NEW YORK • When Leonard Co- hen's family announced last week that he had died at 82, it gave no cause. Although the poet and songwriter had been open about his failing health in recent months, fans knew little other than what The New Yorker reported in its weekly radio show, that Cohen had been battling cancer.
On Wednesday, however, his manager Robert B. Kory offered more details about his client's death. "Leonard Cohen died during his sleep following a fall in the middle of the night on Nov 7," Mr Kory said in a statement. "The death was sudden, unexpected and peaceful."
In the months before his death, Cohen was busy. Even as his body was growing frail and he was experiencing pains in his back, he was working diligently to bring several projects to completion, according to friends and colleagues.
In addition to finishing his last album, You Want It Darker, released last month, he was working on two other musical projects and a book of poetry.
"He felt the window getting narrower," said Patrick Leonard, a producer and songwriter who had worked closely with Cohen on his last three albums. "He wanted to use the time as productively as he could to finish the work that he was so good at and so devoted to."
Cohen, whose working pace was slow - he took five years to write his most famous song, Hallelujah - had been extremely productive in recent years, touring steadily between 2008 and 2013 and releasing three studio albums since 2012. Some of that work, his collaborators say, was a matter of polishing material he had been working on for many years.
Leonard said that when Cohen died, they were at work on an album of string arrangements of his songs and another of songs that he said were inspired by old rhythm- and-blues grooves.
Describing their working method, Leonard, who has collaborated with Madonna, Pink Floyd and many other artists, said he would sometimes get e-mail through the night in which Cohen tweaked lyrics. Then Cohen joked about it in further e-mail the next day. "I feel grateful that I have been able to have my e-mail ding," he said, "and there's a new Leonard Cohen lyric."
At times this year, people who wrote to Cohen - usually a dependable correspondent on e-mail - got an automatic response.
Chris Douridas, a host on the California public radio station KCRW, got a terse "Unable to read/reply" and had a worried feeling. "It told me that he was unplugging from the digital world," he said.
But that message was also Cohen's way of keeping distractions at bay while he worked.
In the months before his death, he appeared to have engaged in as much creative activity as he could. Leonard said he e-mailed Cohen a set of new R&B tracks the morning he died. Other friends spoke of dining with him days before.
Last month, Cohen and his son, Adam, who produced You Want It Darker, were interviewed by Douridas in a promotional event for the album at the Consulate General of Canada in Los Angeles. Cohen had to be helped to his seat.
But he spoke with his typical mixture of spiritual wisdom and dark, self-effacing wit.
"I've often said that if I knew where the good songs came from, I'd go there more often," Cohen said, in his dry, deep baritone, when asked about his songwriting method.
Douridas said that after the event, he asked Adam Cohen whether fans could expect another album. "He genuinely seemed to not know the answer to that question," Douridas said.
Through a representative, Adam Cohen declined to comment for this article, but in a Facebook post last week announcing his father's burial, he wrote: "As I write this, I'm thinking of my father's unique blend of self-deprecation and dignity, his approachable elegance, his charisma without audacity, his old-world gentlemanliness and the hand-forged tower of his work."