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Canadian music legend Leonard Cohen dies at 82

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Legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen has died at the age of 82.

Cohen carved out a unique place in pop music. In an industry where many artists burst onto the scene with a supernova of activity in their 20s and then dine out on past glories for decades, Cohen released some of his most vital work after age 50.

He released his 14th studio album, You Want It Darker, in October 2016. His son Adam helped produce the album.

“There were only a few hours a day that we could work. I was dealing with an ailing old man, but an ailing old man who was showing paranormal levels of devotion and focus, and that rubbed off on everybody,” he told Maclean’s.

Cohen had two children, Adam and daughter Lorca, with artist Suzanne Elrod.

There will be a memorial in Los Angeles at a later date. The family is requesting privacy now.

“Leonard Cohen was an unparalleled artist whose stunning body of original work has been embraced by generations of fans and artists alike,” Sony Music Canada said in a statement.

“We are proud and feel extremely privileged to have celebrated his artistry over a career spanning six decades. The Sony Music Canada family joins the world in mourning Leonard Cohen’s passing.”

Cohen’s late career renaissance was in part related to the “gift of a golden voice.”

Derided by many early in his career as flat and atonal, his voice by the 1980s had grown deeper — whiskey and cigarettes helped on that score, he liked to say — and gave Cohen an authoritative air for his sombre songs and a sly, gritty finish for his ballads.

Pop and poetry

Cohen wrote Hallelujah, what is likely the most-covered song of recent years. Bob Dylan performed it at a 1988 Montreal concert, John Cale soon followed with a version for a Cohen tribute album, and Jeff Buckley heard Cale’s version and brought the song to a generation of younger fans.

At one point on the U.K. charts in 2008 there were three versions ofHallelujah present, including Cohen’s original, and the song has been performed in hundreds of versions, in several languages.

Accolades for Cohen poured in from all corners over the years, from the CBC Prize for New Literary Writing (1961) to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame (1991), the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (2006), and the International Glenn Gould Prize (2011).

“We’re so lucky to be alive at the same time Leonard Cohen is,” Lou Reed said while inducting the Canadian into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

Born in Montreal

Cohen was born Sept. 21, 1934 in Montreal, the oldest of two children to a father who was a clothier and a mother who sang Yiddish and Russian folksongs to her children. Cohen’s father died when he was nine.

As a teen, Cohen was enchanted by Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, and jazz and folk music. While at McGill University he would fall under the sway of writers and teachers like Hugh MacLennan and, especially, Irving Layton, so much so that he abandoned law school to pursue a literary career.

CBC – Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

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