Leonard Cohen – All about the musician: biography and facts

About the great Poet and Musician...

Biography of Leonard Cohen: He left to return!

Leonard, above all, was a poet. The master of the word, which, as the Gospel says, was at the beginning of everything. Cohen said:

"I have always felt that the world is created with words."

However, he understood that the lyrics are much deeper when they are accompanied by music. He released 14 studio albums during his lifetime. He passed away on November 7, 2016. Three years after his death, his work again sounds for connoisseurs of talent and just for everyone who loves good music and appreciates real poetry. On November 22 this year, the 15th album of the author and performer was released.

The songs for this collection were the last that Leonard worked on during his lifetime. In an interview given to The New Yorker three weeks before leaving, Cohen spoke of these writings:

“Here are some songs half finished. But I don't think I'll be able to finish them."

Cohen's son, Adam, fulfilled his father's request. Processed and mixed these compositions into the album "Thanks for the Dance" ("Thank you for the dance"). In this regard, we recall the creative and life path of Leonard Cohen. However, they are inseparable from one another.

Early years and bet on literature

Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen

Leonard was born into the family of a Jewish migrant from Poland in Montreal, Canada on September 21, 1934. His father owned a well-known ready-to-wear store in the city. But he died when the boy was only nine.

The Coen family adhered to canonical traditions. The bearers of this surname are considered among the Jews to be the descendants of the first clergymen. Leonard recalled with some irony:

“I had a very messianic childhood. I was told that I was a descendant of the high priest Aaron.”

The aura of Old Testament stories that filled Leonard's childhood was reflected in his future works. And Cohen began to write poetry quite early. This occupation was strongly encouraged by relatives.

At the age of 13, the future star masters the guitar. And a little later, as part of the Buskin Boys team, he performs in one of the cafes in Montreal, as well as at various dance floors. But Cohen still sees his future in poetry.

Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen

In 1951, Cohen became a student at McGill University. During his studies, he devoted himself to poetry and in 1956 published his first book of poems, Let's Compare Mythologies. Critics responded well to the collection. However, the readers had no serious success. Then Leonard for the first time realized that poetry in its purest form is not a very profitable occupation.

Around this time, Cohen attended Columbia University for a year. Then he returned home to Montreal, where he changed several professions, continuing to write poetry, some of which were published in 1961 in the collection The Earth's Spice Box. This book brought the poet fame in the literary environment of Canada and the first serious money earned by creativity.

Having invested royalties and an inheritance received from his father in the purchase of a small house on one of the Greek islands, Cohen moves there for the next seven years, in his words, "to write and swim, swim and write."

Leading a practically reclusive life, Leonard during this time released two more collections of poems and prose - the novels "Favorite Game" and "Beautiful Losers". These works, although they had some success, but finally convinced Cohen that for real commercial success, one should expand creative horizons and take up music.


English singer Royston Wood, frontman of the folk group The Young Tradition, Cohen and Judy Collins at the Newport Rhode Island Folk Festival. July 1967
English singer Royston Wood, frontman of the folk group The Young Tradition, Cohen and Judy Collins at the Newport Rhode Island Folk Festival. July 1967

In 1967, Cohen moved to the United States to conquer the musical Olympus. By that time, the mega-popular singer Judy Collins included two of Cohen's compositions on her 1966 album: "Suzanne" and "Dress Rehearsal Rag". But, due to his age, managers were skeptical about promoting Cohen as a solo artist, not seeing him as a commercially successful project. They preferred to invest in young singers.

However, with Judy's help, Leonard becomes a part of the Newport Festival. Here he is noticed by producer John Hammond. He helps Cohen record the first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen. It also includes "Suzanne", but in the version of the author himself.

Compositions from the debut collection for more than a year occupied high places in the American charts, but did not become top in terms of finances. Then there were several more albums, among which "Songs from a Room" should be noted. It was on it that such hits as “Bird on the Wire” and “Partisan” came out.

In 1971, Cohen's songs were featured on the soundtrack to the film McCabe and Mrs. Miller. And before that, the performer toured a lot in the States, Canada and Europe, gradually gaining world fame.

In 1977, Leonard collaborated with producer Phil Specter. They recorded the album "Death of a Ladies Man" together. The work progressed heavily due to creative differences. Phil wanted more sound, while Cohen was a supporter of the minimum use of musical instruments, pushing poetry and his soulful voice to the fore. It got to the point that the Specter even threatened the performer with a weapon.

During a Cohen concert. 1972
During a Cohen concert. 1972

As a result, the finished product was heavily modified by the producer without the participation of the author. Cohen called this album "grotesque" and considered his most unsuccessful creation.

In 1979, "Recent Songs" was recorded, in which Cohen experiments, including mandolin, oud and violin in the sound.

And then Cohen fell out of the limelight of critics and the public for five years, to appear with a new collection of poems, The Book of Mercy, and the film Hotel, which he directed himself from his own script, and also wrote the music for the picture.

But the most significant event that marked the return of the artist was the album "Various Positions" with the main song of Leonard's entire work - "Hallelujah", which was performed and will still be performed by many famous singers.

By the end of the 80s, Cohen's work is a sarcastic reflection of the author's attitude to what is happening in the world. And this mood finds a wide response from the audience. The 1988 album "I'm Your Man" almost repeats the success of the debut album. The track of the same name, as well as "Everybody Knows" and "First We Take Manhattan" from this album, will add to the list of Cohen's most recognizable musical compositions.

Album cover of "The Future"
Album cover of “The Future”

In 1994, the cult, scandalous, ironic film by Oliver Stone was released. His bloody plot is accompanied by compositions from Cohen's album "The Future", which caused unexpected success among a wide range of listeners.

After the release of the picture, Leonard takes a vow of silence and spends five years in a Buddhist center near Los Angeles. Only in 2001 a new album "Ten New Songs" appeared, probably written under the impression of being away from the worldly bustle. These songs are permeated with the energy of sadness and detachment from reality.

Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen

Then two more discs are released, in which the mood changes somewhat to a more positive one (“Dear Heather” and “Blue Alert”).

In 2008, Cohen went on a two-year world tour to improve his financial situation. During this time, he becomes one of the legends of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In addition to European and Canadian cities, he visits Moscow in 2010, giving the only concert in Russia.

From 2012 to 2016, the albums "Old ideas", "Popular Prodlems" and the last lifetime - "You Want it Darker" were released, which was recorded at home, as Cohen's health worsened every day.

Leonard Cohen in 2016
Leonard Cohen in 2016

On November 7, 2016, Leonard's heart stopped in his sleep. Cohen's half-century career as a musician in this world is over.

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