2016 continues to take its toll on the entertainment industry, as another huge icon has passed away. Leonard Cohen died peacefully surrounded by family this past week. He was 82 at the time of his death. A hugely influential singer and songwriter, his career spans nearly 50 years. The man's label confirmed his death on Facebook. Sony Music Canada made this announcement.
"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. A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date. The family requests privacy during their time of grief."
At this time, no cause of death has been given. And it isn't known exactly when Leonard Cohen died. Cohen's son Adam spoke with Rolling Stone shortly after the news was announced. He had this to say about his father's legacy.
"My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles 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."
Robert Kory, Cohen's manager, was also on hand to remember the icon. He had this to say in a touching statement about the loss.
"Unmatched in his creativity, insight and crippling candor, Leonard Cohen was a true visionary whose voice will be sorely missed. 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."
Leonard Cohen emerged in the late 60s alongside other such luminaries as Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Joni Mitchell, the later of which has been called the only poet who could match Cohen. Leonard was known for his haunting bass voice, with songs that often ranged in dark topics, exploring the seedier side of love, hate, sex, spirituality, war, peace and depression. The artist remained popular through the 80s, and even surged in popularity again in the 90s when he was included on Oliver Stone's soundtrack for Natural Born Killers. The man remained creatively active up until his passing. His final album 'You Want it Darker' was released earlier this year. About his own career and the idea of retiring, he had this to say back in 1992.
"I never had the sense that there was an end. That there was a retirement or that there was a jackpot."
Born Leonard Norman Cohen on September 21, 1934, the poet and songwriter grew up in Westmount, Quebec. He became a guitarist in his teens and formed his own folk group at a young age called the Buckskin Boys. Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca is what turned him onto poetry. And it was a a flamenco guitar teacher who convinced the artist to trade in his steel guitar for his signature nylon strings for which he is known.
Cohen graduated from McGill Univsersity and quickly moved to Greece, where he purchased a house in the island of Hydra for just $1,500. While living there he published a book of poetry called Flowers for Hitler in 1964, along with the novels The Favourite Game in 1963 and Beautiful Losers in 1966. But poor book sales convinced him to return to his first passion, music, and soon he was in New York enjoying the folk-rock scene, which helped him on his path to becoming the iconic cult legend he is known as today.
He worked with folk singer Judy Collins, who included two of his songs on her album 'In My Life'. He also collaborated with Velvet Underground and singer Nico, whom some believe helped inspire his 1967 album Songs of Leonard Cohen. He was soon writing songs for James Taylor, Willie Nelson and many others. He also became known for his black and white photos that would accompany his own albums. He released Songs for a Room in 1969 and Songs of Love and Hate in 1971 under the sparse production of Bob Johnson.
Cohen began touring extensively in the 1970s. And he did it to meet people. He explained this to Rolling Stone back in 1971.
"I consider it a reconnaissance. You know, I consider myself like in a military operation. I don't feel like a citizen."
Cohen had two children with Suzanne Elrod, photographer Lorca Cohen and Adam Cohen, who leads the group Low Millions. He was known as a wandering poet, and didn't stay in relationships long. His most notable relationships were with backing singers Laura Branigan, Sharon Robinson, Anjani Thomas, and, most famously, Jennifer Warnes. Perhaps Cohen's most well known song is Hallelujah, which was covered by Jeff Buckley in 1994. Though, the album it was originally included on was rejected by Cohen's label at the time Columbia Records, who refused to release Various Positions.
Cohen would return to Columbia in 1988 with the album I'm Your Man, and he released the Future on the label in 1992. By 1995, Cohen was taking a career break. He became an ordained Buddhist monk during this period taking on the Dharma name Jikan, which stands for silence. He became the cook for priest and longtime Cohen mentor Kyozan Joshu, who died in 2014 at the age of 104.
It wasn't until 2001 that Leonard Cohen released another album. Ten New Songs was a collaboration with Sharon Robinson. He then released Dear Heather in 2004, which is noted as being one of his more uplifting albums. The man didn't abandon his Buddhist teachings, though, and credits the religion to helping him overcome his depressive episodes that he often struggled with.
In 2005, Lorca Cohen began to suspect that Leonard's longtime manager had been embezzling funds. And it was discovered that Kelley Lynch had, in fact, stolen more than $5 million from the musician. To help regain the money, Leonard Cohen set out on a massive world tour where he performed 387 shows between 2008 and 2013.
During this time, he continued to put out albums. He released Old Ideas in 2012 and Popular Problems, which went on sale in 2014 the day after his 80th birthday. He then disappeared from the public eye, emerging this past October with his final album You Want It Darker. That record was produced by his son Adam.
At the time, Cohen was suffering from sever back issues that kept him off the road. The album itself was recorded from a microphone on the dinning room table, hooked to a laptop. The album was met with rave reviews. At the time, he claimed it was his last album. He recanted that statement just a short while later making the claim, 'I intend to live forever.' And with his back catalogue of music some of the most revered, that statement will continue to ring true.