Legendary Canadian singer, songwriter, and poet Leonard Cohen has died at the age of 82. The news was announced on his Facebook page late last night, and although no details were shared regarding the cause of death, Cohen’s passing was not unexpected. Earlier this year, he told an interviewer: “I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable.” Then, true to form, he later decided on another answer, saying: “I think I was exaggerating. I’ve always been into self-dramatization. I intend to live forever.”
Cohen’s art certainly has a claim to immortality. Although his most well-known song is undoubtedly the much-covered “Hallelujah,” his other notable tracks are numerous and deserve equal fame, including “Bird on a Wire,” “Suzanne,” “Dance Me to the End of Love,” “I’m Your Man,” and “So Long, Marianne.”
That last song was written in reference to Cohen’s long-time muse Marianne Ihlen, who died earlier this year. It was revealed after her death that Cohen had written her a last letter two days before she died, telling her:
“Well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”
Cohen was born in Quebec in 1934, and originally focused on literature rather than songwriting. His poetry in the ‘60s was influenced by the likes of William Butler Yeats, and he published two novels that decade including the autobiographical The Favourite Game. Although his work was critically well-received (one paper wrote of his 1966 novel Beautiful Losers: “James Joyce is not dead. He is living in Montreal under the name of Cohen.”), when he failed to find financial success as a writer, he began to experiment as a singer-songwriter. His first album, the funereal Songs of Leonard Cohen, becoming a cult hit after its release in 1967.
Cohen’s popularity would wax and wane over the decades to come, but his influence over other artists only grew. In 2008 he returned to touring after a longtime manager was found to have stolen from his retirement fund, and earlier this year he released his 14th and final album: You Want It Darker. The album was praised by critics, and is notable for its sparse arrangements and bleak, fatalistic lyrics. As Cohen sings in the track “Leaving The Table” — “I don’t need a pardon, no no, no no, no / There’s no one left to blame / I’m leaving the table / I’m out of the game.”