Leonard Cohen. Photograph by Clara Molden
Leonard Cohen (b. 1934) is one of the premier singer-songwriters of his generation. In the 1960s Cohen joined Bob Dylan and other songwriters in applying poetic talents to writing lyrics set to music, transforming popular music into a literary medium. Cohen was born into a middle-class Jewish family in Westmount, Quebec, an English-speaking section of Montreal. His song “Hallelujah” was released in 1984 on the album Various Positions and today has been covered over 300 times by recording artists such as Willie Nelson, Bono, and Bon Jovi. Cohen spent years revising the song and wrote over 80 verses before editing it into its final form. The BBC produced an hour-long documentary on the 25th anniversary of the song’s release: titled The Fourth, the Fifth, the Minor Fall, the program presented the history of the song and its impact on popular culture. Cohen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.