The iconic star was behind hits including Hallelujah and Bird on a Wire.
The Hallelujah star, whose career spanned over five decades, “passed away peacefully” at home, with his death confirmed by his label and son.
A message posted on the singer’s Facebook page on Thursday night read: “It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away.
“We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries. A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date.
“The family requests privacy during their time of grief.”
Leonard Cohen in 1980
A cause of death has not been confirmed at this time but in a statement to Rolling Stone, his son Adam said: “My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records.
“He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humor.”
While Cohen’s manager, Robert Kroy, said in a statement: “Unmatched in his creativity, insight and crippling candor, Leonard Cohen was a true visionary whose voice will be sorely missed.
“I was blessed to call him a friend, and for me to serve that bold artistic spirit firsthand, was a privilege and great gift. He leaves behind a legacy of work that will bring insight, inspiration and healing for generations to come.”
Cohen, a native of Quebec, was already a celebrated poet and novelist when he moved to New York in 1966 at age 31 to break into the music business.
Before long, critics were comparing him to Bob Dylan for the lyrical force of his songwriting.
Although he influenced many musicians and won many honours, including induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Order of Canada, Cohen rarely made the pop music charts with his
sometimes moody folk-rock.
Cohen’s many honours included a 2010 Lifetime Achievement Grammy.
But Cohen’s most famous song, “Hallelujah,” in which he invoked the biblical King David and drew parallels between physical love and a desire for spiritual connection, has been covered hundreds of times since he released it in 1984.
He is survived by a son and daughter from his relationship with Suzanne Elrod.
Cohen never recorded a chart single and didn’t place an album in the top 10 until he was in his 70s, but his ardent fans and musical peers viewed him as a musical craftsman with few equals.
Leonard Cohen at the 41st Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony in 2010
He counted Nobel Prize-winning singer and songwriter Bob Dylan among his fans and despite his advancing age was touring as recently as earlier this year.
Dylan told The New Yorker in October that Cohen’s best work was “deep and truthful, “multidimensional” and “surprisingly melodic”.
It has not been revealed how Cohen died, but he suggested he had come to terms with his approaching death in the same article.
Leonard Cohen released an album last month
He told the magazine: “I’ve got some work to do. Take care of business. I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.”
The grandfather later qualified his comments in another interview, saying: “I think I was exaggerating. I’ve always been into self-dramatisation. I intend to live for ever.”
Cohen considered himself both a Jew and a Buddhist and from 1994 to 1999 lived as a disciple of Joshu Sasaki Roshi, a Zen Buddhist monk he met at university.
Born to a Jewish family on September 21 1934, Cohen’s first concerted musical effort came in his teens when he formed a country music group called the Buckskin Boys
He went on to attend McGill University where in 1956 he published his first poetry book, Let Us Compare Mythologies, to plaudits.
His first album, Songs Of Leonard Cohen, came in 1968. He released Hallelujah in 1984, and it was covered by Buckley in the 1990s.
Leonard Cohen performing on stage at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970
One of Cohen’s greatest hits was 1967’s So Long Marianne, written for former lover and muse Marianne Ihlen, who also inspired his song Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.
Ihlen died aged 81 in July and in a letter reportedly read to her on her deathbed, Cohen said: “Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.”
As a songwriter, his themes encompassed love in all its manifestations, religion, faith and the tenuous state of the world. Like Hallelujah, many of his tunes – his breakthrough composition Suzanne, Bird on the Wire, Tower of Song – became much – covered keystones of the popular songbook. His longtime accompanist Jennifer Warnes recorded several of his best-known works on her 1987 Cohen recital Famous Blue Raincoat.
Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah has been covered over 200 times
Like his art, his life evidenced a dynamic tension between sexuality and spirituality. He was a well-known womanizer whose many romantic partners included fellow Canadian musician Joni Mitchell and actress Rebecca De Mornay. Yet he would famously reject the world of the flesh: Torn by depression and doubt about his life and career, he withdrew to spend more than five years in a Buddhist monastery; he later studied at a Hindu ashram in Mumbai.
A financial crisis late in life led to a fresh burst of fame. After his business manager embezzled millions from him, the impecunious Cohen embarked on a 2008-10 world tour that restored his fortune and renewed his reputation. His 2012 album “Old Ideas,” released at the age of 77, became his highest-charting release ever, debuting at No. 3 in the U.S.