Leonard Cohen: Canadian singer dies at 82
2016 has claimed another music legend: Leonard Cohen has died at 82, leaving behind one of modern music’s most influential songbooks.
The gravelly voice behind songs such as Hallelujah, Suzanne and Bird on a Wire, Cohen was a virtuosic songwriter who grappled with his mortality through his darkly evocative folk music.
Cohen’s official Facebook page broke the news of his death. “It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist Leonard Cohen has passed away,” Cohen’s representative Catharine McNelly said in a statement, which also posted to his Facebook page. “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.”
No cause of death has been given.
The Canadian musician rose to prominence alongside Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, emerging from a class of artists who tackled weightier topics in their groundbreaking songwriting than the pop music that came before.
His best-known song is his elegiac Hallelujah, in part thanks to Jeff Buckley’s famous 1994 cover, which helped elevate the song to a classic. In the years since, hundreds of artists have reinterpreted the song, including singers as diverse as Bono, Michael McDonald and Imogen Heap.
Unlike many of his folk peers, Cohen enjoyed artistic success into his 80s, touring in his later years and releasing his 14th studio album, You Want It Darker, on Oct. 21, just weeks before his death.
The album was praised by critics for its unflinching honesty, a hallmark of Cohen’s music that he maintained 50 years into his career.
“He neither turns his gaze away from, nor keeps quiet about what pains him, in music ready for an agnostic-existential church,” wrote the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about Cohen’s meditations on Darker.
His son, producer Adam Cohen, noted in a statement that his father died peacefully at home “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 humor.”
The release of Cohen’s 14th album followed speculation that it might be his last, because of his longstanding health issues. “He’s 82 and he’s put on some very hard miles,” Adam Cohen told New York magazine in the weeks before Darker’s release. “He’s suffered from multiple compression fractures. These are not things that heal very quickly in old folk.”
Testament to the artist’s black sense of humor, Cohen toyed with the ideas of imminent death and immortality in recent interviews. After claiming he was “ready to die” in a New Yorker interview earlier this year, he changed course. “I’ve always been into self-dramatization. I intend to live forever,” he told Billboard last month.
Celebrities and Cohen’s musician peers remembered him on social media, with many pointing to one of his most immortal lyrics, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
“Unmatched in his creativity, insight, and crippling candor, Leonard Cohen was a true visionary whose voice will be sorely missed,” his manager Robert Kory said in a statement. “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 called his countryman “a most remarkable Montrealer,” admiring the way “Leonard Cohen managed to reach the highest of artistic achievement, both as an acclaimed poet and a world-renowned singer-songwriter. 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 … “Leonard, no other artist’s poetry and music felt or sounded quite like yours. We’ll miss you.”