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63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen
This is unquestionably the finest biography of Leonard Cohen to date, and one that is unlikely to be bettered in the foreseeable future. Sylvie Simmons illuminates Leonard's life in greater detail than any of the previous biographies, and covers his family background and the main developments in his artistic and spiritual journey. This achievement results from the author...
Published 21 months ago by J. Etherington

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 500 pages is just too long
I'm a big Leonard Cohen fan and have been for decades. I bought this book full price from a bookshop to try to support the local retailer. However, after starting to skip multiple pages I gave up.

Then I started again - give it another chance - and finally gave up again at about page 150 out of 500.

There is just far too much detail. Do we really...
Published 4 months ago by RB


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63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, 1 Nov 2012
By 
J. Etherington "John E" (London, England.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is unquestionably the finest biography of Leonard Cohen to date, and one that is unlikely to be bettered in the foreseeable future. Sylvie Simmons illuminates Leonard's life in greater detail than any of the previous biographies, and covers his family background and the main developments in his artistic and spiritual journey. This achievement results from the author having interviewed numerous key figures in Leonard's life, as well as the great man himself. Sylvie's book is lucid, beautifully-written, and truly hard to put down. It is also well-structured, with an appropriate amount of space being given to the various stages of Leonard's life. His early days as a young poet and author in Montreal, Hampstead, and Hydra are brought alive as never before, as is his transition to recording artist. All of his best-known relationships with women are put into context, and I particularly took interest in the part covering New York, Nico, and Janis Joplin. Leonard's use of drugs in the Sixties and early Seventies is also well-covered. Thus, we see the complexities of his life unfold before our eyes, through depression, to happier days in recent years.

Although I have followed Leonard's career consistently since 1968, Sylvie's book still brings many revelations. Stories that were only touched upon by the music press are explained more fully; Leonard's tour of mental hospitals in the late Sixties; his communication with artist/psychiatric patient Daphne Richardson, his stint with the Israeli army, his arrival onstage at a festival in France on a horse, his interest in Velikovsky, and most surprisingly an early encounter with Jimi Hendrix. Sylvie doesn't attempt any deep critical analysis of Leonard's writings, but she gives sufficient outlines, and makes astute observations about some of his songs such as "The Gypsy's Wife". She also writes a relatively lengthy piece about "Hallelujah". The later years are covered thoroughly, with mention of all of Leonard's lesser-known projects in the Nineties and new millennium. There is a vivid evocation of his life as a Buddhist monk, and his time with Ramesh Balsekar in India. There is also a detailed description of the financial crisis that led to his remarkable return to touring in 2008, and the release of his album "Old Ideas" in 2012. That said, I would still like to see the recorded evidence for Leonard's birth time!
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poet laureate of spiritual and sexual striving receives first class treatment, 2 Nov 2012
By 
Mick Gold (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This is a fabulous biography which does justice to the complexity of Cohen's work and is beautifully written. Cohen has had an extraordinary career. Signed by John Hammond for Columbia Records as a 32 year old poet, Cohen had a top ten hit with Old Ideas in 2012 at the age of 77. Cohen is the ultimate spiritual alchemist who can synthesise the essence of Jewish, Catholic and Buddhist faiths in his wry way. He explores sexual and religious ecstasy and guilt so that you're never sure if his songs are located in the groin or the soul. Simmons comes close to cracking the mystery of how Cohen does it - through illuminating comments from the man himself and a wide variety of interviews.

You know you're in for a classy ride when Simmons describes Cohen, in his early teens, avidly reading "25 Lessons in Hypnotism: How To Become An Expert Operator". The manual tells the young Canadian: "Your features should be set, firm and stern. Be quiet in all your actions. Let your voice grow lower, lower till just above a whisper. Pause a moment or two. You will fail if you hurry." As Simmons notes, this might have been written as career advice to the singer and performer Leonard would become.

The book has a really intelligent index so you can find whatever song or topic you're looking for. My only quibble is the reproduction of the photos is not the same standard as Simmons's excellent text or Cohen's brilliant songs.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional, as good as it gets, 13 Jan 2013
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Sylvie Simmons deserves a rock biography Academy Award. This book is exceptionally well written and meticulously researched with a high level of access. Over the years there have been great rock biographies ( Salewicz's Redemption Song, Guralnick's Elvis books ) and this one is right up there on the top tier. A joy from start to finish.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 500 pages is just too long, 26 Feb 2014
I'm a big Leonard Cohen fan and have been for decades. I bought this book full price from a bookshop to try to support the local retailer. However, after starting to skip multiple pages I gave up.

Then I started again - give it another chance - and finally gave up again at about page 150 out of 500.

There is just far too much detail. Do we really need to know the name of everyone he met on a Greek island, in Montreal, in New York, back to the Greek island, back to Montreal, back to New York, and we haven't even got to the start of his music career yet. Life is simply far too short to plug on out of sheer loyalty to Leonard.

The style of writing also irritated me; it is far too over-written, as if the author had a thesaurus at hand. Maybe that's the way it gets you having met the man himself, who knows?

The photos are very poor quality, as other reviewers have noted.

Not for me, regrettably, one for the charity shop since I'm not an Amazon re-seller. Otherwise I'd sell a barely opened, new book to someone else who might appreciate it more.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lazy Bastard Living in a Suit - I Think Not!, 3 Dec 2012
It isn't often that I find myself stunned and almost speechless after finishing a book, but that was the case with Silvie Simmons' "I'm Your Man" - not so much a book, more an homage to a giant of contemporary music.

As one who has followed Leonard Cohen's career since the release of his first album in 1967 and subsequently listened to his music across five decades, I feel qualified to call myself a fan. There have been biographies before, some sketchy and poorly researched, some sensationalist dealing more with the legendary womanising than the actual art, but none so far, to the best of my knowledge anyway, have got to the core and the essence of Leonard - as Ms. Simmons refers to him throughout - and she does exactly that.

"I'm Your Man" is magnificently researched and superbly written, the pacing throughout is measured and consistent, and Silvie Simmons writes with a wit and affection that should set a benchmark for any biographer. She clearly has a great deal of liking and respect for her subject, but this does not stop her from shying away from Leonard's faults, frailties and failings - these she documents with the same candour and openness that she describes his triumphs.

Every facet of Leonard's life is documented with zeal and a complete understanding of his motives, influences and intentions - yet we are never bored, in fact the more we learn about the man the more we want to learn. His early life as a poet in Montreal, his time in Hydra, his first faltering steps into song writing and recording, his drug use, the women, his depression and embracement of Buddhism - all related in a candid, pragmatic, even humorous manner (Ms. Simmons manages to weave many of Leonard's lyrics into her text in a way that I found utterly charming).

But for me the finest achievement of the book is the last section that deals with Leonard's reluctant and forced return to public performance due to his finances being plundered. This is related in such an emotive manner that one cannot fail to be moved by it. I have watched several of these concerts and listened to recordings of them on numerous occasions and am constantly amazed at the way Leonard holds his audiences in rapture with his slick yet intimate performances. Ms. Simmons refers often to his physical thinness and frailty, but on stage he is a giant.

As I read the book I was often reminded of the poetry, and one piece that kept returning to me was from Leonard's first published collection (Let us Compare Mythologies) simply called "Poem"

I heard of a man
who says words so beautifully
that if he only speaks their name
women give themselves to him.

If I am dumb beside your body
while silence blossoms like tumors on our lips
it is because I hear a man climb stairs
and clear his throat outside our door.

It is unlikely that Leonard saw himself as this man when he wrote the poem, as he was barely twenty years old, but he certainly became that man in later life. In her epilogue to the book, Ms. Simmons gives us two very welcome facts, the first is that there is a new album in the pipeline, and the second is a quote from Leonard himself, and it is that he has ..."no sense of or appetite for retirement." Wonderful news indeed.

This is without doubt one of the finest biographies I have ever read, if you did not love the man and his work before, you will almost certainly do so afterwards as you embrace his music and poetry with an even greater depth of understanding. I look forward with great anticipation to whatever project Silvie Simmons chooses to tackle next.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just a doorstep but a plinth!, 19 Nov 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and slipping, 8 Dec 2013
By 
W. Mcgregor "Bil" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen (Kindle Edition)
Very detailed bio which definitely sucks you in. Only criticism is the way it sometimes jumps about leaving stories only half told.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Respectful, insightful, well written and well researched., 21 Oct 2013
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This review is from: I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen (Kindle Edition)
Leonard Cohen is now approaching eighty years of age and has been a prolific poet, novelist, songwriter and performer for around sixty of those years. With that in mind Sylvie Simmons has done an extraordinary job, not just in terms of the mountainous amount of research she has had to undertake, but also in ultimately producing a work which is as accessible as it is an accurate depiction of Cohen's life and artistic development. Having been a fan of L.C.'s since the very early seventies I found the book fascinating. Not sure how much it would appeal to those who are not Cohen aficionados although there are plentiful references to the likes of Dylan, Hendrix, Joplin, Judy Collins, Nico, and Joni Mitchell amongst many others. In my opinion the Kindle edition is a better buy. This is a long book and the more traditional paper copy suffers from being produced in particularly small print. This is obviously not a problem with Kindle where, for once, the photographs are probably better produced too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, 4 April 2013
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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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Humanizing a legend, 27 July 2013
By 
Laurence Dann "LD strategy" (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen (Kindle Edition)
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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