Leonard Cohen biography
Leonard Norman Cohen, (born 21 September 1934) is a Canadian Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter, musician, poet, and novelist. His work often explores religion, isolation, sexuality, and interpersonal relationships. Cohen has been inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is also a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honour. In 2011 Cohen received a Prince of Asturias Award for literature.
The critic Bruce Eder wrote an assessment of Cohen's overall career in popular music, writing, "Cohen 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."
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 two hundred of Cohen's poems "¦ several novel excerpts, and almost sixty 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."
Early lifeCohen was born on 21 September 1934 in Westmount, an English-speaking area of Montreal, Quebec, into a middle-class Jewish family. His mother, Marsha (Masha) Klonitsky, was the daughter of a Talmudic writer, Rabbi Solomon Klonitsky-Kline of Lithuanian Jewish ancestry. His paternal grandfather, whose family had emigrated from Poland, was Lyon Cohen, founding president of the Canadian Jewish Congress. His father, Nathan Cohen, who owned a substantial clothing store, died when Cohen was nine years old. On the topic of being a Kohen, Cohen has said that, "I had a very Messianic childhood." He told Richard Goldstein in 1967, "I was told I was a descendant of Aaron, the high priest."
Cohen attended Roslyn Elementary School and, from 1948, Westmount High School, where he was involved with the student council and studied music and poetry. He became especially interested in the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca. As a teenager, he learned to play the guitar, and formed a country-folk group called the Buckskin Boys. Although he initially played a regular acoustic guitar, he soon switched to playing a classical guitar after meeting a young Spanish flamenco guitar player who taught him "a few chords and some flamenco."
Cohen frequented Saint-Laurent Boulevard where he went for fun, and ate at places such as the Main Deli Steak House. According to journalist David Sax, the Main Deli was where Cohen and one of his cousins would go to "...watch the gangsters, pimps, and wrestlers dance around the night." Cohen also enjoyed visiting the previously raucous bars of Old Montreal as well as Saint Joseph's Oratory, which had the closest restaurant near Westmont where he and his friend Mort Rosengarten could go for coffee and a smoke. After moving out of Westmount, Cohen purchased a place in the previous working-class neighborhood of Montreal's Little Portugal on Saint-Laurent Boulevard where he read his poetry at various surrounding clubs. It is also during his time there in the small neighborhood that he wrote the lyrics to what would become some of his most famous songs.
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