I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen

Sylvie Sim­mons
  • Review
By – January 11, 2013

Now sev­en­ty-eight and still record­ing and tour­ing, singer/​songwriter/​poet Leonard Cohen was born in 1934 into a pros­per­ous fam­i­ly that was at the very heart of the Mon­tre­al Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. By the time he was ten, Leonard’s father had died. At the age of thir­teen he was already spend­ing his evenings in clubs and cafes. At fif­teen he dis­cov­ered the mag­ic of poet­ry and pur­chased a gui­tar. After some ini­tial lessons, he played that gui­tar obses­sive­ly, not stop­ping until he felt he’d mas­tered a per­fect ren­di­tion of a song, a method that also found its way into his writ­ing. A pub­lished poet at twen­ty, Cohen rapid­ly became an estab­lished mem­ber of the Cana­di­an lit­er­ary com­mu­ni­ty. Even­tu­al­ly, he start­ed putting words and music togeth­er, slow­ly mak­ing his way toward becom­ing a Cana­di­an nation­al trea­sure. Leonard Cohen has been induct­ed into the Cana­di­an Music Hall of Fame, the Cana­di­an Song­writ­ers Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is also the recip­i­ent of Canada’s high­est civil­ian hon­or, a Com­pan­ion of the Order of Canada.

Liv­ing var­i­ous­ly in New York City, the Greek island of Hydra, Los Ange­les, and Mon­tre­al, among oth­ers, Cohen mean­dered through numer­ous pro­fes­sion­al incar­na­tions, sev­er­al seri­ous rela­tion­ships with women and a fas­ci­nat­ing vari­ety of spir­i­tu­al adven­tures. Along the way, he fathered two chil­dren and accu­mu­lat­ed, lost, and even­tu­al­ly par­tial­ly recouped mil­lions. He has always essen­tial­ly remained a Jew, but his fas­ci­na­tion with Catholi­cism has made its way into his writ­ing and he is an ordained Bud­dhist monk who has enjoyed a long­time close rela­tion­ship with his men­tor, Roshi. 

Leonard Cohen’s songs are icon­ic. Cross­ing nation­al bound­aries, they have been part of the sound­track of our lives and yet most know lit­tle of the man who wrote them. This book goes a long way toward fill­ing in the details. Author Sylvie Sim­mons com­piled a vast amount of infor­ma­tion and I’m Your Man is clear­ly a work of love. Evi­dent­ly, so much so that she couldn’t bear to leave any­thing out. The book is fas­ci­nat­ing, but so long and detailed that it some­times feels more like a Ph.D. the­sis than a biog­ra­phy. Don’t be intim­i­dat­ed. The more I read the more I want­ed to read. It’s well worth the effort.

Mas­ter Song, by Leonard Cohen from Songs of Leonard Cohen’

Sylvie Sim­mons (vocals, uke and author of the new biog­ra­phy I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen’), Annie Girl (gtr), Matthew Szemela (vio­lin), Charith Pre­maward­hana (vio­la), Kyle Les­ley (sound), Kin­drid Park­er (vision) and Cris­t­ian Lopez (pro­duc­tion)

Nao­mi Tropp recent­ly retired after a long career in non­prof­it man­age­ment. She worked on the Ann Katz Fes­ti­val of Books at the Indi­anapo­lis JCC for 9 of its twelve years and direct­ed the fes­ti­val for three of those years.

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