Cohen, Leonard Norman

Cohen, Leonard Norman, 1934–2016, Canadian songwriter, singer, and poet, b. Montreal, B.A. McGill Univ., 1955. He initially wrote poetry, publishing his first collection, Let Us Compare Mythologies, in 1956, and continued to write poetry throughout his life. In the 1960s he began to set his lyrics to music and released his first album, The Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), which featured the haunting “Suzanne.” Cohen recorded 13 more studio albums, typical of his painstakingly slow art of song. A dapper and darkly witty troubador, he wrote and sang of love and loss, of war and protest, of the earthy and the spiritual, and, particularly in his last album, You Want It Darker (2016), of mortality. His lyrics are matched by shifting chords and elegantly simple melodies.

Among his most famous songs are “Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye” (1967), “So Long Marianne” (1967), “Bird on a Wire” (1969), “Famous Blue Raincoat” (1971), “I'm Your Man” (1988), and his best-known work, the anthem “Hallelujah” (1984), which mingles the biblical with the sensual. His songs have been covered by many artists from a wide variety of musical genres. Grounded in Judaism but also drawn to Zen Buddhism, he halted his musical career in the 1990s to become a Buddhist monk. He returned to music with the album Ten New Songs in 2001, and late in life his touring career was reinvigorated in part by a need to work again after losing millions to his manager's embezzling. Cohen also published two novels in the 1960s and a collection of drawings and poems, Book of Longing (2006). He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010, and was awarded a Grammy for lifetime achievement in 2010.

See R. Faggen and A. Pleshoyano, ed., The Flame: Poems, Notebooks, Lyrics, Drawings By Leonard Cohen (2018); J. Burger, ed., Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen: Interviews and Encounters (2015); biographies by I. B. Nadel (1996), D. Sheppard (2000), A. Reynolds (2011), S. Simmons (2012), and L. Leibovitz (2015); A. Light, The Holy or the Broken (2012), H. Kubernik, Everybody Knows (2014), and S. Robinson, On Tour with Leonard Cohen (2014); L. Lunson, dir., Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (documentary, 2006).

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