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Leonard Cohen, songwriter and poet, dies at 82

The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer was one of the most influential singer-songwriters during his five-decade career

Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, whose career spanned five decades and landed him in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, has died at age 82.

His record label announced his passing on Cohen's Facebook page Thursday evening.

Just a few weeks prior, Cohen caused quite a stir by telling the New Yorker, "I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me." He later backed-tracked during a live Q&A: "I’ve always been into self-dramatization. I intend to live forever.”

When Lou Reed inducted him into the Hall of Fame in 2008, Reed said Cohen was among "the highest and most influential echelon of songwriters," Billboard notes. (Watch that induction ceremony here.)

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's Leonard Cohen page begins with these words:

"There are few artists in the realm of popular music who can truly be called poets, in the classical, arts-and-letters sense of the word. Among them are Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell and Phil Ochs. Leonard Cohen heads this elite class."

Indeed, writing poetry was how Cohen got his start as an artist, Rolling Stone recounts. Cohen, who was born in the Canadian province of Quebec, lived on one of the Greek isles when his first three books were published.

But poor sales caused him to head to New York, where he fell in with the folk-rock scene, befriending Judy Collins, Reed, and Andy Warhol among others. The songs he was writing quickly caught the attention of his peers and he became "the songwriter's sonwriter," Rolling Stone says.

In the 1990s Cohen was ordained as a Buddhist monk. He entered a Zen center near Los Angeles in 1994 and lived there through 1998, Billboard says.

Cohen ended his musical silence in 2001 with the release of Ten New Songs.

During his spiritual isolation, Cohen had left his financial affairs to his business manager, Kelley Lynch. Cohen discovered in 2004 that Lynch had drained his retirement account of millions of dollars. Lynch was convicted of embezzling and a ordered her to repay Cohen, but he told The New Yorker this year he had not been able to collect.

To replenish his bank account, Cohen went on a world tour for the better part of two years starting in 2008.

He also continued making new music in the studio, becoming one of few people to enjoy artistic success into their 80s, Rolling Stone says.

His last release, You Want it Darker, came out earlier this year.

Details of a memorial service in the Los Angeles area are pending.

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