Your NPR news source

Influential Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen Dies At 82

The Canadian-born artist is remembered for his influence on other musicians, as much as for his own creations. His latest album came out less than a month ago.

SHARE Influential Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen Dies At 82
Leonard Cohen performs at the O2 Arena in London in September 2013.

Leonard Cohen performs at the O2 Arena in London in September 2013.

Simone Joyner/Redferns via Getty Images

Influential singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen has died at the age of 82, according to a publicist for his U.S. record label.

Cohen’s Facebook page has 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.”

Cohen’s latest album came out less than a month ago; reviewer Tom Moon wrote that You Want It Darker was a solemn album of elegies that “unfold with a slow, stately, church-ritual order; when you’re moving toward this thick dark, every step is measured.” The album was produced by Cohen’s son, Adam, in a process that included recording the congregation of the family’s old synagogue in Montreal.

“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,” Adam Cohen said Thursday night. “He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humor.”

He was born in Canada and moved to New York to break into the music business in 1966, according to Reuters.

“Although he influenced many musicians and won many honors, including induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Order of Canada, Cohen rarely made the pop music charts with his sometimes moody folk-rock. “But Cohen’s most famous song, “Hallelujah,” in which he invoked the biblical King David and drew parallels between physical love and a desire for spiritual connection, has been covered hundreds of times since he released it in 1984.”

Cohen was himself a singer although, as Billboard notes, his songs that became radio hits were more likely to have been recorded by other artists, such as “Suzanne” by Judy Collins.

He spoke with Fresh Air’s Terri Gross in 2006 about how he developed his distinctive voice — “500 tons of whiskey and, you know, a million cigarettes” — and the hard work of songwriting:

“You get [a great line] after sweating. In other words, you discard — I’m in this situation where I can’t discard anything unless I finish it. So I have to finish the verses that I discard. So it takes a long time. “I have to finish it to know whether it deserves to survive in the song. So in that sense, all the songs take a long time. And although the good lines come unbidden, they’re anticipated. And the anticipation involves a patient application to the enterprise.”

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.
The Latest
As her three-year tenure comes to a close, Jessie Montgomery reminisces over her time with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and shares her inspirations.
Some residents and business owners are happy to see the traffic and noise leave and for the community to regain access to green space. Others are sorry to lose the excitement and crowds.
The festival will be exiting Douglass Park after a 10-year run that has been plagued by controversy in recent years.
The festival’s co-founder, Mike Petryshyn, shared the announcement in a video posted to social media and on the festival’s website Tuesday evening. The new venue will be announced Wednesday morning with this year’s lineup.
On Thursday, the orchestra will perform a final work from Montgomery — the grace note on her wildly prolific three-year run as the city’s adopted new-music superstar.