Leonard Norman Cohen, CC GOQ (born 21 September 1934) is a Canadian singer–songwriter, musician, poet, and novelist. His work has explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality, and personal relationships. Cohen has been inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is also a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In 2011, Cohen received a Prince of Asturias Award for literature.
The critic Bruce Eder assessed Cohen’s overall career in popular music by asserting that “[he is] one of the most fascinating and enigmatic … singer/songwriters of the late ’60s … [and] has retained an audience across four decades of music-making…. Second only to Bob Dylan (and perhaps Paul Simon) [in terms of influence], he commands the attention of critics and younger musicians more firmly than any other musical figure from the 1960s who is still working at the outset of the 21st century.”
One of his notable novels, Beautiful Losers (1966) received a lot of attention from the Canadian press and stirred up controversy because of a number of sexually graphic passages. The Academy of American Poets has commented more broadly on Cohen’s overall career in the arts, including his work as a poet, novelist, and songwriter, stating that “Cohen’s successful blending of poetry, fiction, and music is made most clear in Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs, published in 1993, which gathered more than 200 of Cohen’s poems … several novel excerpts, and almost 60 song lyrics… While it may seem to some that Leonard Cohen departed from the literary in pursuit of the musical, his fans continue to embrace him as a Renaissance man who straddles the elusive artistic borderlines.”
Cohen’s first album was Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967) followed by Songs From a Room (1969) (featuring the often-recorded “Bird on the Wire”) and Songs of Love and Hate (1971). His 1977 record Death of a Ladies’Man was co-written and produced by Phil Spector, which was a move away from Cohen’s previous minimalist sound. In 1979 Cohen returned with the more traditional Recent Songs, which blended his acoustic style with jazz and Oriental and Mediterranean influences. “Hallelujah” was first released on Cohen’s studio album Various Positions in 1984. I’m Your Man in 1988 marked Cohen’s turn to synthesized productions and remains his most popular album. In 1992 Cohen released its follow-up, The Future, which had dark lyrics and references to political and social unrest. Cohen returned to music in 2001 with the release of Ten New Songs, which was a major hit in Canada and Europe. In 2006 Cohen produced and co-wrote Blue Alert, a collaboration with jazz chanteuse Anjani Thomas. After the success of his 2008–13 world tours, Cohen released the highest charting album in his entire career, Old Ideas, to positive reviews. On 22 September 2014, one day after his 80th birthday, Cohen released his 13th studio album, Popular Problems, again to positive reviews.