Friday, April 1, 2011


Announcement made on Friday, April 1, 2011
Ceremony held on Monday, May 14, 2012

For four decades, Leonard Cohen has been one of the most important and influential songwriters of our time, relentlessly examining the central issues in human experience, and reporting with passion, insight and wisdom. His body of work is a reflection of the zeitgeist of the late twentieth century and beyond. His songs are works of great poetic depth and profound emotional force, and set new standards for quality, range and seriousness in pop music. Artists and music-lovers alike are drawn to the dignity, ambition and sheer power of his songs.

An accomplished literary figure before he began recording music in the late 1960s, his collections of poetry, including Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956) and Flowers for Hitler (1964), and his novels including The Favourite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966), had already brought him considerable recognition. His dual careers in music and literature have continued feeding each other over the decades – his songs revealing a literary richness rare in the world of popular music, and his poetry and prose informed by an intense musicality. Collectively, Leonard Cohen has published twelve books including Book of Longing (2006), a collection of prose, poetry and drawings which was the first book of poetry to reach the top of Canada’s bestsellers’ lists, and which formed the basis of a memorable musical and theatre collaboration with composer Philip Glass which premiered at Toronto’s Luminato festival.

Leonard Cohen is one of the most covered artists alive today, influencing generations of songwriters, and his music has earned the accolades of other artists in tribute albums in France, Norway, Canada, Spain, the Czech Republic, South Africa, and the United States. “Hallelujah”, one of Leonard Cohen’s best-known and best-loved songs has been covered by over 150 artists including Willie Nelson and Bono. Numerous documentaries, awards, and tribute albums acknowledge the far-reaching contribution Leonard Cohen has made to music. He continues to refine and deepen his art, and as a musician he is constantly exploring new territory.

The Leonard Cohen Acceptance Speech

Thank you so much friends. I actually met Glenn Gould. It was the end of the '50's or the early '60's. Holiday Magazine asked me to interview him and he apparently had heard of a little book I had written and he accepted the interview. I was cautioned not to shake his hand. I went to Toronto and we met at the apartment building where he was living, downstairs in the lobby. This was before the days of tape recorders. He began to speak and I began to scribble. The interview was supposed to be for just minutes but it lasted for a couple of hours. After a minute or two I was so engrossed with what he was saying and I stopped writing and stopped taking notes and thought these words were burned into my soul. After the interview was over, I thanked him. It had been really a memorable afternoon. I came back to my little room on Mountain Street in Montreal and I couldn't remember a thing. The editor of Holiday Magazine called me and asked me how it was coming along. I said it's coming very well. The editor called me a couple days later and I had the same answer. The editor called me a couple weeks later and I said it's taking me a little bit longer than I thought, and then finally I stopped answering the phone. It was in the days of telegrams. I finally joined the witness protection program. 

I met Glenn Gould again curiously enough about several years later. It was in a studio in New York, a Columbia Records studio. He was recording something sublime and I was recording something otherwise. I met him in the hall and we recognized each other. I was infected in those days with the new hip thing which was beginning to unveil among musicians and people in the entertainment world. I said "Hey man, what's shakin'?" He said, "I didn't know you were from Memphis, Tennessee." Thank you so much friends. I just I want to say to the musicians and singers, if there is any anxiety about singing my songs in front of me, let it dissolve immediately because I go into an immediate childish ecstasy and paroxysms of gratitude when an artist covers one of my songs. Thank you so much friends.