Profile: Leonard Cohen

With the recent passing of Leonard Cohen, I deemed it appropriate to compose a post addressing his biography and who exactly he was as a Canadian icon.

Cohen was born on September 21st 1934 and passed away on November 7th, 2016. He was known for being a Canadian painter, novelist, poet, musician, songwriter and singer. A lot of his works are seen to be quite controversial, considering he analyzed topics in his works such as religion, politics and sexuality, though he is arguably one of the most highly recognized Canadian figures in the realm of the arts. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and furthermore the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, however he once stated in an interview that he is not a musician and instead considered himself to be a writer. He began his writing career in 1950 and did not become involved in music until 1967 when he was thirty-three years of age.

I am taking a course titled Modern Canadian Literature, and we are currently reading Cohen’s text Beautiful Losers. I can say with confidence I have never read a text similar to this one, and the language Cohen uses in Beautiful Losers is incredibly crude, vulgar and sexual. We discussed in class how this text broke through the formalistic structure of typical literature in Canada when it was released, and how despite its controversial content it is seen as one of the greatest pieces of Canadian literature to date. The text depicts Cohen’s anguish and sorrow when he discovers his best friend has been having an affair with his wife, and although the structure can be difficult to decipher and follow, it is an emotional text that can be acknowledged as a piece of modernistic Canadian literature.

It is unfortunate that Cohen tends to be associated with his musical career rather than his writing career, especially because he emphasized throughout his life that he was not a musician. He is arguably most-known for his song “Hallelujah”, but even this is misinterpreted by the public because it is intended to describe his heartbreak regarding his wife’s affair however most persons interpret it as a love song. I think a lot of persons inaccurately perceive Cohen, myself included prior to reading his work, and I think in order to properly remember him we need to acknowledge the contributions he made to society that he wanted the public to acknowledge.



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