“I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen” (Jewish Book Council)

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.

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