68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen,
This review is from: I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen (Hardcover)
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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Initial post: 13 May 2014 12:12:10 BDT
Superb review John. I've just finished this book (which I bought on the strength of your review) and agree with every word you say. A remarkable book about a remarkable man.
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