Grav­elly-voiced singer-song­writer Leonard Cohen dies at 82

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OBITUARIES - By An­drew Dal­ton and Robert Jablon

LOS AN­GE­LES >> Leonard Cohen, the bari­tone-voiced Cana­dian singer-song­writer who seam­lessly blended spir­i­tu­al­ity and sex­u­al­ity in songs like “Hal­lelu­jah,” ‘’Suzanne” and “Bird on a Wire,” has died at age 82, his son said.

“My fa­ther passed away peace­fully at his home in Los An­ge­les,” Adam Cohen said in a state­ment Thurs­day. “He was writ­ing up un­til his last mo­ments with his unique brand of hu­mor.”

Cohen, also renowned as a poet, nov­el­ist and as­pir­ing Zen monk, blended folk mu­sic with a darker, sex­ual edge that won him fans around the world and among fel­low mu­si­cians like Bob Dy­lan and R.E.M.

He re­mained wildly pop­u­lar into his 80s, when his deep voice plunged to se­ri­ously grav­elly depths. He toured as re­cently as ear­lier this year and re­leased a new al­bum, “You Want it Darker,” just last month. Adam Cohen said his fa­ther died with the knowl­edge that he’d made one of his great­est records.

Cohen’s “Hal­lelu­jah” went from cult hit to mod­ern stan­dard, now an un­end­ing sta­ple on movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, re­al­ity shows and high school choir con­certs.

Cohen, who once said he got into mu­sic be­cause he couldn’t make a liv­ing as a poet, rose to promi­nence dur­ing the folk mu­sic re­vival of the 1960s. Dur­ing those years, he trav­eled the folk cir­cuit with younger artists like Dy­lan, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and oth­ers.

His con­tem­po­rary Kris Kristof­fer­son once said that he wanted the open­ing lines to Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire,” on his tomb­stone.

They would be a per­fect epi­taph for Cohen him­self: “Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a mid­night choir, I have tried in my way to be free.”

“Hamil­ton” star and cre­ator Lin-Manuel Mi­randa quoted those lines on Twit­ter Thurs­day night as one of many pay­ing trib­ute to Cohen.

Mourn­ers gath­ered and cre­ated a can­dle-lit shrine out­side a home in Mon­treal, the city where Cohen was born.

Cohen never seemed quite as com­fort­able on stage as he did writ­ing and record­ing, chalk­ing it up to be­ing a late starter among his folk co­hort. “I was at least 10 years older than the rest of them,” he told Magazine, a sup­ple­ment to the Span­ish news­pa­per El Mundo, in 2001.

Judy Collins, who had a hit with Cohen’s song “Suzanne,” once re­called he was so shy that he quit half­way through his first public per­for­mance of it and she had to coax him back on­stage.

Like Dy­lan, his voice lacked pol­ish but rang with emo­tion.

In 2016, Dy­lan told The New Yorker that Cohen’s best work was “deep and truth­ful, “mul­ti­di­men­sional” and “sur­pris­ingly melodic.”

“When peo­ple talk about Leonard, they fail to men­tion his melodies, which to me, along with his lyrics, are his great­est ge­nius,” Dy­lan said. “Even the coun­ter­point lines — they give a celestial char­ac­ter and melodic lift to ev­ery one of his songs. As far as I know, no one else comes close to this in mod­ern mu­sic.”

Cohen was in­ducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, telling the au­di­ence: “This is a very un­likely oc­ca­sion for me. It is not a dis­tinc­tion that I cov­eted or even dared dream about.”

Leonard Cohen

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