RECESSION? What recession? There has certainly been no shortage of takers for Leonard Cohen’s Tuesday night concert at the Bournemouth International Centre.

Even though top-price seats cost an eye-watering £75 a head, they sold out in near record time.

He may be dismissed by some as the Prince of Pain, a droning bed-sit troubadour who produces little more than music to slash your wrists to.

But singer-songwriter, poet, novelist and one-time Buddhist monk Cohen is so much more than that.

A hugely important figure in the world of popular culture, he is an artist who combines deep literary roots with an intuitive ability to communicate; a writer and philosopher who uses words and music more effectively than anyone other than possibly Bob Dylan.

This 74-year-old French Canadian found success as a poet way back in 1961 with his critically acclaimed book The Spice-Box of Earth.

But it was his 1967 album The Songs of Leonard Cohen that made him a household name. He had been signed by John Hammond at Columbia Records, a man whose ear for left-field genius had already seen him add both Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan to the label’s roster.

Songs like Suzanne and Bird on a Wire were perfect for a post-beat generation of hippies who had grown up with the poetry of Ginsberg and Rexroth ringing in their ears.

Adding to Cohen’s appeal was his ability to convey words in a musical setting that straddled the worlds of European traditional dance music and more familiar acoustic folk.

Soon Cohen was living in New York, hanging out with Dylan and Warhol and enjoying pleasures, later immortalised in song, with the late lamented Janis Joplin.

Leonard Cohen has never been a technically good singer but his voice is highly distinctive and used with great intelligence.

Gradually, as the decades have passed and his distinctive bass baritone has grown deeper, Cohen has set it against – with devastating effect – everything from electronic synthesizers and female backing singers to gypsy violins and balalaikas.

His songs, meanwhile, can deal with the biggest of issues – religion, sex and philosophy – yet still sell in huge quantities.

His early literary influences included Yeats, Walt Whitman and Henry Miller and his material references everyone from Longfellow and Lorca to Hank Williams.

Even though his career appeared to nose-dive in the 1970s, it enjoyed a revival a decade later thanks largely to his some-time backing singer Jennifer Warnes, who recorded an album of his songs.

This “Jenny sings Lenny” project introduced numbers like Famous Blue Raincoat and First We Take Manhattan to a whole new audience.

Cohen’s own albums, like I’m Your Man and The Future, followed, re-establishing him as a cult favourite.

During the 1990s, Cohen spent five years in retreat at a Zen centre in the mountains near Los Angeles and he was eventually ordained as a monk, taking the Dharma name of Jikhan, which means silence – a singularly curious choice, perhaps, for a man whose life had been inextricably linked with the recitation and singing of words.

Unfortunately for Cohen, his spiritual elevation was accompanied by a reminder of the earthly greed of others when he discovered that in his absence $5m had vanished from his personal retirement fund and that he no longer owned the publishing rights to a number of his songs.

Down to his last $150,000, he appeared simply to shrug, put his touring boots on and start working very hard indeed.