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Stars honor Leonard Cohen

By CNN's Peter Wilkinson

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There's more to Leonard Cohen than lugubrious melancholy.

BRIGHTON, England (CNN) -- Canada's finest singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen celebrates his 70th birthday later this year, but his influence shows no sign of waning.

Fans even have the prospect of a new album in store. Tribute Web sites are currently buzzing with news that Cohen is recording new material after spending several years living as a Zen monk in California.

There are no indications that Cohen will tour in the near future though, so the only way of hearing his remarkable music live is when others perform it.

One such concert took place last weekend in the southern English resort of Brighton. The event, called "Came So Far For Beauty," was curated by Hollywood producer Hal Willner and reprised a similar show in Brooklyn's Prospect Park last summer.

The amazing line-up of artists helped to attract both diehard fans to the Brighton Dome as well as those less acquainted with Cohen's work; all of the 30 songs were rapturously received by the audience as if the man himself were on stage.

Music at the concert -- the final event of the month-long Brighton Festival -- was provided by some of the finest jazz and folk players, with voices by famous names from the world of rock like Nick Cave and Jarvis Cocker as well as folk stars like Beth Orton, Laurie Anderson and the McGarrigle sisters.

Cohen's former backing singers Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla gave faithful renditions of iconic songs such as "Bird on the Wire," while Cave's upbeat version of "Diamonds in the Mine" and Cocker's duet with Orton on "Death of a Ladies' Man" proved there was more to Cohen's work's than melancholy.

None of the stars attempted to imitate Cohen's often-lugubrious delivery and the final song of the three-hour concert, a rousing all-star version of "Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On," left fans new and old hungry for new material from the old master.


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