Leonard Cohen, the legendary Canadian singer, poet and songwriter best known for his song “Hallelujah” as well as for his rumbling bass voice and dark, introspective lyrics that gave subtle insight into a range of profound feelings, has died from undisclosed causes. He was 82. The news was made public by a message on his official Facebook page.
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.
During a career that began in the 1950s and spanned more than more than five decades, Cohen wielded an inestimable influence on subsequent generations of artists. Compared in impact to the likes of Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, Cohen’s lyrics were a daring counterpoint to the normal range of pop music topics, often touching on subjects such as religion, politics, loneliness, sexuality, the horrors of war, and personal relationships. One of his particular gifts as a poet was the ability to write in such a way that his words could remain open to vast interpretation, helping Cohen to defy categorization while remaining the object of obsession for fans as distinct as goths, folk music lovers, rock completists, and more.
Cohen was also notable for the impact his songs had on film and television. Robert Altman gave the singer/songwriter his first major film exposure in the 1971 McCabe & Mrs. Miller, whose soundtrack included “Sisters Of Mercy,” “The Stranger Song” and “Winter Lady.” Cohen’s best known song in that regard is “Hallelujah,” a darkly romantic ballad from his 1984 album “Various Positions.” Subject to numerous interpretations, it has been covered by more than 300 artists, notably Jeff Buckley on his 1994 album “Grace,” generally regarded as the definitive version of the song after Cohen’s original.
“Hallelujah” has subsequently been featured in dozens of films and television shows, used to underscore vastly different moments ranging from erotic scenes to mourning and even celebration. Among its many, many uses, it has been heard in The West Wing, Crossing Jordan, Without a Trace, The O.C., House, Cold Case, Dirt, Criminal Minds, ER, Third Watch, Ugly Betty, and NCIS, and films such as the Zach Snyder-directed superhero film Watchmen, Feast of Love, Lord of War, and a particularly memorable usage of the song in Shrek.
“Hallelujah” was also used during the “in memoriam” portion of the 2016 Emmy Awards, it was featured on NBC’s The Voice after the Newton massacre, and was played at Fenway Park before a Red Sox game, during a tribute honoring victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. “Hallelujah” was so frequently licensed — and sanitized — that Cohen himself expressed the desire that there be a moratorium on its use.
Cohen’s songs “Everybody Knows” and “If It Be Your Will,” from his 1988 album “I’m Your Man,” were featured in the 1991 film Pump Up The Volume; a cover of the former song, performed by Concrete Blond, was also released as a single from the film’s soundtrack. His songs “Waiting for the Miracle”, “Anthem”, and “The Future,” from his 1992 album “The Future,” were used in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. Other tracks from that album have been featured in Wonder Boys (2000), and The Life of David Gale (2003).
Other uses of his music include “Everybody Knows” in the 2015 Stephen Frears-directed film The Program, an original song for the third season of Peaky Blinders, and in 2015, his track “Nevermind,” off his 2014 album “Popular Problems,” which was used as the theme song for the second season of HBO’s True Detective.
Cohen also acted occasionally, for instance appearing in a 1986 episode of Miami Vice as a villain named Francois Zolan, and he was the subject of two documentaries, most notably the acclaimed Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man.
Born in 1934 in Montreal neighborhood of Westmount, Cohen was raised in a middle class Jewish family and later attended McGill University. After a stint in law school followed by a short time at Columbia University, Cohen began focusing on poetry in 1957, as well as fiction moving into the 1960s. Unable to support himself as a writer, Cohen channeled his frustration into music, moving to the United States in 1967 where he recorded his first album, “Songs of Leonard Cohen”. He would go on to release 14 albums total, most recently “You Want It Darker,” released October 21, 2016.
Cohen was known for his constant spiritual search. Always identifying as Jewish, he briefly flirted with Scientology in the 1970s and became a Buddhist monk in the 1990s at Mount Baldy Zen Center. He had two children with Los Angeles artist Suzanne Elrod; his son Adam, and daughter Lorca.
(Greg Evans contributed reporting.)