Paperback review: I’m Your Man, By Sylvie Simmons – (The Independent)

[5 stars]

It’s often a disappointment to read biographies of artists you admire; they can turn out to be much less admirable than their work. This is not the case with Sylvie Simmons’s brilliant biography of Leonard Cohen.

In a meticulously researched book of 500 pages, Simmons hasn’t found anyone with a bad word to say about him.

What’s notable is the longevity of his relationships – he never ditches a friend and, tellingly, has always remained on good terms with ex-lovers. A man of strong affections and loyalties, he’s also courtly, witty, enigmatic, and a consummate artist who takes infinite pains with his work (“Hallelujah” took him five years to write).

The book is full of great anecdotes – in his early teens, he experimented with hypnotism on the family maid and asked her to strip, which she duly did – consolidating a fascination with nakedness which found its way into many of his songs. When his son Adam was in a coma after a car accident, Cohen sat and read to him from the Bible for three months; when Adam finally opened his eyes, his first words were: “Dad, can you read something else?” When his manager cheated him out of all his money, Cohen responded drily: “It’s enough to put a dent in your mood,” and added, “fortunately, it hasn’t.”

Simmons does full justice to every aspect of Cohen – his Jewishness, his Canadian-ness, his fascination with religion, his poetry, novels, and above all his songs and concerts.

Buy this book and keep it by your Leonard Cohen albums.

by Brandon Robshaw for The Independent

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