Koyczan called out to his fellow Penticton artists and musicians after the news of Cohen’s death to see if they were interested in putting together a tribute show. They all agreed with little hesitation.
“He means that much to so many other people. His work means that much,” Koyczan said. “It has become a part of our lives.”
The Canadian icon had a large role shaping Koyczan as a poet, artist and a person.
“I grew up not being a very social person. I just didn’t have that ability, just based on what I went through in school and the experience that I had. So growing up reading and books became a large part of my escapism and things like that,” Koyczan said. “When I finally got into university and when I finally got into the writing program I was finding the voices that spoke to me in a way.
“He just really helped shape my voice. He really taught me to look for beautiful things in ugly things. It’s strange because words is what I do for a living and it’s hard to really put into words how much this person did for me, having never even met them, having never crossed paths.”
Koyczan likened the feeling to the day Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain died.
“When he died it was sort of the same thing, where it was this heavy gut punch. If you’ve ever been in a relationship where you really love a person and it goes south and it ends and it ends badly. That emotional feeling manifests in a physical way and I had a very physical reaction to hearing the news about Leonard Cohen,” Koyczan said.
Cohen passed away at the age of 89, but Koyczan hopes Canada can reflect and encourage the love of arts in the here and now.
“Canada has this horrible tendency where we tend to mourn our arts rather than celebrate them,” Koyczan said. “I was always hearing people saying ‘I got to see Leonard Cohen before he dies.’ That’s a really morbid sort of way to look at things and I was always like why not I got to see Leonard Cohen, period, end of sentence,” Koyczan said.
The deep impact Cohen had on many became apparent to Koyczan when nine artists jumped on board including Maiya Robbie, Alexandra Goodall, Stefan Bienz, Tavis Weir, Mia Harris, Jared Jackel, Daryl Oneill, Teresa Wiltse, and Warryn Berry.
“I know so many people, Leonard Cohen was the voice that talked them down from the ledge or got them through another day or helped them cope with some deep torment that was going on in their lives,” Koyczan said. “There are so many people, even in the small community of Penticton.”
Koyczan feels it is Cohen’s honesty that resonated with so many.
“He relates on a very human and personal level. That’s one of the things that I’ve tried to do with my work,” Koyczan said.
The show is fundraising for the Penticton Art Gallery and the Dream Café.
Tickets are $30 on sale at the Art Gallery and t he Book Shop, 242 Main St.
The tribute night takes place Dec. 17 at the Cleland Community Theatre.