TORONTO - Singer Nana Mouskouri couldn't imagine passing up an opportunity to walk amid the memories of her old friend Leonard Cohen.
The Greek performer was visiting Montreal last month to promote her upcoming Canadian tour when she realized it might be her only chance to see an exhibit at the city's contemporary art museum dedicated to the poet laureate.
"Leonard Cohen: A Crack In Everything," closes on Thursday before possibly embarking on international tour.
For Mouskouri, seeing and hearing him again was a whirlwind of emotions.
"I was crying all the way through," the 83-year-old singer said. "My heart was beating fast."
"There were so many people and that was really encouraging. They needed to go, and me too. I needed to go."
The exhibit let Mouskouri reconnect with the friendship she held with Cohen for decades. She'd been unable to attend several Montreal tributes that followed his death in November 2016 at age 82.
Mouskouri and Cohen first met in early 1970s when he showed up at one of her Canadian concert dates and invited her over to his house for coffee afterwards, she's recalled in past interviews.
They reconnected again in 1974 at a Los Angeles industry party and ended up fleeing the event to catch Bob Dylan in concert. All three of them socialized backstage and formed a lasting connection.
Over the years, their friendship never faded, even though their careers rarely crossed paths.
Mouskouri retired for nearly a decade, but when she announced plans to return to the stage in 2014, Cohen was quick to send a note of encouragement:
"Twenty years ago, in this curious world, you raised your voice in song. I heard you then and I hear you now. I am still listening. We all are," he wrote in part of the letter.
Mouskouri considers those the words of a mentor.
"There is a religious mysticism about him. There are believers in his work and his words... and I feel the same way," she said.
"I listen to (his) records very often. I try to get even more between the lines to discover more. It's not easy, but it's wonderful."
Mouskouri's new covers album "Forever Young" puts her respect for Cohen on full display with a version of "Hallelujah," a song that she recognizes has been adapted countless times by other performers.
But she said it seemed like the most appropriate song to perform in his passing. Its lyrics spoke to her feelings and she didn't want to "disturb" his more recent work by recording it herself.
Other tracks on her latest album include a cover of "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" originally sung by Bryan Adams, "Love is a Losing Game," from Amy Winehouse and the titular track, which was first performed by Dylan.
Mouskouri's Canadian tour will take her through 14 dates across much of the country, starting from Victoria and Richmond, B.C., (May 3 and 4), as well as Calgary (May 5) and Edmonton (May 7). Additional shows are booked for cities that include Winnipeg (May 12), Ottawa and Toronto (May 14 and 16), and dates in Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick later in the month.
What comes after her album remains to be seen.
She said another project isn't in the works yet, and she doesn't want to get ahead of herself.
"I'm not in a time that I can decide (what's next) anymore," she said. "First let's do this nicely, I hope, and then we'll see for the future."
"The future belongs to young people, anyway."
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