Leonard Cohen was a Canadian musician, songwriter, and novelist who is known for both his literary and musical accomplishments. He began his career as a poet and novelist, but when he was in his thirties, he moved into music. He began writing poems as a young lad, having been interested in poetry since his school days. He also learned to play the guitar and had a passion for folk music. When he met a flamenco guitarist, his enthusiasm in music and guitar grew even more. Simultaneously, he pursued his literary endeavors and wrote numerous poems, some of which were published in publications. Soon after, he published ‘The Spice-Box of Earth,’ a collection of poems that gained him acclaim in the literary world. He then used his imagination to write imaginary stories, eventually penning novels that were well accepted by reviewers and readers alike. After that, this writer began on a new adventure, dabbling in his musical inventiveness and establishing himself as a singer and songwriter. Cohen worked on a variety of topics, including relationships, sexuality, politics, and religion, and wrote songs that were both creative and cemented Cohen’s place in the musical world. However, this multi-talented guy did not abandon his literary pursuits and worked on both writing and music at the same time, achieving fame in all of the sectors in which he dabbled.
Childhood and Adolescence
Leonard Cohen was born on September 21, 1934, in Westmount, Quebec, to Nathan Cohen and Marsha Klonitsky. He lost his father when he was nine years old.
In 1948, he enrolled at the ‘Westmount High School’ after finishing elementary school at the ‘Roslyn Elementary School.’ He studied poetry and music in high school, with a particular interest in the works of Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca.
He began learning to play the guitar when he was a teenager, and after meeting a flamenco musician, he switched from acoustic to classical guitar.
In 1951, he enrolled in ‘McGill University,’ where he served as president of the ‘McGill Debating Union.’ He won the ‘Chester MacNaghten Literary Competition’ with his poems ‘Sparrows’ and ‘Thought of a Landsman,’ which he wrote during his university days.
In the year 1954, his first poems were published in the ‘CIV/n’ magazine.
In the year 1955, he earned his bachelor’s degree in arts. Walt Whitman, William Butler Yeats, Henry Miller, Irving Layton, and Federico Garcia Lorca were among his literary heroes.
‘Let Us Compare Mythologies,’ a collection of his poems written during his adolescence, was released in 1956. The book is dedicated to the remembrance of the poet’s late father.
He went to the ‘McGrill University Faculty of Law’ before moving to New York and enrolling in Columbia University’s ‘School of General Studies.’
Career of Leonard Cohen
In 1957, Leonard Cohen returned to Montreal, Canada, where he worked part-time while continuing to write poetry and short tales.
His poetry collection, ‘The Spice-Box of Earth,’ was published by the Canadian publishing house ‘McClelland & Stewart’ in 1961. The book was favorably appreciated by readers, and it helped Cohen break into Canada’s poetry scene.
During the 1960s, he wrote a number of poetry and novels, including ‘The Favourite Game’ and ‘Beautiful Losers,’ as well as collections of poems such as ‘Flowers for Hitler,’ ‘Parasites of Heaven,’ and ‘Selected Poems 1956-1968.’
He began to focus less on writing and more on his musical endeavors. He moved to the United States to pursue his dream of becoming a singer-songwriter. His song ‘Suzanne,’ performed by Judy Collins of the United States, became a smash.
During the 1960s, he also performed at a few folk festivals, where his talent was noticed by John H. Hammond. Leonard was signed to a contract by Hammond, who worked for the ‘Columbia Records’ corporation.
His musical career took off when his album ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’ was released in 1967. Even a year after its release, this album gained critical acclaim and charted in the United Kingdom. His albums ‘Songs From a Room’ and ‘Songs of Love and Hate’ followed.
He went on two tours in the early 1970s, one in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and the other in Europe and Israel. ‘The Energy of Slaves’ was released about the same period.
He and American music producer John Lissauer collaborated on Leonard’s new album, “New Skin for the Old Ceremony,” in 1974, and even toured Europe, the United States, and Canada to promote it.
He toured the United States and Canada with Lissauer in 1975 to promote his new album, ‘The Best of Leonard Cohen.’ He embarked on a European tour the next year to promote the same album.
His record ‘Death of a Ladies’ Man’ was released in 1977, and a year later, a book with the same title was published.
In 1979, he launched his album ‘Recent Songs,’ and with it, he became a producer.
In 1984, his collection of poetry, ‘Book of Mercy,’ was published, and it was a huge success, with the poet receiving a lot of praise. His album ‘Various Positions’ was released the same year, and his eighth studio album ‘I’m Your Man’ was published the following year.
‘Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs’ was his only published work in the 1990s, and his books ‘Book of Longing,’ ‘The Lyrics of Leonard Cohen,’ and ‘Poems and Songs’ were released in the next decade. During this time, he also released the album ‘The Future.’
He published two albums, ‘Ten New Songs’ and ‘Dear Heather,’ between 2001 and 2004.
His literary output in 2012 included a book of poetry titled ‘Fifteen Poems,’ as well as an album titled ‘Old Ideas,’ which he recorded the same year.
In 2014, he completed another album, ‘Popular Problems,’ which went on to win the ‘Juno Awards’ Album of the Year the following year.
In 2014, he turned 80, but he showed no symptoms of slowing down. He started working on a new album, ‘You Want It Darker,’ in 2015. During this period, he was experiencing health issues and intuitively sensed that his time was coming to an end. This album, which was released in October 2016 as Leonard Cohen was dying, dealt with topics such as death, God, and humor.
Major Projects of Leonard
His song “Hallelujah” is regarded one of his career’s biggest hits. Around 200 musicians have performed this song in various languages, and figures from reputable organizations indicate that the record has sold five million copies as of 2008. It’s also been covered by the ‘BBC Radio Documentary,’ and it’s been included in a number of films and television shows.
Achievements & Awards
This gifted musician was elected into the ‘Canadian Music Hall of Fame’ in 1991.
In 1993, he won the ‘Juno Award’ for Best Male Vocalist. He received the ‘Governor General’s Performing Arts Award’ for Lifetime Artistic Achievement the same year.
He received the ‘Juno Award’ for Songwriter of the Year in 1994.
In the year 2003, he was awarded the ‘Order of Canada.’
In 2006, this songwriter was inducted into the ‘Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.’ He won the ‘Grammy Award’ for Album of the Year the following year.
Lou Reed inducted him into the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ in 2008. He was named Grand Officer of the ‘National Order of Quebec’ the same year. This performer received the ‘Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award’ in 2010. He was recognized into the ‘Songwriters Hall of Fame’ the same year.
In 2011, Leonard was awarded the ‘Prince of Asturias Award for Literature.’ Cohen received the inaugural ‘PEN Award for Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence’ and the ‘Prix Denise-Pelletier’ the following year.
In 2013, he received the ‘Juno Award’ for Artist of the Year.
‘Dalhousie University’ and ‘McGill University’ bestowed honorary degrees on him.
Personal History and Legacy
He had a brief romance with Marianne C. Stang Jensen Ihlen in the 1960s, but it did not continue long.
He later began a romantic relationship with artist Suzanne Elrod, with whom he had two children, Adam and Lorca.
Despite the fact that Suzanne was the subject of many of Cohen’s songs and poetry, the couple never married. In the year 1979, they divorced.
He was rumored to be dating actress Rebecca De Mornay and French photographer Dominique Issermann.
Even though his body was destroyed by different maladies, including cancer, he stayed active till the end of his life. At the age of 82, he passed away on November 7, 2016. He was laid to rest in a family plot using a Jewish rite, as per his wishes.
Estimated Net Worth
Cohen has a net worth of $20 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
Robert Altman directed the film ‘McCabe & Mrs. Miller’ in 1971, which featured three songs from Cohen’s first album, ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen.’