RIP: Leonard Cohen, Pete Burns

Posted November 12, 2016 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

Remembering the “Hallelujah” songwriter and Dead or Alive frontman 

We are saddened to report the passing of two music icons, Leonard Cohen and Pete Burns. Though we at HiFi have focused much of our reporting on Top 40 pop lately, the achievements and legacies of the following two artists are deeply felt and impact us all.

Leonard Cohen, one of the greatest folk singer/songwriters and musical poets of the 21st century, passed away at the age of 82, only three weeks after releasing his last album You Want It Darker. With recording spanning back to 1967, Cohen’s collection of songs include “Bird on the Wire,” “So Long, Miranne,” “Bird on the Wire,” “Suzanne” and the vastly covered “Hallelujah” — a song first appearing in 1984 on Cohen’s Various Positions but popularly covered by Jeff Buckley and now has been re-recorded over 300 versions worldwide. His achievements are rich and diverse, including a 2008 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award and inductions in both the Canadian Folk Music Walk of Fame and Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame  It’s been reported that Cohen passed away at his Los Angeles home on November 7, 2016, although it was announced to the world much later on November 10, the same day a private funeral with family and friends.

Cohen was survived by his two children and two grandchildren. No word is available on what was the cause of death.

Weeks ago on October 23, Dead or Alive frontman Pete Burns passed away. The androgynous UK-born performer, who became a major influence on Culture Club’s Boy George, hit the mainstream with the success of 1985’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” a song that peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the UK Singles chart. The inspiration of the song, according to Burns’ account, was that he was listening to Luther Vandross’s “I Wanted Your Love” and Little Nell’s “See You ‘Round Like a Record.” The song became a huge hit in the ’80’s and went on to live in the world of sampling when Flo Rida along with Ke$ha used elements of it in 2009’s huge hit “Right Round.” Dead or Alive continued to record throughout the ’80’s and even in the 2000’s with their seventh album Fragile, but failed to reach similar heights, although “Brand New Lover” hit number one on the Billboard Dance charts and number 15 pop. Burns, a queer man, also became a gay icon, thanks to Dead or Alive’s loyalty to gay clubs and Pride festivals. Burns died of cardiac arrest at the age of 57, putting the future of the band on hold.

As a sidenote, Burns struggled financially in his last days, dying penniless according to news reports. Boy George stepped in to pay for funeral costs.

“Pete never really got his life together and was very disorganized which is why there was nothing left,” a source told the Sun newspaper. “When George got wind of this, he offered to pay for the whole thing straight away. He told [ex-wife] Lynne [Corlett] not to worry and said he would take care of it. He thinks she and [ex-husband] Michael [Simpson] have enough on their plates and wanted to take this concern away from them.”


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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