One of the finest writers of the 20th century, Leonard Cohen was born in Montreal on September 21, 1934. Cohen began studying and writing poetry as a youngster and formed his first band in high school, a country outfit called Buckskin Boys. Cohen attended Montreal's McGill University in the early '50s and had his first book of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies, published in 1956.
After Leonard Cohen finished school, he focused his energy on writing. He continued to publish poetry and even moved to the Greek Island Hydra for a time. In the late '60s, he decided to come back to the States to focus on music, and Cohen quickly became a favorite in the NYC folk scene. His debut album, 1967's Songs of Leonard Cohen was not a huge seller at first, but it received rave reviews and solidified Cohen as a brooding, brilliant young singer, capable of writing fascinating, literary songs. Its first track, "Suzanne," remains one of Cohen's most beloved songs. The late '60s and '70s was Cohen's most prolific era, as he crafted six albums, from Songs of Leonard Cohen to 1979's Recent Songs.
From there, Cohen slowed down considerably, only releasing two records in the '80s, and 1992's The Future represents his only studio album of that decade. The reason for Cohen's lack of productivity was his decision to enter Mt. Baldy Zen Center in 1994 to begin five years of seclusion. After Cohen emerged in 1999, he returned to music, releasing his 10th studio LP, Ten New Songs in 2001. He collaborated with producer/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Sharon Robinson on the record, which was a stunning return to form from Cohen, who was nearing his 70th birthday. His next album, 2004's Dear Heather was also well-received, with a strong emphasis on spoken word poetry.
Cohen made a triumphant return to the stage on February 19, 2009, when he played New York City's Beacon Theatre—his first show in America in 15 years. From there, Cohen embarked on an exhaustive international tour. The tour was a massive success, and Cohen's retrospective double-disc, 2009's Live in London, was captured at London's O2 Arena on July 17, 2008.