Legendary singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, whose “Hallelujah” was one of the most covered songs, is dead at 82. His death led to tributes from the international world as well as Indian celebrities, who remembered some of his best tracks.
Cohen’s label, Sony Music Canada, confirmed his death on the singer’s Facebook page.
“It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away. A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date,” the statement read.
A cause of death and exact date of death was not given, but his son Adam wrote in a statement to rollingstone.com:
“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 humour.”
The singer, whose work spanned nearly 50 years, was a rare artiste of his generation to enjoy artistic success into his 80s, releasing his final album, “You Want It Darker”, earlier this year.
His death was mourned by a slew of Hollywood celebrities and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said: “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.”
Justin Timberlake called him “a spirit and soul beyond compare”, while actor Russell Crowe thanked him for “the quiet nights, the reflection, the perspective, the wry smiles and the truth”. Filmmaker Ron Howard said Leonard Cohen was one of his favourite singer-poets.
In India, film celebrities like Anupam Kher, Vishal Dadlani and Onir paid tributes.
Born on September 21, 1934, in Westmount, Quebec, Leonard Cohen learned guitar as a teenager and formed a folk group called the Buckskin Boys. Early exposure to Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca turned him toward poetry — while a flamenco guitar teacher convinced him to trade steel strings for nylon.
He graduated from McGill University, he moved to the Greek island of Hydra where he published the poetry collection “Flowers for Hitler” (1964) and the novels “The Favourite Game” (1963) and “Beautiful Losers” (1966).
Leonard visited New York in 1966. He met folk singer Judy Collins, who later that year included two of his songs, including the early hit “Suzanne”, on her album “In My Life”.
After he became a songwriter of choice for artistes like James Taylor and Willie Nelson, Leonard set out on his debut tour in the 1970s.
“One of the reasons I’m on tour is to meet people,” he told Rolling Stone in 1971. His last tour was in New Zealand in 2013.
On the personal front, his relationship with Suzanne Elrod during most of the 1970s resulted in two children, the photographer Lorca Cohen and Adam, who leads the group Low Millions.
His most stable relationships were with backing singers Laura Branigan, Sharon Robinson, Anjani Thomas, and, most notably, Jennifer Warnes, who he wrote and produced songs with.
His 1984 album “Various Positions” included the hit song “Hallelujah”. In 1988, he launched “I’m Your Man”, an album of sly humour and social commentary that launched the synths-and-gravitas style he continued on “The Future” (1992).
Three years later, Leonard halted his career, entered the Mt. Baldy Zen Center outside of Los Angeles, became a Buddhist monk and took on the Dharma name Jikan (“silence”).
He broke his musical silence in 2001 with “Ten New Songs”, a collaboration with Sharon Robinson, and “Dear Heather” (2004), with Thomas.
While never abandoning Judaism, the songwriter attributed Buddhism to curbing the depressive episodes that had always plagued him.
The final act of his career began in 2005, when Lorca Cohen began to suspect her father’s longtime manager, Kelley Lynch, of embezzling funds from his retirement account, reports rollingstone.com.
Lynch had robbed Leonard of over $5 million.
To replenish the fund, Leonard undertook a world tour during which he would perform 387 shows from 2008 to 2013. He continued to record as well, releasing “Old Ideas” (2012) and “Popular Problems”, which hit US shops a day after his 80th birthday.
In October 2016, he released “You Want It Darker”, produced by Adam.
Severe back issues made it difficult for him to leave his home, so Adam placed a microphone on his dining room table and recorded him on a laptop.
The album met with rave reviews, though a New Yorker article timed to its release revealed that he was in very poor health. “I am ready to die,” he said. “I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.”
He later clarified that he was “exaggerating”. “I’ve always been into self-dramatisation,” he said last month. “I intend to live forever.”
That, he will, through his melodies.