Confirming once again that 2016 will go down as a tragic year of loss of our music icons, Leonard Cohen has passed away aged 82.

A brief statement from the musician’s record label on Facebook stated:

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 published poet and novelist before making the move into music, Cohen was arguably the most literary of his generation of singer-songwriters and his seductive baritone – which could be warm or weary, deadpan or despairing – also set him apart from his contemporaries. Unlike many of other ’60s icons, he also continued to release acclaimed albums throughout the past two decades; his most recent studio album You Want It Darker was released just a few weeks ago.

Born in Quebec in 1934, Cohen learnt to play the guitar as a teenager but initially pursued a career in literature. He published his first poetry collection Let Us Compare Mythologies in 1955 and followed that with The Spice-Box of Earth (1961) and Flowers for Hitler (1964), along with the novels The Favourite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966).

Struggling to make a living as a writer, Cohen decided to try his hand at music instead, and enjoyed almost immediate success when folk singer Judy Collins recorded a version of Suzanne in 1966. Collins was the first of many artists to tackle what would become one of Cohen’s signature songs.

Cohen recorded it himself the following year for his debut The Songs Of Leonard Cohen, a gorgeously melancholic collection of acoustic-flavoured folk songs that also included the classics So Long Marianne and Sisters Of Mercy. His next two albums, Songs From A Room (1969) and Songs Of Love And Hate (1971), also yielded two more seminal Cohen songs: Bird On The Wire and Famous Blue Raincoat, both of which have been widely covered by other artists; the latter album also included Avalanche, which was memorably remade by Nick Cave on his debut album with band The Bad Seeds, From Her To Eternity.

Although still rooted in folk, New Skin For The Old Ceremony (1974) found Cohen exploring a looser, more expansive sound, but his first stab at an out-and-out pop/rock album Death Of A Ladies’ Man (1977) – recorded with Wall of Sound producer Phil Spector – alienated both fans and critics.

Recent Songs (1979) saw him retreat back to the safety of folk, but with Various Positions (1984) he reinvented himself more successfully with a curious hybrid of acoustic balladry and synth-flavoured country waltzes; the album included the elegant Dance Me To The End of Love and Halleleujah, which was later popularized by Jeff Buckley.  I’m Your Man (1988) saw him fully embrace electro-pop and included latter day fan favourites such as First We Take Manhattan, Ain’t No Cure For Love and Everybody Knows.

The following decade was quieter for Cohen – he became a Buddhist monk – with just one new studio album The Future (1992), but he bounced back in 2001 with Ten New Songs, which saw him discover a valued new collaborator in Sharon Robinson. When he sued his manager for embezzlement in 2005, he also became an unlikely fixture on the live circuit to replenish his funds, as well recording highly regarded new albums such as Old Ideas (2012), Popular Problems (2014) and this year’s You Want It Darker, along with live sets such as Songs From The Road (2010) and Can’t Forget: A Souvenir Of The Grand Tour (2015).

The superb documentary Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, which centred on a tribute concert recorded at the Sydney Opera House in 2006, gave an indication of the regard in which Cohen was held, featuring appearances from long-time fans such as Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, Beth Orton and Jarvis Cocker. U2 also joined Cohen on a recording of Tower Of Song, which provided a typically wry take on his career and presents a fitting epigraph from one of music’s greats:

Now I bid you farewell, I don’t know when I’ll be back
They’re moving us tomorrow to that tower down the track
But you’ll be hearing from me baby, long after I’m gone
I’ll be speaking to you sweetly from a window in the Tower of Song.