Cohen emerged as a poetic voice among the burgeoning songwriter scene in the 1960s, after publishing Flowers for Hitler, a book of poetry, and the novels The Favourite Game and Beautiful Losers.
That same poetry found its way into his songs, sung in a plaintive vocal style, often with flamenco-styled guitar and backed by a chorus. Upon visiting New York in the mid-1960s, Cohen fell in with a crowd that included the Velvet Underground and Judy Collins, who supported his songwriting and recording. Albums such as Songs From Leonard Cohen and Songs From a Room followed.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, Cohen's albums continued to contribute to the great singer-songwriter songbook. In 1984, Cohen recorded a lyrical ode called "Hallelujah"; his label at the time was unsupportive, however, and it wasn't until Jeff Buckley's 1994 version that the song became ubiquitous: at funerals, weddings, in movies and more.
The Canadian-born Cohen turned to Zen in the mid-'90s and disappeared from the road, touring only when it was discovered that his longtime manager had embezzled $5 million from his retirement account. Needing the ticket revenue, Cohen set out on a series of well-received tours; the shows were a remarkable success. This year, reviews for Cohen's most recent album You Want It Darker were largely positive.
In an in-depth profile for the New Yorker that ran last month, Cohen told the magazine: “I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.”