“I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen” (Cashbox)

Leonard Cohen has been in the public eye for five decades as a poet, songwriter and a singer. Cohen’s life and career have been fluid and full of change throughout all those decades. ‘I’m Your Man, The Life of Leonard Cohen’ by San Francisco writer Sylvie Simmons is a comprehensive account of Cohen’s story from growing up in Montreal, Canada to traveling to England, Greece, New York City and beyond.

Cohen fans have been waiting a long time for this book, containing interviews by the better known women in his songs like Suzanne and Marianne as well as interviews by the notoriously shy and private Cohen himself. More importantly even those who are not necessarily Cohen fans will be interested in the names and places in this book.

Cohen’s arrival and participation in the Greenwich Village folk explosion in late sixties New York is an amazing history with a cast of characters that will be familiar to anyone who followed the scene in those days. Well-known California singer/songwriter Jackson Browne appears as a 17 year old kid backing up a woman named Nico, whom Leonard was smitten with. She would perform in the small coffee houses in the Village singing songs by a young Tim Hardin and others and even doing a version of Cohen’s Suzanne. Included in her set was a song that a young Jackson Browne, her guitarist and lover had written as a teenager called These Days. Tales of Judy Collins who had recorded Suzanne, Joni Mitchell and David Crosby who took Joni home to California and recorded her. All part of the history with some back stories we didn’t know. How Cohen met Janis Joplin in an elevator at the Chelsea Hotel in New York and slept with her. She was actually there to see Kristofferson.

The problems he had recording his first album are well documented. We also learn how Cohen decided to become a songwriter. Economics. He couldn’t make a living as a poet but realised that songs would get airplay and sales and generate a decent income. His youth in Montreal. His first band The Buckskin Boys, named because they all had buckskin jackets. They played at local squares dances! His lifelong friendship with Irving Layton. Everything you ever wanted to know about Leonard Cohen is in this book. You’ll learn of his many loves, the deceit in certain financial situations, his rebound back to where he is now. The personality of the man. His dual careers in music and literature.

You’ll learn he is man of spirituality, emotion, grace and intelligence. A true gentleman who holds the door for a lady and still stands when she enters the room. A man who wants you to be comfortable in his presence as he hides his own discomfort playing with the Greek worry beads hidden in his pocket. You’ll learn of his deep commitment to Buddhism. This is the definitive biography of our Canadian national treasure and offers new perspectives on Cohen and his life.

So I’ll end with the words Leonard Cohen has heard most his life “Ladies and gentlemen…. Leonard Cohen.”

by Don Graham for Cashbox Magazine

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