Legendary singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen dies aged 82.
‘We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries,’ says announcement of the Canadian singer’s death on his Facebook page
A post to his official Facebook page announced the musician’s passing in Los Angeles on Thursday.
Leonard Cohen has died aged 82. Here we round up tributes and reaction as they flood in for Canada’s cultural icon.
“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 post said.
“A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date. The family requests privacy during their time of grief.”
In a recent interview with the New Yorker, Cohen spoke about the prospect of death with calmness and clarity: “I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.”
Tributes poured in across social media for the Canadian musician, who had just released his 14th album, You Want it Darker, in October, to great acclaim.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said the “world will miss him” while , actors Rob Lowe and Russell Crowe, musicians Ben Folds, Peter Hook, Slash, Carole King, Lily Allen and Bette Midler all heaped praise on the star.
Cohen, who was born in Quebec, came to prominence in the 1960s as a poet, novelist and singer-songwriter. Originally focusing on literary pursuits, he shifted his attention to music in the late 60s when he moved to New York. His first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, was released in 1967 and became a cult hit.
Cohen’s influence on the music industry has been likened to that of his contemporaries Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell and is perhaps best known for his song Hallelujah. Only a modest hit on its release in 1984, it found a much wider audience after it was covered by John Cale in 1991 and later Jeff Buckley.
However, after it was taken to number one in the UK by X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke in 2008, Cohen suggested he had heard enough covers: “I think it’s a good song, but I think too many people sing it.”
Despite his immense popularity, Cohen often appeared to be shy of the stage. Judy Collins, who found success with his song Suzanne, once described how she had to coax him back on stage after he quit halfway through a performance.
He came out of retirement in his late seventies to embark what would end up being a five-year, worldwide tour, after his former manager, Kelley Lynch, was found guilty of stealing millions of dollars from him.
Cohen recently wrote a letter to his longtime muse, Marianne Ihlen, who was the subject of his songs So Long, Marianne, and Bird on a Wire, saying: “you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”
For much of the 1960s, he lived with Ihlen on the Greek island of Hydra, during which time he wrote numerous books of poetry, including his experimental novel Beautiful Losers, and his first album.
In the 1970s, after his relationship with Ihlen dissolved, Cohen began a relationship with artist Suzanne Elrod. The couple had two children, Adam and Lorca.
You Want It Darker was co-produced by Adam. Speaking recently with CBC radio host Tom Power, he talked about working with his father on the album that many believed would be his last.
“This old man, who was truly in pain and discomfort, would at some intervals get out of his medical chair and dance in front of his speakers,” he said. “And sometimes, we would put on a song and listen to it on repeat just like teenagers, with the help of medical marijuana.
“I think in states of pain and discomfort, what do you seek with more energy and more clarity than joy and jubilance?”
Adam described his father as “the last of his kind”.
“Unlike so many from that golden era, from which he comes, he’s not a nostalgia act,” he said.
“This guy is speaking from his particular vantage point, he’s speaking about things that are meaningful to him at his particular rung in life — he will be leaving a giant void when he leaves us.”
You Want It Darker added to an impressive body of work. Cohen’s second album, 1969’s Songs for a Room, featured what would become one of his most popular songs, Bird on the Wire. The song has been covered by artists including Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker, Willie Nelson, Kd-lang and Paul Kelly. Kris Kristofferson once said that he wanted the opening lyrics from Bird on the Wire engraved on his tombstone.
A year later, Cohen embarked upon an intense period of touring through Europe, Canada and the United States. He released his third album, Songs of Love and Hate, in 1971, which included the song Famous Blue Raincoat. The song, with its haunting depiction of the aftermath of a love triangle, was much-loved by fans, but Cohen reportedly told BBC in 1994 that he was never quite happy with the lyrics.
Cohen’s next two albums, New Skin for the Old Ceremony and Death of a Ladies’ Man, marked a shift into a new sound and a dip in his popularity. The latter was also an album fuelled by controversy; at one point during recording, producer Phil Spector reportedly held a gun to Cohen’s head in the studio.
In addition to giving his song Hallelujah a major boost, covers played a significant role and helped Cohen find a new audience in the late 80s, when American artist Jennifer Warnes released a tribute album to him, effectively refashioning his image in the public eye.
Cohen was born into a Jewish family, but in the 1970s he began to devote significant attention to studying Buddhism. He met and became a disciple of Joshu Sasaki Roshi, a Zen Buddhist monk. Between 1994 and 1999, Cohen lived as the monk’s friend and student at the Mount Baldy Zen Center in Los Angeles.
Cohen continued to record and tour in the 1980s and early 1990s. He released his album Ten New Songs in 2001, after emerging from the monastery, launching a new phase of his already decades-long career.
Cohen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.
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