Legendary singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen has died, according to a post on his official Facebook page. “We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries,” the statement reads. “A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date. The family requests privacy during their time of grief.” Billboard notes that he passed away on Monday (11/7). He was 82.
Cohen was born September 21, 1934 in Westmount, Quebec, an English-speaking neighborhood in Montreal. As a teenager, he developed an interest in the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca and learned to play guitar, switching from a steel-stringed acoustic to a nylon classical guitar after meeting a young Spanish flamenco player. He studied poetry at McGill University and moved to the Greek island of Hydra after graduating to focus on his writing, publishing his first novel Favourite Game in 1963, a poetry collection entitled Flowers For Hitler in 1964, and another novel called Beautiful Losers in 1966.
The following year, frustrated by lackluster book sales, Cohen moved to New York City to pursue a career as a folk musician. He worked as a songwriter for Judy Collins, penning the hit “Suzanne,” before being signed to Columbia Records by John Hammond and releasing his debut album Songs Of Leonard Cohen in 1968. With his craggy voice, minimal arrangements, and dark lyrical themes, Cohen perfected his distinct style over the next few albums and tours, eventually switching things up and baffling fans by co-writing his 1977 album Death Of A Ladies’ Man with famed “wall of sound” producer Phil Spector.
In 1994, Cohen retreated to the Mt. Baldy Zen Center outside Los Angeles to become an ordained Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk, taking the Dharma name Jikan, meaning “silence.” After several years spent in seclusion as the personal assistant to Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi, he returned to music in 2001 with Ten New Songs. In 2005, Cohen discovered that his longtime manager Kelley Lynch had embezzled over $5 million from his accounts; although he won a civil suit against Lynch, he was never able to collect the money he was awarded, forcing him to embark on a massive two-year world tour in 2008 to recoup the money.
Cohen was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2010 and won a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2010. His last album, You Want It Darker, was released just last month. In a recent New Yorker profile to promote the album, he discussed his own mortality and declared that he was “ready to die.” He is survived by a son, Adam, and a daughter, Lorca.