Leonard Cohen's dark but compelling blend of heady eroticism and brooding despair has earned him a devoted following as a singer, songwriter, poet, and novelist, and if the dour nature of his writing and the deep, craggy qualities of his voice have defined him as an acquired taste, enough people have come to develop an appreciation for his work that he's gained a worldwide reputation as one of the leading musical and literary figures of his generation.
Leonard Cohen was born in 1934 to a well-to-do family in Montreal, Canada; his father, who ran a successful clothing company, died when Leonard was only nine years of age. Encouraged by his mother to express himself creatively, Cohen began writing poetry in his early teens, and developed an interest in music (initially, he's said, because singing seemed a good way to impress girls). Cohen began writing and performing his own songs by the age of 15, and while a student at Montreal's McGill University, he formed a country & western combo called the Buckskin Boys. Cohen also began publishing his poetry while studying at McGill, and in 1956, a year after he graduated, Cohen published his first collection of verse, Let Us Compare Mythologies. While his first book was well-received but sold poorly, his second effort, 1961's The Spice Box of Earth, became an international success, and Cohen soon moved on to writing fiction, publishing two acclaimed novels, The Favorite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966). Cohen became something of a literary celebrity, and was the subject of a 1965 documentary, Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. Leonard Cohen, which examined Cohen as an artist, ladies' man, and free-thinker as he moved between homes in Montreal, New York, and the Greek island of Hydra.