Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen, a Premier Poet, Superb Songwriter, and Zen Buddhist Monk | County Grind | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

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Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen, a Premier Poet, Superb Songwriter, and Zen Buddhist Monk

At the relatively ripe old age of age 78, Leonard Cohen still retains a powerful grip on the folk-rock firmament. This isn't due only to his venerable age and indomitable presence but to the robust narratives and surreal imagery that inhabit his songs. 

Born in Montreal on September 21, 1934, Cohen belongs to the original school of early to mid- '60s songwriters, a contingent that also includes Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Judy Collins, and Joan Baez. Primarily a poet, he infused his material with a striking lyrical illumination unmatched by any of his contemporaries. Revered by fans and critics alike, he's managed to reinvent himself several times throughout his career -- one that's yielded 12 studio albums to date -- and yet never lost his hallowed stature.

Cohen's contributions to music and the arts have garnered him a daunting list of accolades -- induction into both the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, lifetime achievement awards, Grammys, Junos, and literary recognitions. That such honors would be bestowed on an artist who began his efforts as a poet and novelist seems all too appropriate, but the fact that he never shed his artistic intentions and managed to incorporate them into songs that became part of the popular landscape also speaks to his skills and sentiments. 

A Zen practitioner, committed Buddhist, and religious Jew, he elevates his music by exploring themes of spirituality, sex, individuality, and the human condition. It's not surprising, then, that many of his album titles -- Songs From a Room, Songs of Love and Hate, The Future, Old Ideas -- offer testament to his deep, and often dark, philosophical focus.

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Lee Zimmerman

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