Canadian folk singer Leonard Cohen has passed away at the age of 82. Cohen was also an acclaimed poet and novelist whose work explored politics, religion and sexuality.
Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen has died at the age of 82, according to a statement on his Facebook page on Friday: “It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away. We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries,” the statement read.
“A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date. The family requests privacy during their time of grief.”
Cohen told the New Yorker recently: “I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.”
Known for intense lyrics with subjects ranging from love and hate to spirituality and depression, Cohen had a deep singing voice and was accompanied by distinctive guitar patterns. His career began in the 1960s and continued until this year with his 14th and final album “You Want it Darker.”
Tributes pour in
As news broke of Cohen’s passing, musicians and writers took to social media to honor the late musician.
Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, issued a statement Friday mourning the Montreal-born singer-songwriter: “Leonard, no other artist’s poetry and music felt or sounded quite like yours. We’ll miss you.”
Cohen, Trudeau said, would be “fondly remembered for his gruff vocals, his self-deprecating humor and the haunting lyrics that made his songs the perennial favorite of so many generations.”
Quebec to New York
Born in Quebec in 1934, he learned guitar as a teenager and formed a folk group. But after reading Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca he turned toward poetry. He graduated from McGill University and moved to the Greek island of Hydra where he wrote three collections of poems.
In 1966 he moved to New York and met folk singer Judy Collins who recorded two of his songs, including “Suzanne” on an album she released that year. He met Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground, and German singer Nico. His “Songs of Leonard Cohen” released in 1967 were presented and sung in a similar style to Nico’s.
Cohen wrote more songs for Collins and also for James Taylor, Willie Nelson and others.
More albums followed and in the 1970s he began the first of his many long tours around the US and to Europe. His best-known song “Hallelujah” was included on an album which Columbia Records declined to release in 1984 and it was not until Jeff Buckley recorded it in 1994 that the song came to light.
Cohen also wrote and performed comedy. His first comic novel “The Favorite Game” was published in 1963 and the DVD “Ladies and Gentlemen: Mr Leonard Cohen” shows him performing as a stand-up comic.
In 1995 he halted his career to enter the Mount Baldy Zen Center near Los Angeles where he became an ordained Buddhist monk, taking on the Dharma name Jikan which means “silence” although he never abandoned Judaism.
He released more songs in 2001 and 2004 before suspicions grew that his longtime manager, Kelley Lynch, was embezzling funds from his retirement account. Robbed of $5 million (4.6 million euros) Cohen started to perform again to recover his finances. From 2008 until 2010 he performed 247 concerts around the world. He recorded two more albums, in 2012 and 2014, ahead of “You Want it Darker” in October, 2016.
Cohen said he appreciated his resilience and capacity to continue: “It means a lot more at this age than it did when I was 30, when I took it for granted.”