I grew up in a family that all loved literature. We all had our particular genre that we liked – mine was Canadian poetry. And my favourite was Leonard Cohen. In university, I had the opportunity to attend readings by some of the greats – Irving Layton and Al Purdy were excellent. And I also had the opportunity to see Leonard Cohen “in concert” – Leonard and his guitar on a riser in the gym. It was a combination of poetry reading and music (which was and still is poetry set to music).
Leonard Cohen certainly rose to fame and some fortune over the years, and for about 5 years became a recluse at a Buddhist colony. When he returned to civilization, he did very creative things which were not designed to be commercially successful, but I’m sure very fulfilling for an artist. During this time (the story goes), his business manager defrauded him of most of his money. So in 2008 at age 75, he went out on tour! But rather than just going out by himself, he surrounded himself with incredible musicians and background vocalists, and for the first time, included the recording and release of a DVD, Live in London, which met with much commercial success. While I didn’t see any of the live concerts, I would say from watching the DVD, that the tour was intense (as is fitting for Leonard) with small bits of humour interspersed.
Spurred on by the success (or more likely the fun) of the 2008 tour, Leonard is back on the road. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform in Toronto. This time each of the very talented musicians and singers had their turn in the spotlight, Leonard sang what the audience wanted to hear, interspersed self-deprecating humour, and he recited poetry (to a completely hushed audience of 15,000 I might add). He seemed much more relaxed and grateful to his fans for continuing to support him after all these years.
So what have I learned? Regardless of the motivation, it is possible to continue to re-invent yourself, stay true to yourself and enjoy your work. And perhaps the most important – surround yourself with great people!