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Leonard Cohen; singer, songwriter and poet whose career had spanned for nearly 50 years passed away yesterday aged 82. The highly influential baritone-voiced Canadian was known for writing and singing hit songs such as Hallelujah, Suzanne, Bird on a Wire and Dance Me to the End of Love. His death was confirmed on the singer’s Facebook Page.
His son, Adam told Rolling Stone; “My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records. He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humour.”
Cohen was born on 21st September 1934 in Westmount, Quebec. As a teenager he learnt the guitar and formed a folk band called the Buckskin Boys. It wasn’t until he was exposed to the writings of Federico Garcia Lorca that Leonard Cohen developed an interest in poetry. It was around this time that a guitar teacher convinced him to switch to a nylon string, Spanish guitar. He spend a period of time on the Greek island, Hydra, after graduating from McGill University. It was here that he published the poetry collection, Flowers for Hitler (1964), and the novels The Favourite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966).
Frustrated with low book sales and not content to work in the garment industry, Cohen moved to New York to explore the folk-rock scene. He quickly gained a reputation as ‘the songwriters songwriter of choice’ and wrote for the likes of Willie Nelson, James Taylor, Judy Collins among others.
Leonard Cohen once remarked that he only got into music because he couldn’t make a living as a poet. The singer/songwriter successfully blended spiritually and sexually charged lyrics with a degree of folk and rock & roll. He had been touring earlier this year and even released a new album, You Want It Darker, last month. Cohen was one of a group of extremely influential singer-songwriters who emerged from the Sixties and Seventies. It can be argued that only Bob Dylan had a more profound influence on his generation at the time. In 2008, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
A representative from Sony Music Canada said; “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. A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date. The family requests privacy during their time of grief.
“Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free.”
Some of Leonard Cohen’s songs have been heavily covered over the years. It is for this reason that he is often familiar with younger audiences whilst many of his contemporaries have faded away over the generations. Songs like Hallelujah (1984) have been covered by John Cale, Alexandra Burke and most famously Jeff Buckley. Bird on a Wire (1969) was covered by Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson while Suzanne (1967) was covered by Judy Collins and later Bruce Springstein. Leonard Cohen’s song, Nevermind, was also recently featured as the theme for season 2 of the television series True Detective.
In a statement, Leonard Cohen’s manager, Robery Kory, had this to say: “Unmatched in his creativity, insight and crippling candor, Leonard Cohen was a true visionary whose voice will be sorely missed. I was blessed to call him a friend, and for me to serve that bold artistic spirit firsthand, was a privilege and great gift. He leaves behind a legacy of work that will bring insight, inspiration and healing for generations to come.
Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau said; “It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of the legendary Leonard Cohen. He will be fondly remembered for his gruff vocals, his self-deprecating humour and the haunting lyrics that made his songs the perennial favourite of so many generations.”
Cohen’s most recent album, You Want It Darker, received critical acclaim with the likes of Rolling Stone calling it a “late career triumph” and the Telegraph calling it a “bleack masterpiece.”