(JTA) — Israel’s president and prime minister both paid tribute to the Canadian Jewish singer and poet Leonard Cohen, who died at the age of 82.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Cohen as “a talented artist and warmhearted Jew who loved the people of Israel and the state of Israel,” as he wrote on Twitter Friday.
“I will never forget how he came during the Yom Kippur War to sing to our troops because he felt he was a partner,” tweeted Netanyahu, who was a soldier in that war in 1973.
President Reuven Rivlin took to Facebook Friday, writing about himself and his wife, Nechama: “This morning we looked at each other and thought the same thoughts: ‘Dance Me to the End of Love’ was the soundtrack to so many moments in our life as a couple and as a family. It added, like so many of his songs, a spirit and depth of emotion into our everyday lives.
“How sad to part from this man whose voice and face accompanied us for so many years. A giant of a creator, open to all people, who also knew how to accompany the State of Israel in the fields of battle and in times of growth,” Rivlin wrote.
On Thursday night, Cohen’s official Facebook page carried a statement announcing his passing.
“It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away,” read the statement. “We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries.”
It did not give a cause of death, but said there would be a funeral in Los Angeles in coming days.
Cohen, born in 1934 in Montreal, was playing folk guitar by the time he was 15, when he learned the resistance song, “The Partisan,” working at a camp, from an older friend.
As a student at McGill University, he became part of Montreal’s burgeoning alternative art scene, one bursting with nervous energy at a time that tensions between Quebec’s French and English speakers were coming to the fore.
He began to publish poetry and then novels, and was noticed by the national Canadian press. Moving to New York in the late 1960s, he began to put his words to music.
His sung poetry, termed spiritual by many critics, featured many references to Judaism and other religions.
Cohen embraced Buddhism, but never stopped saying he was Jewish. His music more often than not dealt directly not just with his faith, but with his Jewish people’s story.
His most famous song, covered hundreds of times, is “Hallelujah” – he has said its unpublished verses are endless, but in its recorded version, it is about the sacred anguish felt by King David as he contemplates the beauty of the forbidden Bathsheba.