Terry O'Shaughnessy

Hudson

Leonard Cohen works from home this week

Leonard Cohen is playing his old hometown this week, filling the Bell Centre for two nights running. But Montreal isn’t the only place with Cohen connections. Hudson has a few of its own, it seems.

First, there was Miss Janet Kingsland (who became Mrs. Hodgson — the late Ken Hodgson’s Mum), his Grade 2 teacher. She has sadly passed away, but used to teach in Westmount every day where the 7-year-old Cohen went to school. Then there’s Diana Togneri who went to McGill University with him.

Clint Ward’s memory connects to Cohen’s much-talked-about life in Greece in the ’60s and ’70s.

“I was headed to Poros with some friends, but then had a change of plans, ending up on the island of Hydra,” explained Ward.

There he was introduced to another Canadian living there at the time — Leonard Cohen.

“We spent quite a bit of time chatting over the next several days on that beautiful island,” Ward remembered. “One night we decided we would go to the movies, and found ourselves in a cinema with a canvas-flap roof. The movie was awful. Afterwards, Leonard said, ‘Well, I guess to appreciate good art you have to see the bad.’”

Back in Montreal some months later, Ward again met up with Cohen and they attended a play together at Centaur Theatre.

“One of the things I’ll always remember him saying,” said Ward, “was that he thought of himself as a troubadour, and that while he could sell out concert halls in Europe, that was not necessarily the case in the U.S. or Canada.”

All that has changed, of course.

I remember many years ago when I was editor of a medical magazine and had several staffers from Ottawa and Toronto under my wing who had just graduated from journalism school. It was their first job and they were living in their new apartments in Montreal, enjoying themselves thoroughly.

One night I got a call. They were in a bar somewhere, several vintages into their evening, and had been calling Leonard Cohen. He didn’t seem to be home, they said, and did I know how they could reach him?

I said “He doesn’t live here any more.”

The giddy mood of the call flattened and they seemed a bit put-out that they had moved all the way to Montreal only to find that Leonard Cohen wasn’t home.

But he is this week.

And somehow it feels nice to have him back, doesn’t it?

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