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Leonard Cohen reflects on his 80th birthday, new album 'Popular Problems'

Leonard Cohen attends a listening party for his

Leonard Cohen attends a listening party for his new album "Popular Problems" on Thursday, Sept 18, 2014, at Joe's Pub in Manhattan. Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Leonard Cohen says he has big plans for his 80th birthday on Sunday.

No, they don’t involve the release Tuesday of his 16th album, “Popular Problems” (Columbia), a nine-song collaboration with producer Patrick Leonard, best known for his work with Madonna.

 “In my family, we have a very charitable approach to birthdays,” the legendary Canadian singer-songwriter told journalists and music industry insiders at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan on Thursday. “We ignore them.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer called the album’s timing a “happy accident,” adding with his charming, dry sense of humor that he has a “benevolent amnesia about the whole project.” (His favorite thing about “Popular Problems”: “The thing I cherish about the work is the done-ness,” he said.)

Even the theme of war, which runs through the album, wasn’t planned, Cohen said. “It’s always a mess,” he said of the current conflicts around the world. “The mess is just a bit messier than it’s been in the past.”

Cohen doesn’t currently have touring plans, but he is still happy he went back on the road in 2008, following a 15-year break. “Getting back on the road has improved my mood considerably,” he said. “I was never good at civilian life.”

So what does the “Hallelujah” singer have planned for his birthday? Well, he plans to make good on his famous promise that he will take up smoking again when he turns 80.

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“Does anybody have a cigarette?” he asked with a chuckle. “Seriously, does anybody know where you can buy a Turkish or Greek cigarette around here? I'm looking forward to that first smoke, I've been looking forward to for about 30 years. It's one of the few consistent strains of thought I've had.”

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