Leonard Cohen, one of his generation’s most respected musicians and poets who delved into the spiritual on songs such as Hallelujah, has died at age 82.
“We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries,” read a statement Thursday on his website and Facebook page.
Cohen, who was brought up in Montreal but lived in California late in his life, will have a memorial service in Los Angeles at a later date, the statement said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mourned Cohen, long considered one of the country’s foremost writers, as a “remarkable Montrealer.”
“Leonard, no other artist’s poetry and music felt or sounded quite like yours. We’ll miss you,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Trudeau said that Cohen would be “fondly remembered for his gruff vocals, his self-deprecating humour and the haunting lyrics that made his songs the perennial favourite of so many generations.
“Leonard Cohen is as relevant today as he was in the 1960s. His ability to conjure the vast array of human emotion made him one of the most influential and enduring musicians ever. His style transcended the vagaries of fashion,” Trudeau said.
Cohen began as a poet before seeking a more stable career, comparatively speaking, as a musician. While at first receiving a lukewarm reception, Cohen went on to become a critical favourite with meditative songs such as So Long, Marianne and Suzanne.
Hallelujah, an anthem of uplift rich in biblical reference, has been covered by a vast array of artists including Jeff Buckley, John Cale, k.d. lang and Rufus Wainwright.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre ordered the city’s flags to fly at half-mast.
“Tonight we lost one of our greatest ambassadors and icons,” he tweeted.
Dozens of fans converged spontaneously around Cohen’s home in Montreal after news of his death, lighting candles and leaving flowers as well as one of the top-hats that were his signature look late in his career.
Young and old, Cohen’s fans played some of his best-known songs on their smartphones. A wire hanging on the front door read out the letters “H-A-L-L-E-L-U-J-A-H.”
Cohen, who spent much of his young adulthood on the Greek island of Hydra, retreated in the 1990s to a Zen Buddhist monastery near Los Angeles before returning to music.
But he kept a strong connection to Montreal. In 2000, Cohen was a pallbearer at the state funeral of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, the father of the current Canadian leader, joining former US president Jimmy Carter and Cuba’s then president Fidel Castro.
Cohen released his final album, You Want It Darker, just last month, featuring the singer reflecting at length on his own mortality.
The Recording Academy, which in 2010 presented Cohen with a lifetime achievement Grammy, mourned him as “one of the most revered pop poets and a musical touchstone for many songwriters.”
“His extraordinary talent had a profound impact on countless singers and songwriters, as well as the wider culture,” Academy president Neil Portnow said in a statement.
“He will be missed terribly.”