Leonard Cohen

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About Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen was the most potent poet ever to find his way into the singer/songwriter world, possessing a lyrical flair that elevated the language of folk and rock, plus a mix of brooding mystique and arch attitude that made him an alternative icon. Cohen, born in Montreal in 1934, was a respected writer who published several books of poems and two novels before he ever recorded a note. It wasn’t until the 1967 landmark Songs of Leonard Cohen that the world heard his tunes and craggy but compelling baritone. He quickly reached more people as a songwriter than he ever had as a poet, and on songs like the much-covered “Suzanne,” his previous occupation served him well. Cohen stirred up images like no other songwriter, with lyrics full of darkness but also shot through with black humor. Despite the broad appeal of his debut, he remained a cult hero all the way through to 1984’s Various Positions—although that album’s “Hallelujah” would eventually become one of the most popular songs on the planet. But with 1988’s I’m Your Man, Cohen reinvented his sound, relying more on synthesizers than acoustic guitar, and the album sparked a renaissance for the 53-year-old songwriter, introducing him to a new generation. Jeff Buckley’s 1994 rendition of “Hallelujah” lit a slow fuse that exploded in the 2000s when the tune became one of the most widely covered songs of the era. Cohen gained in status, graduating from theaters to arenas even though his work remained as arch and sophisticated as ever. He remained a vital artistic force to the end, releasing the powerful You Want It Darker just weeks before his death in 2016.

Montreal, Quebec, Canada
September 21, 1934
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