Leonard Cohen, the enigmatic and influential poet, singer and songwriter, has passed away on November 7th at the age of eighty-two. The singer had been struggling with cancer over the last few years and just released his fourteenth album, "You Want It Darker" last month which focused on his mortality and inevitable death with his signature wit and sense of humor. While he was greatly admired as a performer, it was his gift as a songwriter that made the most indelible impression.
Born in Westmount, Quebec, an English-speaking section of Montreal, Cohen first became known as a poet while attending McGill University. He won the prestigious Chester MacNaghten Literary Competition and had his work published in magazines. Cohen's first book of poetry, "Let Us Compare Mythologies" was published in 1956 and wrote other books of poems and fiction throughout much of the '60's.
However, Cohen was not making much of a living as a writer and decided to turn to music after seeing Warhol superstar, Nico perform. His song, "Suzanne", originally created as a poem, became a hit for Judy Collins in 1966 and she would later record many of his other songs. Not a natural performer, Cohen eventually gained confidence which lead to him receiving the attention of Columbia Records who signed him to the label. His debut, "Songs of Leonard Cohen" was released in 1967 which included his version of "Suzanne" and became a cult favorite in the U.S. and Britain.
Cohen would go on to record several acclaimed and highly regarded albums, with many experimenting with a variety of sounds and musical genres but it was his live performances where he would make his biggest impact. He toured extensively, traveling all over the globe for many years but after his 1992 album, "The Future", Cohen took an extended period of time away from his career.
After discovering his former manager had stolen nearly all of his life savings in 2005, Cohen had to resume his career in earnest and recorded new music, "Old Ideas" in 2012 and "Popular Problems" in 2014 and went back on the road to support them.
Cohen's songs have been covered by countless musicians with his best known, "Hallelujah" is said to have at least three hundred versions recorded. It was just recently performed by Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton during the opening number of the November 12th episode of "Saturday Night Live" the preceding week following both Cohen's death and Clinton's unexpected loss to Donald Trump in the Presidential Election.
Here is a small selection of some of the fine work from Leonard Cohen: