Leonard Cohen, the storied musician and poet hailed as one of the most visionary artists of his generation, has died at age 82.
According to a statement on his Facebook page;
“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,”
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 said;
“Leonard, no other artist’s poetry and music felt or sounded quite like yours. We’ll miss you,” mentioning that He 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.”
“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,”
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre ordered the city’s flags to fly at half-mast saying;
“Tonight we lost one of our greatest ambassadors and icons Leonard Cohen,” he tweeted.
“Leonard Cohen defined so well our cultural diversity and duality,”
Young and old, Cohen’s fans played some of his best-known songs on their smartphones as they gathered around his home in Montreal after the news of his death, lighting candles and leaving flowers plus 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 then later music. 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.”
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.”
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.
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.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.”
Written by Clement Oluwasegun