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I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen Hardcover – 1 Nov 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 104 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; First Edition First Printing edition (1 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224090631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224090636
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 224,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Cohen gets the music biography he truly deserves (5 stars)." (Mojo)

"The year's most meticulous, elegant and satisfying rock book." (Ben Thompson Independent)

"Simmons' clear affection for her subject helps to illuminate Cohen's motivations and working methods and gives an intriguing insight into his singular mind." (Ian Critchley Sunday Times)

"Simmons approaches her subject intelligently, and without a trace of the hysteria that Cohen so often inspires. If you weren't familiar with Cohen, I'm Your Man would read like a beautifully plotted piece of fiction, with an extraordinary and bewitching character at its centre." (Fiona Sturgess Independent on Sunday)

"Simmons situates her subject well both in the Jewish tradition (if not a singer he would have made a fantastic Rabbi) and in his generation." (Richard Godwin Evening Standard)

Book Description

'There is a crack in everything.

That's how the light gets in.'

Leonard Cohen

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
.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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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