Lenoard Cohen, singer and songwriter best known for the anthem “Hallelujah,” has died at the age of 82.
“It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away,” the musician’s Facebook revealed Thursday. “We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries.”
The Canadian native has been inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Cohen was born in Quebec in 1934 and began publishing books of poetry in 1956, beginning with “Let Us Compare Mythologies.” He wrote two novels in the 1960s, “The Favourite Game” and “Beautiful Losers,” before moving to New York City in 1967 to immerse himself in the growing folk music scene there. He was championed by a number of established singers on the scene, notably Judy Collins, who had a hit with his song “Suzanne.”
His first album, “Songs of Leonard Cohen,” was released in 1967 and contained the classics “Sister of Mercy,” “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” and “So Long, Marianne,” in addition to his own version of “Suzanne.” Subsequent albums reinforced his status as the poet of romance and despair, and included “Bird on the Wire,” which became one of his signature songs, as well as “Famous Blue Raincoat,” “Chelsea Hotel #2” (about a liason with Janis Joplin in the celebrated New York hotel) and “Who By Fire.”
A limited vocalist and a painstaking writer who spent months and occasionally years carefully crafting his songs, Cohen recorded only sporadically and couldn’t even get his record label, Columbia, to release his 1984 album “Various Positions.” Columbia president Walter Yetnikoff famously commented, “Look, Leonard, we know you’re great, but we don’t know if you’re any good.”
But that album contained the song that would open almost every show for the rest of Cohen’s life, “Dance Me to the End of Love,” and the one that would become his most famous composition, “Hallelujah.” The song gained popularity throughout the years, especially after it was covered by musician Jeff Buckley. The song has since been recorded by over 200 artists and became especially popular after it was used in 9/11 memorial tributes.
Cohen enjoyed a career resurgence in the late ’80s and early ’90s with the albums “I’m Your Man” and “The Future,” which included standout songs like “First We Take Manhattan,” “Take This Waltz,” “Everybody Knows,” “Waiting for the Miracle” and “Anthem.”
He followed those albums by spending five years in the Mt. Baldy Zen Center near Los Angeles, but released a string of albums beginning with “Ten New Songs” in 2001. For that album, as well as “Dear Heather” (2004), “Old Ideas” (2012) and “Popular Problems” (2014), Cohen embraced a voice that had deepened so much that many of his songs became recitatives, with female vocalists supplying the melody.
He also toured constantly, performing marathon shows with both courtly grace and boyish enthusiasm. He spent time on the road, he explained, because he needed money after a former manager, Kelley Lynch, had misappropriated more than $5 million from his accounts; he won a $9 million judgment against her, but was not able to collect.
Cohen published books and released music all the way until the end of his life, putting out his 14th and final album “You Want It Darker” on October 21, just a few weeks before his death.
To accompany the album’s release, Cohen gave his final extensive interview to the New Yorker, in which he said, “I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.” The comment echoed the last line in his new album’s title track: “I’m ready, my lord.”
A memorial service will take place in Los Angeles at a later date, according to Facebook.
Steve Pond contributed to this report.