The commemoration of Leonard Cohen continues. Three new stamps from Canada Post celebrate the late laureate of existential despair, with portraits displaying him in different stages of his life.
Hours before the philatelic likenesses were unveiled at an event held in the Glass Court of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Friday, in an unrelated announcement Sony Music Canada revealed that a posthumous collection of new Cohen music is set for delivery.
Described by Sony as a “continuation of the master’s work,” the forthcoming album Thanks for the Dance uses “bare musical sketches” recorded before the famed Montrealer died in 2016. Those recordings were completed by musician son Adam Cohen, with the assistance of others including Leslie Feist, the Berlin-based choir Cantus Domus, producer Daniel Lanois, longtime collaborator and Famous Blue Raincoat singer Jennifer Warnes and, on guitar and jaw harp, Beck.
While the album doesn’t arrive until Nov. 22, on Friday Sony released The Goal, a short, solemn track that features piano and strings, with acoustic guitar from the Spaniard Javier Mas. Against a sparse arrangement, Cohen recites a farewell of sorts, “settling at last, accounts of the soul.”
The Cohen stamps will number four million and will only be available for a two-year period. Musical luminaries previously honoured by Canada Post include Oscar Peterson, Joni Mitchell, Oliver Jones, Robert Charlebois, Ginette Reno and Bruce Cockburn.
The three stamps were created by the Montreal graphic design firm Paprika. They portray the poet/novelist/songwriter in three stages of his life and artistry. They are all images taken from portraits, with no typewriters or microphones that would allude to his vocations. “We wanted to keep it as simple as possible,” says Paprika art director and stamp designer Raymond Lanctot. "The focus was on the person and the artist as he evolved.”
The stamps place the Hallelujah balladeer under, in front of and on top of prominent “COHEN" typography. The first stamp, “Silver,” uses a portrait taken by U.S. photographer Jack Robinson for Vogue magazine in 1967, the year that saw Judy Collins release a version of Cohen’s Suzanne and the appearance of Cohen at the Newport Jazz Festival. Cohen is in a crouch, looking up. “A blooming position,” Lanctot says.
The Gold stamp is Cohen in serious I’m Your Man pose, greying in his mid-fifties. The silhouette is from a 1988 beach shot by the Frenchman Claude Gassian. “He’s standing tall,” Lanctot says. “There’s a confidence, knowing who he is.”
With the Bronze stamp, Cohen is placed on the lettering – sitting on his name, if not resting on his laurels. The portrait, circa 2012, was done by British photographer Platon. As with the two other stamps, Cohen is shown as back-lit and shined upon. “It’s an analogy to the stage,” Lanctot says, “but there’s a spiritual dimension as well.”
And that’s how that light got in.
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