.Sylvie Simmons’ biography of Leonard Cohen takes us through the first 78 years of his life. I think it’s one of the best biographies of anyone I’ve ever read. She manages to reveal a massive amount of information about Leonard Cohen without being dull or disrespectful or obsequious. In this book, Sylvie Simmons reveals full command of her art and her subject. Somehow she managed to dig up all sorts of fascinating anecdotes about the great man that I hadn’t heard before. For example how, as a boy, he hypnotised a young girl into taking off all her clothes; how, on tour in France, he rode a horse on to the podium, and how he suffered from stage fright on his first public appearance with Judy Collins and ran off stage. Having seen Leonard Cohen’s relaxed performance at the O2 arena last year, it’s hard to imagine his having stage fright.
Whilst it is true that one can discover a vast amount about the mind of Leonard Cohen through his songs and books, this book is the glue that binds everything together and puts it in context. It covers in depth his spiritual journeys – he has explored Zen Buddhism, Scientology and of course Judaism.
The final part of the book tells the story of how Leonard Cohen lost all his money as a result of a hideous betrayal of faith by a trusted friend, who not only stole his money but also sold his precious songs. Yet out of this setback, we see Leonard find new vigour and set out on a world tour at the age of 74 and rebuild his fortune. The way that Sylvie Simmons describes all this is deeply moving and left me with a feeling of joy and hope.
Perhaps she will complete this biography when Leonard departs this worldly life – but the way he’s going now, from strength to strength, there’s a good chance he’s going to outlive a large number of his younger fans.
Very strongly recommended for all Leonard Cohen fans.