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Singer, songwriter Leonard Cohen dead

AAP logoAAP 11/11/2016

Leonard Cohen, the Canadian poet and novelist who became a singular international presence as a singer-songwriter, has died. He was 82.

"It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away," a statement on his official Facebook page said.

"We have lost one of music's most revered and prolific visionaries."

A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date, said the statemet, which requested privacy for his family "during their time of grief".

Only last month, Cohen released his final album, You Want It Darker, a deeply introspective work that focused thematically on mortality.

His elegantly penned songs, authored during a musical career that spanned six decades, won him comparison with such other songwriters of his era as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon.

His best-known song, Hallelujah, has been recorded more than 200 times. Cohen never recorded a chart single and didn't place an album in the top 10 until he was in his 70s, but his ardent fans and musical peers viewed him as a musical craftsman with few equals.

As a songwriter, his themes encompassed love in all its manifestations, religion, faith and the tenuous state of the world.

Like Hallelujah, many of his tunes -- his breakthrough composition Suzanne, Bird on the Wire, Tower of Song -- became much-covered keystones of the popular songbook.

His longtime accompanist Jennifer Warnes recorded several of his best-known works on her 1987 Cohen recital Famous Blue Raincoat.

Like his art, his life evidenced a dynamic tension between sexuality and spirituality. He was a well-known womaniser whose many romantic partners included fellow Canadian musician Joni Mitchell and actress Rebecca De Mornay.

Yet he would famously reject the world of the flesh: Torn by depression and doubt about his life and career, he withdrew to spend more than five years in a Buddhist monastery; he later studied at a Hindu ashram in Mumbai.

A financial crisis late in life led to a fresh burst of fame. After his business manager embezzled millions from him, the impecunious Cohen embarked on a 2008-10 world tour that restored his fortune and renewed his reputation.

His 2012 album Old Ideas, released at the age of 77, became his highest-charting release ever, debuting at No. 3 in the US.

He was born in Montreal. His father was a wealthy clothier, and he grew up in the city's affluent Westmount neighbourhood. He was the grandson of Jewish European immigrants, and his maternal grandfather was a rabbi and Talmudic scholar.

The top-10 arrival of the spare and drily witty Old Ideas in 2012 was succeeded by another series of concert dates in Europe and America that year and in 2013.

Popular Problems was released in fall of 2014, shortly after Cohen's 80th birthday.

Cohen's many honours included his 2008 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a 2010 Lifetime Achievement Grammy.

He is survived by a son and daughter from his relationship with Suzanne Elrod.

Cohen last toured Australia and New Zealand in November and December, 2013.

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