The life of Leonard Cohen

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(September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016) was a Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality, and personal relationships.Cohen was inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour. In 2011, Cohen received one of the Prince of Asturias Awards for literature and the ninth Glenn Gould Prize.

Cohen died on November 7, 2016 at the age of 82 at his home in Los Angeles; cancer was a contributing cause. His death was announced on November 10.His funeral was held on November 10, 2016 in Montreal, at a cemetery on Mount Royal, his congregation Shaar Hashomayim confirmed. As was his wish, Cohen was laid to rest with a Jewish rite, in a simple pine casket, in a family plot.A memorial is planned to take place in Los Angeles. Cohen was survived by his two children and two grandchildren.Tributes were paid by numerous stars and political figures.Citizens and officials in Montreal, Canada, where he spent his early life, are considering honoring him by naming a street and other locations, including a library, after him.Mayor Denis Coderre announced that the city of Montreal will organize a tribute concert to Cohen.

List of awards and nominations received by Leonard Cohen

  • 1964 the Québec Literary Competition Prize (awarded 1923–70 by the Province of Québec) The Favourite Game (Cohen’s first novel)
  • 1968 Governor General’s Award (English language poetry or drama) for Selected Poems 1956–1968. (Refused)
  • 1970 Honorary degree from Dalhousie University
  • 1984 The Golden Rose, the main award at the international television festival Rose d’Or in Montreux, for I am a Hotel, made-for-TV short musical film written by Cohen and based on his songs.
  • 1985 Canadian Author’s Association Literary Award for Poetry for Book of Mercy
  • 1986 Genie Award for Best Original Song for “Angel Eyes” from Night Magic (with Lewis Furey)
  • 1988 Columbia Records Crystal Globe Award from CBS for I’m Your Man. The award is for artists who sell more than five million copies of an album in foreign territories
  • 1989 Nominated for Juno Awards for Canadian Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year
  • 1991 Officer of the Order of Canada
  • 1991 Induction into the Juno/Canadian Music Hall of Fame
  • 1991 Nominated for a Juno Award for Songwriter of the Year.
  • 1992 Honorary degree from McGill University, Montreal.
  • 1993 Juno Award for Male Vocalist of the Year. The video for Closing Time, directed by Curtis Wehrfritz, won for Best Video. He was also nominated as Producer of the Year (with co-producer Leanne Ungar, for “Closing Time”).
  • 1993 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.
  • 1994 Juno Award for Songwriter of the Year and was nominated for the Juno Award for Album of the Year (for The Future). The video for The Future, directed by Curtis Wehrfritz, was nominated for Juno Award for Best Video.
  • 1996 Ordained a Rinzai Buddhist monk.
  • 2001 Nagroda Muzyczna Fryderyk, the annual Polish music award, for best foreign album (Ten New Songs).
  • 2002 Nominated for Juno Award as Best Songwriter Cohen (with Sharon Robinson) for “Boogie Street”, “In My Secret Life”, and “You Have Loved Enough”).
  • 2002 Nominated for the Juno Award for Best Video for “In My Secret Life”, directed by Floria Sigismondi. Ten New Songs nominated for Best Pop Album, and he was nominated for Best Artist.
  • 2002 SNEP Award Cohen for more than 100,000 copies sold of Ten New Songs in France.
  • 2003 Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada’s second highest civilian honour.
  • 2004 Inclusion in Canada Reads 2005 with Beautiful Losers.
  • 2005 Induction into the Canadian Folk Music Walk of Fame.
  • 2006 Induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
  • 2007 Grammy for Album of the Year as a featured artist on Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters.
  • 2008 Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  • 2008 Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec.
  • 2009 Long Listed for the Polaris Music Prize for Live in London.
  • 2009 Nominated for Mojo Honours Lists for Best Live Act category.
  • 2009 Meteor Music Award for Best International Live Performance for his 2008 show in Dublin’s IMMA’s Royal Hospital Kilmainham.
  • 2010 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • 2010 A second Meteor Music Award for Best International Live Performance for his 2009 show in Dublin’s O2.
  • 2010 Porin Award in Croatia in category of foreign video programme, for his Live in London DVD.
  • 2010 Induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
  • 2011 Glenn Gould Prize.
  • 2011 Prince of Asturias Awards, Literature, Spain.
  • 2012 Inaugural PEN New England Song Lyrics Award for Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence. Chuck Berry received the same award.
  • 2012 Prix Denise-Pelletier.
  • 2013 Juno Award, Artist of the Year.
  • 2013 Juno Award, Songwriter of the Year.
  • 2015 Juno Award, Album of the Year for Popular Problems.
Studio albums
  • Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967)
  • Songs from a Room (1969)
  • Songs of Love and Hate (1971)
  • New Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974)
  • Death of a Ladies’ Man (1977)
  • Recent Songs (1979)
  • Various Positions (1984)
  • I’m Your Man (1988)
  • The Future (1992)
  • Ten New Songs (2001)
  • Dear Heather (2004)
  • Old Ideas (2012)
  • Popular Problems (2014)
  • You Want It Darker (2016)
  • Six Montreal Poets (1957)
  • Let Us Compare Mythologies. Montreal: Contact Press [McGill Poetry Series], 1956.reissued 2007
  • The Spice-Box of Earth. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1961.
  • Flowers for Hitler. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1964.
  • Parasites of Heaven. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1966.
  • Selected Poems 1956–1968. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1968.[
  • The Energy of Slaves. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1972. ISBN 0-7710-2204-2 ISBN 0-7710-2203-4 New York: Viking, 1973.
  • Death of a Lady’s Man. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1978. ISBN 0-7710-2177-1 London, New York: Viking, Penguin, 1979.– reissued 2010
  • Book of Mercy. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1984.– reissued 2010
  • Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs. London, New York, Toronto: Cape, Pantheon, McClelland & Stewart, 1993ISBN 0-7710-2230-1
  • Book of Longing. London, New York, Toronto: Penguin, Ecco, McClelland & Stewart, 2006.(poetry, prose, drawings) ISBN 978-0-7710-2234-0
  • The Lyrics of Leonard Cohen. London: Omnibus Press, 2009.[163] ISBN 0-7119-7141-2
  • Poems and Songs. New York: Random House (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets), 2011.
  • Fifteen Poems. New York: Everyman’s Library/Random House, 2012. (eBook)


  • The Favorite Game. London, New York, Toronto: Secker & Warburg, Viking P, McClelland & Stewart, 1963. Reissued as The Favourite Game. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart [New Canadian Library], 1994. ISBN 978-0-7710-9954-0
  • Beautiful Losers. New York, Toronto: Viking Press, McClelland & Stewart, 1966. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart [New Canadian Library], 1991. ISBN 978-0-7710-9875-8 McClelland & Stewart [Emblem], 2003.[163] ISBN 978-0-7710-2200-5

Leonard Cohen Quotes

We’re always experiencing joy or sadness. But there are lots of people who’ve closed down. And there are times in one’s life when one has to close down just to regroup. Leonard Cohen

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen

This is the most challenging activity that humans get into, which is love. You know, where we have the sense that we can’t live without love. That life has very little meaning without love. Leonard Cohen

When things get really bad, just raise your glass and stamp your feet and do a little jig. That’s about all you can do.

Leonard Cohen

Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.

Leonard Cohen

Music is the emotional life of most people.

Leonard Cohen

I don’t really understand that process called reincarnation but if there is such a thing I’d like to come back as my daughter’s dog.

Leonard Cohen

I always considered myself a minor writer. My province is small, and I try to explore it very, very thoroughly. Leonard Cohen

If I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often.

Leonard Cohen

We’re in a world where there’s famine and hunger and people are dodging bullets and having their nails pulled out in dungeons so it’s very hard for me to place any high value on the work that I do to write a song. Yeah, I work hard but compared to what? Leonard Cohen

Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.

Leonard Cohen

Well, for one thing, in the tradition of Zen that I’ve practiced, there is no prayerful worship and there is no affirmation of a deity.

Leonard Cohen

The last refuge of the insomniac is a sense of superiority to the sleeping world.

Leonard Cohen

I think the term poet is a very exalted term and should be applied to a man at the end of his work. When he looks back over the body of his work and he’s written poetry then let the verdict be that he’s a poet.

Leonard Cohen
Any startling piece of work has a subversive element in it, a delicious element often. Subversion is only disagreeable when it manifests in political or social activity.Leonard Cohen

I speak of a clinical depression that is the background of your entire life, a background of anguish and anxiety, a sense that nothing goes well, that pleasure is unavailable and all your strategies collapse.

Leonard Cohen

Journalists, especially English journalists, were very cruel to me. They said I only knew three chords when I knew five! Leonard Cohen

The older I get, the surer I am that I’m not running the show.

Leonard Cohen

Prayer is translation. A man translates himself into a child asking for all there is in a language he has barely mastered.

Leonard Cohen

My two great heroes are W. B. Yeats and Federico García Lorca.

Leonard Cohen

Out of the thousands who are known or who want to be known as poets, maybe one or two are genuine and the rest are fakes, hanging around the sacred precincts, trying to look like the real thing. Leonard Cohen

I can work on a verse for a very long time before realising it’s not any good and then, and only then, can I discard it.

Leonard Cohen

I can work on a verse for a very long time before realising it’s not any good and then, and only then, can I discard it.

Leonard Cohen

Let judges secretly despair of justice: their verdicts will be more acute. Let generals secretly despair of triumph; killing will be defamed. Let priests secretly despair of faith: their compassion will be true.

Leonard Cohen

I am an old scholar, better-looking now than when I was young. That’s what sitting on your ass does to your face. Leonard Cohen

When you stop thinking about yourself all the time, a certain sense of repose overtakes you. Leonard Cohen

I don’t think you can write novels on the road. You need a certain stability.

Leonard Cohen

I always felt I was scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to get a song together. Leonard Cohen

And I had not much of a voice. I didn’t play that great guitar either.

Leonard Cohen

I didn’t want to write for pay. I wanted to be paid for what I write.

Leonard Cohen

A woman watches her body uneasily, as though it were an unreliable ally in the battle for love. Leonard Cohen

I never really liked poetry readings; I liked to read poetry by myself, but I liked singing, chanting my lyrics to this jazz group. Leonard Cohen

The term clinical depression finds its way into too many conversations these days. One has a sense that a catastrophe has occurred in the psychic landscape. Leonard Cohen

I read with some amusement my reputation as a ladies’ man. My friends are amused by that, too, because they know my life. Leonard Cohen

My sense of proprietorship has been so weak that actually I didn’t pay attention and I lost the copyrights on a lot of the songs. Leonard Cohen

As a young man, Yeats spoke to me in a way I could understand. Shakespeare I couldn’t understand, but Yeats I could. It was his subject matter and also I really admired the way he put his personal life on the line. Leonard Cohen

And most people have a woman in their heart, most men have a woman in their heart and most women have a man in their heart. Leonard Cohen

Most of the time one is discouraged by the work, but now and again by some grace something stands out and invites you to work on it, to elaborate it or animate it in some way. It’s a mysterious process. Leonard Cohen

Women stand for the objective world for a man. They stand for the thing that you’re not and that’s what you always reach for in a song. Leonard Cohen

Success is survival. Leonard Cohen

To every people the land is given on condition. Perceived or not, there is a Covenant, beyond the constitution, beyond sovereign guarantee, beyond the nation’s sweetest dreams of itself.

Leonard Cohen

I was 15 when I first became deeply touched by the rhythm and structure of words. Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen was many things to many people, a poet, songwriter, and a man of great insight. His style or writing, in music and especially in lyrics, was truly his own take on the art form. What Cohen lacked in sweet vocal tone, he more than made up for with the pure and real.


10“Who by Fire”From: ‘New Skin for the Old Ceremony’ (1974)Acoustic guitar, bass guitar and minimal strings are the only backing while Cohen and a female vocalist harmonize.
9“Bird on a Wire”From: ‘Songs From a Room’ (1969)Joe Cocker, Jackie DeShannon, Tim Hardin, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson all tried their hand at it and while each and every one put their own stamp on it, the definitive version remains Cohen’s original. Songs this beautiful don’t fall from the sky every day

8“You Want It Darker”From: ‘You Want It Darker’ (2016)Cohen called it “a declaration of readiness, no matter what the outcome, that’s a part of everyone’s soul.” Til his dying day, Cohen was on his game.
7“Sisters of Mercy”From: ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’ (1967)Sisters of Mercy” builds as it moves along, adding one instrument after another until an almost carnival-like atmosphere is created. It is still one of Cohen’s most enduring, and genuinely beautiful songs.
6“Diamonds in the Mine”From: ‘Songs of Love and Hate’ (1971)“Diamonds in the Mine” pushes this one to the front of the line. Cohen’s voice is battered and bruised and full of swagger and venom as he spits out the chorus,
5. “Suzanne”From: ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’ (1967)Cohen’s voice and guitar are shouldered by minimal accompaniment keeping it stark. It’s one of the most perfect album openers ever.
4.“Chelsea Hotel #2″From: ‘New Skin for the Old Ceremony’ (1974)” Written about a fling he had with Janis Joplin, with Cohen’s frank lyrics in stark black and white. “I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel / You were talking so brave and so sweet / Giving me head on the unmade bed / While the limousines wait in the street.” Ending the song, he is simply dismissive, “I don’t think of you that often.” Cohen never shied away from who the song was about, but in a BBC interview in the ’90s, he expressed regret for being so blatant.”If there is some way of apologizing to the ghost, I want to apologize now, for having committed that indiscretion.”
3“Hallelujah”From: ‘Various Positions’ (1984)“Hallelujah” has taken on a life of its own through the years. The original, found on his 1984 album Various Positions A few years later, Jeff Buckley would transform the song into something genuinely stirring and powerful. Since then, there have been dozens of versions of the song and it has become a staple of popular music.
2“So Long, Marianne”From: ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’ (1967)Written for and about his girlfriend and muse, Marianne Jensen, Cohen unrolls verse after verse telling their tale.
1“Tower of Song”From: ‘I’m Your Man’ (1988)Cohen himself felt a strong attachment to the tune, reciting the lyrics to this classic as the bulk of his acceptance speech into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.