I don’t know if it’s an official requirement as a Canadian to love Leonard Cohen, but I certainly do. From the first time I heard “Closing Time” back in 1992, when I was fifteen years old, I’ve been a fan. In fact, I managed to see him three times in 1993 when he played what was then the O’keefe Centre here in Toronto. I loved the use of his music in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, and I even did a book report on his second and final novel, Beautiful Losers.
Cohen was always the coolest guy in the room, probably the city, state and province he was in as well, and his death in 2016 definitely left a hole in Canadian culture. However, as a fan, I still feel he’s with us. I listen to his music regularly, especially his later album, You Want It Darker, released just seventeen days before his passing on November 7th, 2016. That album, much like David Bowie’s Blackstar, was created in the shadow of death, and is a fantastic testament to Cohen’s artistry (as is its posthumous follow up, Thanks For The Dance.
Along with his music, Leonard Cohen’s life and art continues to resonate with fans and Canadians, which makes Everybody Knows: Leonard Cohen, the wonderful new exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario such a fantastic experience. Featuring letters, notebooks, artwork, original lyrics and so much more, the exhibit is a treasure trove, curated from the Leonard Cohen Archives, which the artist considered his masterwork.
Biff Bam Pop!’s JP Fallavollita and I had the chance to visit the exhibit this week, and we were both suitably impressed by the experience. Seeing those original lyric sheets and personal Polaroids Cohen took over the years allowed for a greater appreciation for the man; somehow, it brought him down to Earth while also serving as a reminder that his was an artistry that has few equals (for me, my personal Mt. Rushmore of solo songwriters would feature Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon).
The Art Gallery of Ontario always puts on beautiful shows, and Everybody Knows: Leonard Cohen is no different. It’s a remarkable journey through his life and times, well worth a visit to celebrate a man whose mark on Canadian culture and rock and roll continues to loom large.
You can learn more about Everybody Knows: Leonard Cohen here.