Leonard Cohen was a poet who brought his lonely, soulful lyrics to music, startling fans with his fresh turns of phrase.

His use of biblical imagery and word portraits of life in bars and on the road lent a gravity to songs delivered in a gritty, baritone voice.

Upon accepting a Juno in 1993, he joked, "Only in Canada could somebody with a voice like mine win vocalist of the year."

Throughout his career, Cohen returned to themes of brokenness, decay and death. But underneath the downbeat words was a sly humour, poking fun at himself and the world.

It was mesmerizing.

Here are some favourites from Canada's melancholy bard:


"And the sun pours down like honey on our lady of the harbour. And she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers."



Years after its 1984 release, Cohen's sad hymn to love became an unlikely hit, covered by numerous artists, from Jeff Buckley and k.d. lang, to Justin Timberlake and Steven Page.

 "And it's not a cry that you hear at night. It's not somebody who's seen the light. It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah."

Bird on a Wire

"Like a bird on the wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free."

Closing Time

"And the moon is swimming naked and the summer night is fragrant with a mighty expectation of relief."

First We Take Manhattan

"They sentenced me to 20 years of boredom for trying to change the system from within."

You Want it Darker

There are no videos out of Cohen's last album, released last month. But his words make it clear he was thinking about how to greet death.

"If you are the dealer, let me out of the game. If you are the healer, I'm broken and lame."