Leonard Cohen, 82Gerald Herbert-Pool/Getty Images
"There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. "- Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen, who died in November at his Los Angeles home, spent a lifetime exploring darkness, death and love. The Canadian writer is best known for his music, including songs like “Hallelujah,” “Suzanne” and “Bird on the Wire,” but he didn’t release an album until he was 33. He began his career with two novels in the early 1960s, and continued to publish poetry throughout his life. In the 1990s, he left his career for a time to live as a Buddhist monk, settling at the Mount Baldy Zen monastery in southern California. He returned to music in the early 2000s; his last album, “You Want It Darker,” was released shortly before his death.
Gunter Zint/1970 K&K Ulf Kruger OHG/Redferns
Cohen was born into a religious Jewish family in Montreal on Sept. 21, 1934. His mother’s father, Solomon Klonitzki-Kline, was a Talmudic scholar, and Cohen “grew up in a synagogue that my ancestors built,” according to an October New Yorker profile. He attended McGill College, publishing his first poetry collection, “Let Us Compare Mythologies,” while still an undergraduate. He spent some time in London after college, then moved to Hydra, Greece, to work on fiction writing. While he found some success as an author, he turned to songwriting as a way to make more money, selling his first songs to folk-pop singer Judy Collins.
She encouraged him to take to the stage, despite his assertion that he was not a performer. He released his first album in 1967, but found live performances difficult, and used alcohol and drugs to quell his nervousness. In her autobiography, Collins described asking Cohen to open for her at a 1967 concert. Midway through his first song, he ran offstage, overcome with fright. Collins persuaded him to go back. “I knew once he got over his fear, he would be powerful on stage,” she wrote.