Leonard Cohen (born 21.9.1934)
Leonard Cohen is a highly revered Canadian songwriter, musician and poet.
Leonard Cohen: Childhood
Leonard Cohen was born to his Jewish parents in Montreal, Quebec and it was here that his father owned a clothing store, though he died when Leonard was just nine years old. Leonard attended Herzliah High School, along with the poet Irving Layton.
Cohen learned to play the guitar as a teenager and formed a folk-country group named the Buckskin Boys. When his father died, he was left with enough money in a trust fund to allow him to pursue his interests in the arts.
Leonard Cohen: A Life in the Arts
As a poet, Leonard Cohen was influenced by the likes of Walt Whitman, Federico Garcia Lorca and Henry Miller. Cohen's own poetry was published for the first time in the volume entitled Let Us Compare Mythologies, whilst he was still a student. His 1961 collection The Spice-Box of Earth raised his profile in literary circles, especially in Canada. He went on to publish further volumes of poetry, as well as works of fiction (such as the Favourite Game) whilst living on the Greek island, Hydra.
Leonard Cohen then moved to the United States in 1967, in order to develop his career as a folk musician. He became involved in Andy Warhol's New York art scene, mingling with notorious figures such as Nico and the Velvet Underground.
Cohen's song 'Suzanne' became a hit for the folk singer Judy Collins and his own performances soon became a focus of attention for Columbia Records. Leonard Cohen's debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen was released in 1969 and became a cult hit, especially in the UK.
The follow-up albums from Leonard Cohen were equally popular: Songs From a Room (1969), Songs of Love and Hate (1971) and Live Songs (1973) and New Skin For the Old Ceremony (1974). This prolific output was also punctuated by an inclusion of Cohen's music on the soundtrack to the Robert Altman film McCabe & Mrs. Miller.
Whilst these early albums were being promoted, Leonard Cohen also toured the US, Canada and Europe, with Jennifer Warnes as backing singer and with the pianist and arranger John Lissauer contributing to the live set-up.
Death of a Ladies' Man was released in 1977, with Phil Spector on production duties. It has been reported that Phil Spector (well-known for his volatile behaviour) threatened Cohen with a crossbow. Artists such as The Beatles and The Ramones have also worked with Spector and made similar comments regarding his behaviour. Deciding to return to a more traditional sound, Leonard Cohen made Recent Songs, which he co produced with Joni Mitchell's sound engineer, Henry Lewy.
The 1980s saw Leonard Cohen release albums such as Dance Me To The End of Love and I'm Your Man. The former included the song 'Hallelujah', which has famously been covered by Jeff Buckley, John Cale, KD Lang and the UK X Factor winner Alexandra Burke. The latter included one of Cohen's most popular songs, 'First We Take Manhattan'.
'Everybody Knows' has been included on two film soundtracks: 1990's Pump Up The Volume and 1994's Exotica. Three tracks from Leonard Cohen's album The Future were featured in the controversial film Natural Born Killers.
In 1994, Leonard Cohen retreated from public life and joined the Mt. Baldy Zen Centre, where he remained and became ordained as a Buddhist monk. Ten New Songs was Leonard Cohen's first release since joining the centre and was released in 2001.
This was followed three years later with Dear Heather, which was mainly a collaboration with his partner of the time, Ajani Thomas, though it also saw a return to working with the composer Sharon Robinson. Anjani and Leonard then went on to co-write another album, Blue Alert.
In 2006, Leonard Cohen published a book of drawings and poetry, entitled Book of Longing. Cohen's first public appearance in 13 years came at an in-store event at a Toronto bookstore. He was accompanied by Ron Sexsmith and Barenaked Ladies. An eagerly-awaited tour then followed in 2008, including a much-lauded performance at that year's Glastonbury Festival.
When Leonard Cohen was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, he was introduced by Lou Reed.