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Musician Leonard Cohen dies at age 82

Jewish singer-songwriter and poet dies one month after releasing his last album about coming to terms with mortality; Musicians from all across the world have expressed their grief at his passing.

Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival 2009 - Day 1

One of the greatest Jewish poets and singers of all time Leonard Cohen has died at the age of 82. He was a true lover of Israel and the Jewish people.

“It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away, ” read a statement on Cohen’s Facebook page. “We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries.” The cause of death was not released but it said a memorial was planned in Los Angeles, where Cohen had lived for many years.

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Cohen never relented in his support of the Jewish State, even when so many liberal Jewish celebrities attacked it. He actually performed in Israel at the height of the Yom Kipur War in 1973 when Israelis feared the worst.

Leonard Cohen was already in the country at the time and instead of fleeing a war zone he stayed and offered to help out in any way that he could.

Here you can see Cohen singing while standing next to none other than Ariel Sharon.

While Bob Dylan’s winning the Nobel Prize for literature left many people stunned since he is a musician and not a writer, such an award for Leonard Cohen would not have met with any skepticism. Cohen always thought of himself first as a poet.

One need only read the lyrics of his most moving song “Hallelujah” to understand that his songs were really poetry set to music. This in contrast to most modern singers and groups who seem to just write a few words to fit their music.

In his poems and two novels, the Quebec native explored relationships, politics, sexuality and religion in songs such as “Suzanne, ” “Bird on the Wire, ” “Hallelujah” and “First we take Manhattan”

Singer Roseanne Cash, daughter of country music icon Johnny Cash, echoed the lyrics from Cohen’s song “Anthem” when she said in a tweet: “Leonard Cohen is dead. There’s a crack in everything. No light yet.”

Although he was born Jewish,  in the 1970s Cohen practiced Buddhism and was even ordained a Buddhist monk in 1996. But Cohen always identified as a Jew: “I’m not looking for a new religion. I’m quite happy with the old one, with Judaism.”

In an interview Cohen explained his confusion with religion: “I was the cook up there. My life was filled with great disorder, with chaos, and I achieved a little discipline there. So I decided to return to music.”

In his final album released last month “You Want It Darker, ” Cohen contemplated his own mortality. He probably knew that his time on this Earth was close to an end.

In the album Cohen featured Hebrew liturgy as well as the voice of Cantor Gideon Zelermyer of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, which Cohen and his family attended for generations.

“Hineni, hineni / I’m ready, my Lord, ” Cohen intones on the title track, employing Hebrew to say “Here I Am.”

In 2009 in a concert in Israel, Cohen spoke with his audience in Hebrew. He opened the show with the first sentence of Ma Tovu. At the middle he used Baruch Hashem, and he ended the concert reciting the blessing of Birkat Cohanim.

Cohen moved to New York in 1966 at age 31 to break into the music business.

Before long, critics were comparing him to Bob Dylan for the lyrical force of his songwriting.

Although he influenced many musicians and won many honors, including induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Order of Canada, Cohen rarely made the pop music charts with his sometimes moody folk-rock.

But Cohen’s most famous song, “Hallelujah, ” in which he invoked the biblical King David and drew parallels between physical love and a desire for spiritual connection, has been covered hundreds of times since he released it in 1984.

“Hallelujah’s” long road to mass appeal was matched by Cohen’s own painstaking approach to writing it. He spent five years penning drafts, at one point banging his head on the floor of a hotel room in frustration.

Many of Cohen’s songs became hits for other artists, including Judy Collins, who helped Cohen gain fame by recording some of his early compositions in the 1960s.

Cohen’s other well-known songs include “Suzanne, ” “So Long, Marianne, ” “Famous Blue Raincoat” and “The Future, ” an apocalyptic 1992 recording in which he darkly intoned: “I’ve seen the future, brother/It is murder.”

The inspiration for “So Long, Marianne” was Cohen’s longtime romantic partner and muse Marianne Ihlen, a Norwegian woman he met while living on the Greek island of Hydra in the 1960s.

A New Yorker profile of Cohen last month recounted how, after being told in July she had only a few days left to live, he emailed her: “Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon.”

Two days later, he learned in an email she had died after reading his note.

He remained wildly popular into his 80s, touring as recently as earlier this year.

In 2006, Cohen was awarded $9.5 million judgment against his former manager and lover, Kelley Lynch, whom he accused of steeling more than $5 million of his retirement savings while he was in seclusion at a Zen center. He was left with a nest egg of just $150, 000, the lawsuit claimed.

Cohen told The New York Times that the case was “a long, ongoing problem of a disastrous and relentless indifference to my financial situation. I didn’t even know where the bank was.”

Unfortunately, he was unable to collect the money awarded and from 2008 to 2013 he returned to touring in part because of his financial losses.

Cohen never married. He is survived by by his two children, Adam and Lorca, whom he had with artist Suzanne Elrod, as well as two grandchildren.

In later years, he was linked romantically with actress Rebecca De Mornay and with jazz singer Anjani Thomas, who performed on several of his albums.

All we can say now is the traditional Jewish statement made upon hearing of a death: Baruch Dayan Haemet (blessed is the just judge). Goodbye Leonard Cohen. You will be missed and Hallelujah!



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