Singer Perla Batalla pays tribute to mentor Leonard Cohen with the ‘House of Cohen’
Grammy-nominated world-music singer Perla Batalla will open the “House of Cohen” when she performs Saturday at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
The concert, which is Batalla’s tribute to her mentor, Canadian singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen, who dies in 2016, will feature her memories about Cohen that are highlighted by his songs.
“I have a story to tell that is about my relationship with Leonard, who opened up an entire world to me with his friendship and work we did together,” said Batalla, who was Cohen’s backup singer for six years before she embarked on a solo career in 1994. “When I tell the story, there are songs that fit the moment, and that’s where I put them.”
Batalla said bringing the concert to audiences after Cohen’s death has been a “wonderful journey.”
“Grieving is such an interesting process, and I don’t see it all as a negative, sad thing,” she said. “I see it also as an opportunity to be grateful for all the things this person did give me.”
Batalla is grateful for the interest Cohen had in her professional career.
“He wasn’t a typical self-involved artist, and he was always very generous, kind and interested in what I was doing,” she said. “He would always give me advice when I wanted it and needed it.”
Many of Cohen’s songs, Batalla has learned over the years, are filled with humor, which she said fit his personality.
“That’s contrary to popular belief that Leonard was a depressive or down person,” she said with a laugh. “If you investigate and study his lyrics, you will see there is a lot of humor in them. Even though his songs can be profound and deep at times, he, like great writers, insert humor.”
Batalla was also drawn to Cohen’s wry view on global issues.
“When you listen to his album ‘The Future,’ which was released almost 30 years ago, all the things he sang about are still happening today,” she said. “Listen to ‘Democracy’ when he says ‘Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.’ and you will find it very political, but also very funny.”
Batalla said performing Cohen’s songs is a privilege, and not a responsibility.
“Towards the end of his life, he feared he would be forgotten, and there was an immediate urgency for him to finish a lot of work,” she said. “I know, I’m not the most famous person in the world who can sing Leonard Cohen songs, but I told him that I would, in my own humble way, continue to sing his work to whoever will listen. And my goal is to do it with love.”
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