Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageLegendary poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen dies at 82

By AFP     Nov 10, 2016 in Music

Leonard Cohen, the storied musician and poet hailed as one of the most visionary artists of his generation, has died at age 82.

"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," read a statement on his Facebook page.

Cohen, who was brought up in Montreal but lived in California late in his life, will have a private memorial service in Los Angeles at a later date, the statement said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mourned Cohen, long considered one of the country's foremost writers, as a "remarkable Montrealer."

"Leonard, no other artist's poetry and music felt or sounded quite like yours. We'll miss you," Trudeau said in a statement.

Trudeau said that Cohen 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.

The life and work of Leonard Cohen
The life and work of Leonard Cohen
Jonathan STOREY, AFP

"Leonard Cohen is as relevant today as he was in the 1960s. His ability to conjure the vast array of human emotion made him one of the most influential and enduring musicians ever. His style transcended the vagaries of fashion," Trudeau said.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre ordered the city's flags to fly at half-mast.

"Tonight we lost one of our greatest ambassadors and icons Leonard Cohen," he tweeted.

"Leonard Cohen defined so well our cultural diversity and duality," he added about the bilingual metropolis.

Dozens of fans converged spontaneously around Cohen's home in Montreal after news of his death, lighting candles and leaving flowers as well as one of the top-hats that were his signature look late in his career.

Young and old, Cohen's fans played some of his best-known songs on their smartphones. A wire hanging on the front door read out the letters "H-A-L-L-E-L-U-J-A-H."

Cohen began as a poet before branching out into music -- reluctantly at first -- writing some of his generation's most reflective songs, including the oft-covered spiritual "Hallelujah."

On his last album  "You Want It Darker " Leonard Cohen appeared at peace with his own mort...
On his last album, "You Want It Darker," Leonard Cohen appeared at peace with his own mortality
Fabrice Coffrini, AFP/File

He released his final album, "You Want It Darker," just last month, featuring Cohen reflecting at length on his own mortality.

Cohen was preceded in death in July by Marianne Ihlen, the Norwegian woman with whom he lived on the Greek island of Hydra and who inspired his song "So Long, Marianne."

In a final letter to Ihlen revealed by a friend, Cohen declared his "endless love" for her, writing, "I think I will follow you very soon."

The Recording Academy, which in 2010 presented Cohen with a lifetime achievement Grammy, mourned him as "one of the most revered pop poets and a musical touchstone for many songwriters."

"His extraordinary talent had a profound impact on countless singers and songwriters, as well as the wider culture," Academy president Neil Portnow said in a statement, adding, "He will be missed terribly."

Born into a prosperous Jewish family that had founded synagogues in Canada, Cohen would be hailed as one of the all-time literary greats in his native country but spent his adult life constantly on the move both geographically and spiritually.

He started his music career in 1960s New York, where he mingled with avant-garde artists such as painter Andy Warhol and late Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed who, on inducting the Canadian into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, said, "We're so lucky to be alive at the same time as Leonard Cohen."

Born into a prosperous Jewish family in Canada  Leonard Cohen would be hailed as one of the all-time...
Born into a prosperous Jewish family in Canada, Leonard Cohen would be hailed as one of the all-time literary greats in his native country
Joel Saget, AFP/File

Yet Cohen by temperament was more comfortable in relative solitude. He spent formative years on the Greek island of Hydra -- where he could write at a leisurely distance from the world's tumult -- and spent the final chapter of his life as an ordained Zen Buddhist monk in a monastery near Los Angeles.

While his skills at instruments were never what made him famous, Cohen learned the foundations of guitar from a Spanish flamenco player he met in Montreal.

He also owed a debt to Spain through Federico Garcia Lorca, the poet and playwright who so inspired Cohen that he later named his daughter after him.

- Tortured by self-doubt -

Cohen, already acclaimed as a poet, achieved his mainstream breakthrough with his 1966 novel "Beautiful Losers," now considered a classic of Canadian literature.

A postmodern tale that merges the 1960s hippie era with the Native Canadian past, "Beautiful Losers" also alluded through its title to Cohen's nearly debilitating depression as he completed it.

"I was wiped out; I didn't like my life. I vowed I would just fill the pages with black or kill myself," he told The Village Voice in 1967.

Cohen went through another tortured ordeal two decades later when he wrote "Hallelujah," which took him three years and 70 drafts to complete.

The song was initially rejected by Cohen's label. But it has since become an anthem of spiritual uplift, with celebrated versions by Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright among many others.

Cohen had initially entered music in part to make money, with financial prospects much bleaker for a Canadian poet.

But Cohen late in his career found himself again performing for another reason -- his longtime manager, whom he whole-heartedly trusted, swindled much of his savings.

On his last album, "You Want It Darker," Cohen appeared at peace with his own mortality.

"Hineni, hineni / I'm ready, my Lord," Cohen intoned on the title track, employing Hebrew to say "Here I Am."

More about US, Music, Cohen
More news from
Latest News
Top News