How 3 Canadians spirited the ’60s into the 21st century

Our Hero surfaces in the latest issue of Destinations drawing on what he learned while writing 50 Canadians Who Changed the World. The magazine, published by VIA Rail, turned up this delightful image of Leonard and Joni. And it makes intriguing mention of your chance to win a $5,000 travel credit with VIA Rail. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, here’s how the article begins . . . .

New York City. A thirty-three-year-old Montrealer took up residence in the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street and began crooning his poetry to anybody who would listen. His name: Leonard Cohen.

A few blocks south of the Chelsea, in Greenwich Village, a young Saskatchewan woman who had recently fled a broken marriage was paying the rent by singing songs in the folk clubs where Bob Dylan once played. She called herself Joni Mitchell.

 A one-day train ride to the north, in Montreal, a twenty-eight-year-old academic from the Ontario wilds was revising her first novel while teaching two courses at Sir George Williams University. This was Margaret Atwood.

These three Canadians, who grew up in Montreal, Saskatoon, and Toronto, would emerge from the ferment of the 1960s to forge global reputations as ground-breaking artists. The three would become friends. For a few months, two of them, Cohen and Mitchell, would be lovers.

But what, beyond personal interactions, do these three have in common? I found myself wondering about that as I researched them for 50 Canadians Who Changed the World. And it occurred to me that Cohen, Mitchell, and Atwood, shaped by the Zeitgeist of the 1960s, have never ceased to champion the countercultural values of that decade.

[For the rest, pick up the September/October issue of Destinations.]

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