmith and comedian Seth Rogen.

"He might've thought of a vigil, candles burning or music played at the bottom of Mount Royal near the monument," he said.

"I don't think he would've ever imagined the Bell Centre and this many great artists coming together. He was just too modest for that kind of thing."

Since his passing, Cohen's final release "You Want It Darker" won a Juno for album of the year, while the singer was also named artist of the year.

He was celebrated with murals in Montreal and a mobile app will be launched Thursday to guide fans through his favourite parts of Montreal, with narration from singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright.

With such a deep involvement in planning the tribute concert, Adam Cohen said the past year has been difficult. He likens the experience to walking down a dark hallway where he refuses to look back.

"I'm preoccupied with trying to light a candle to illuminate a path in front of me instead of revisiting the hallway I just traversed," he said.

"In many senses, I feel like this tribute is hopefully going to demark a kind of beginning of closure."

But he knows his father's words are here to stay — and he pulls lyrics from "Tower of Song" for reassurance.

"You'll be hearing from me, baby, long after I'm gone," he said.

"I think that that's true."

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News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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