Cohen is among the recipients of the 13 Prix du Québec, whose names were announced today at a press conference held in Montreal.
With a voice that stirs the senses and a gift for poetic language that touches the soul, Leonard Cohen has been remarkably prolific in a career that spans five decades. His first volume of poetry was published while he was still an undergraduate student in McGill’s Faculty of Arts and since then, he has used his abundant talents to inspire and move generations of readers and listeners around the world. A McGill graduate (BA’55) and honorary degree recipient (DLitt’92), Cohen was voted one of the ‘Greatest McGillians’, a contest organized by the McGill Alumni Association as part of the celebration of the University’s 190th anniversary.
"On behalf of the McGill community, I would like to congratulate Leonard Cohen – poet, artist, novelist, songwriter, performer and our alumnus – on the occasion of his winning this important distinction,” said McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum. “When Leonard Cohen first came to McGill University, he found himself in a setting which fostered his talents. Since then, though he has achieved star status internationally and lived in Europe and the United States, Leonard Cohen’s art has remained firmly rooted in Montreal. We take great pride in the remarkable success that McGill alumni achieve worldwide.”
Cohen’s early poems were published in the McGill student paper The Forge, and with the help and mentorship of McGill professors and poets Louis Dudek and Howard Files, Cohen’s first volume of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies, went on to inaugurate the McGill Poetry Series.
The Prix du Québec have existed in their current form since 1977. Each year, the government gives out seven awards in the cultural field and six in the scientific field. Their purpose is to recognize the careers of women and men who have demonstrated a passion for their calling. These are individuals whose creative talents and spirit of innovation have attracted attention in their respective fields and who have contributed to the influence of Québec around the world and to the evolution of Québec society.
Leonard Cohen was born in Montreal in 1934 and obtained a degree in English literature from McGill University. By the time he put out his first album in 1967, Songs of Leonard Cohen, he had already published three volumes of poetry and two novels. Since then, Cohen has issued 15 other albums of original material and his songs have been covered by artists around the world ranging from Beck to Kid Dakota. Leonard Cohen’s most recent album, Old Ideas, was issued in January 2012.
Leonard Cohen has been honoured by a host of awards over his prolific career, ranging from the Canadian Authors’ Association Literary Award for Poetry (1985) to the Governor General’s Award for Performing Arts (1993). In 1993, he won the Juno award for top male vocalist of the year, and the Grammy for best album of the year in 2007, along with a second Grammy in 2010 for Lifetime Achievement. He is a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Grand Officier de l’Ordre national du Québec. Cohen was inducted into the Canadian Folk Music Walk of Fame (2005) and into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame the following year. In 2012, Cohen received the Inaugural PEN award for Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence.
PHOTO: LORCA COHEN