Leonard Cohen, the singer-songwriter who profoundly influenced multiple generations with his cerebral and darkly meditative songs, has died, his record label confirmed on his Facebook page Thursday night. He was 82.
“It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away,” reads the post. “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 belongs in the same breath as Bob Dylan, fellow Canadians Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell — and all of the luminous troubadours of the late 1960s folk movement — though he was perhaps the darkest, the moodiest, the most contemplative among them.
His mournful bass vocal and spectral nylon-stringed guitar lines would remain his signature sound throughout his career, which never vaulted him to great commercial celebrity, but also never failed him, as he wrote, toured and recorded into his eighties.
In fact, Cohen released two records in the past three years, Popular Problems in 2014 and You Want it Darker in October, and both were well-received. Cohen also wrote poems and published two novels, The Favorite Game in 1963, and the award-winning Beautiful Losers in 1966, critically acclaimed and somewhat controversial for its graphic depictions of sex.
Nearly everything Cohen wrote was unabashedly intimate, personal and often political, and though social commentary was in his DNA, snarling protest songs were not his calling card; instead, he dove deep on matters of the heart and spirit, a vein that would define his artistic voice — and way of living — across six decades.
His early records included his 1967 debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen and the follow-up, Songs From a Room. It wasn’t until 1984’s Various Positions that he would first release “Hallelujah,” only a modest success until it was covered by Jeff Buckley in the 1990s. That dazzling version — often used in film and TV soundtracks — launched dozens of other versions in several languages, with an estimated 5 million copies sold worldwide.
Though he never married, Cohen had two children with Los Angeles artist Suzanne Elrod. Earlier this year his farewell letter was read at the funeral for Marianne Stang Jensen Ihlen, whom he dated through most of the 1960s and for whom the song “So Long, Marianne” was written.
“Our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon,” his letter read. “Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.”