The Canadian-born poet Leonard Cohen died at age 82. Cohen was songwriter and singer, whose intensely personal lyrics exploring themes of love, faith, death and philosophical longing made him one of his generation’s most respected musicians, and whose enigmatic song “Hallelujah” became a celebratory anthem recorded by hundreds of artists.
His death was confirmed by his biographer, Sylvie Simmons.
“We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries,” read a statement Thursday on his website and Facebook page.
Cohen began his career as a well-regarded poet and novelist before stepping onto the stage as a performer in the 1960s; brought up in Montreal but lived in California late in his life.
Several of Cohen’s songs including “Hallelujah,” “Suzanne,” “First We Take Manhattan” and “Bird on the Wire,” were recorded by performers as Nina Simone, R.E.M. and Johnny Cash. His lyrics were written with such glory and sentiments and depth that his songwriting was regarded as almost on the same level as that of Bob Dylan – including Dylan himself who found Cohen’s songs so powerful.
Cohen was named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, but his half-spoken songs were more in the tradition of the European troubadour than the rock star. Lyrics were paramount to Cohen, but whether he was composing songs, poetry or fiction, there was always an underlying musical pulse.
“All of my writing has guitars behind it,” he said, “even the novels.”
It was not easy for critics to explain what exactly made Cohen’s music so touching and memorable. The lyrics were no bet poetic, however his musical settings were ingenious, with shifting chords and deceptively simple melodies.
Cohen released his final album, “You Want It Darker,” just last month, featuring the singer reflecting at length on his own mortality.
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.”