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4.5 out of 5 stars103
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on 27 July 2013
This is seemingly a credibly researched and certainly is a well written book. However, as a fan of Leonard Cohen's music (well lyrics to be precise) the book certainly humanizes a legend who has created an influential body of work and retains a sizeable fan base. He is depicted as an intense, obsessive eccentric who indulged in drugs, sexual innuendo, depression and surrounded himself with many an artiste or muse. A creative, intellectual soul. A socially reclusive paradox, yet liked by most.

I am no less impressed with Cohen, the man, from reading this book. In fact, it depicts a laudable lifelong struggle and an intense focus on the road to relentlessly voicing his imagery. Despite criticism and privilege, his legacy is worthy of colossal praise, especially since his work retains relevance today more than ever. His current sell-out appearances bear testimony to this. The book doesn't worship Cohen or patronise the reader. The reason why I have not awarded the book 5 stars is that it is melancholic, dry and slow at times. Cohen is in show business after all.

Leonard Cohen's legacy from decades as an evocator (not oracle) is assured and this book does well at demystifying some mythology that surrounds him. For those touched by his work and are curious to know more, I recommend this book. For others, it will probably appear rather indulgent and long winded. I benefited from and enjoyed this read and am well pleased.
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on 16 February 2013
My measure of a good book is the speed at which I read it. When I'm in the middle of the story and I can't wait for the next bit, I'll start carrying the book around with me. As I approach the end I'll slow down, sad that it has to finish. This book has been a breath of fresh air and like all good books on songwriters it draws you back to listen afresh with a better understanding.
Sylvie Simmons has put together a cleverly balanced book that really does justice to her subject. There is a lightness to the writing that avoids getting too bogged down in every word that Leonard puts down in a poem or song. Indeed I found it refreshing that she doesn't try to cover every song on every album, but rather picks out the ones that have significance to the overall life-story of the man.
I particularly enjoyed the sections on his struggles to express his songs in the recording studios of the time, and then in the final section, the momentum that gathered towards his triumphant return to the touring circuit.
It's a story of a man who has lived life to the full and has been open to the journey of self-discovery. Like all humans he's flawed, and struggles with the meaning of it all. From poet to performer, from womanising rascal to Zen Budhhist monk, what a story. I'm just glad he made it to old age, as the wisdom he's picked up along the way has something to teach us all. A fine book.
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on 4 April 2013
I am a Cohen fan and have been for over 40 years so an authoritative biography was most enjoyable. I felt it was strongest and most well written when dealing with Len's Montreal and Hydra years and his establishment in the Canada literati. Once into the music - perhaps because that's where I'm more familiar, each chapter just seemed to roll from one album to another but throughout it remained a very interesting read.
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on 19 November 2012
Sylvie Simmons is one of the best living writers about music and musicians. This is her masterpiece to date, a detailed and nuanced yet pacy narrative with well-judged critical asides on the art that arises from the life of one of music's greatest living geniuses. Leonard Cohen fans are not frightened of demands being put on their minds, and they will cherish a biography that both honours your intelligence and does justice to LC by revealing him fully in the round as a human being. A biography of this quality has been long overdue.
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on 6 June 2013
As a lifelong fan of Cohen's music, I have been delighted by the excellence of his recent work, and deeply regret not having gone to see him on the now legendary tour of 08/09. I bought this book hoping to gain an insight into the source of these wonderful songs - but definitely gained a whole lot more than that. The book is beautifully written , keeps the reader engaged at all times and despite being a long and comprehensive overview of Cohen's work, it is never less than gripping. Avoiding sycophancy it weaves together the influences that produce such great art. leonard Cohen defies categorisation - Jew, poet,singer,writer, artist, lover, rock star, monk - and yet this portrayal remains very human, treating his all too human flaws with honesty and respect. I found myself laughing, crying, singing along as I read - and have also found myself buying some of the poetry and albums,or looking for songs online, wanting to fully experience the work as opposed to just reading about it. This book is a real achievement - and one I will come back to time and time again.
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on 12 June 2016
I'm a member of the 1970s generation of students which spent as much time listening to Leonard Cohen's penetrating lyrics as to studying so when I spotted this in a second-hand bookstore I grabbed it. What a mistake that was. I should have left it to gather dust on the shelf.

It is padded with irrelevant material and quotes from minor players right from the first paragraph and although Cohen himself spoke to the author, it is obvious that he revealed little if anything about himself.

What we end up with is a story without a living character – a lifeless biography as it were. There is the predictable emphasis on sex and drugs and rock and roll, along with tedious accounts of trips, tours across European, the US and Canada, recording sessions etc. Lots of the material has just been copied and pasted from old interviews and the accompanying black and white photos are small, grainy and unenlightening.

If you are also a Leonard Cohen fan, I suggest you ignore this and go back to his original earliest works which were the best.
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on 11 March 2016
This was a compulsive read, especially strong in informing us about the conditions and circumstances behind the recordings of the various albums, giving faces and stories to the sounds I know so well, having become a Leonard Cohen fan in high school--can still see my friend's lliving room where I first heard that compelling Spanish guitar.
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on 13 February 2013
I am half way through this tome and have to say it is very well researched, with footnotes etc.The writing style is a little staid and there are few direct quotes from Leonard.The lyrics are not quoted which is a pity.
It is not too intrusive or gossipy and colours in the portrait of the artist for me.
As one who came to love Cohen only in the latter years, it gives me the history I craved and makes me see Leonard more as a lover than a philosopher. I look forward to seeing him onstage once again with a deeper appreciation of his "backstory".
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on 8 March 2013
Have been an avid Cohen fan for many years. Rarely have the patience to read a book, this was an exception. Could hardly put the book down. Hugely compelling and leaves few stones unturned in this amazing mans life. The last few chapters about his financial problems left tears in my eyes. Saw Leonard in Dublin in September 2012 and the comments about the show and performance are precise ( 4 hour show by a 77 year old, amazing ). The man is a joy to behold and this book is an essential aid to understanding him a little bit more.
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VINE VOICEon 10 August 2013
Anyone who likes Leonard will enjoy this well written and sympathetic book. It has many fascinating stories that I hadn't heard before. It is a history of the pop music scene over five decades, as he was in the middle of it all. He did drop out later to go into BUDDHIST MONASTERY. He was forced to start touring again due to financial problems. His tours are sell outs wherever he goes in the world.
A troubled GENIUS who can reach the hearts of people of all creeds and none.
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