International Reviews for I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen

Biografia de Leonard Cohen é lançada no Brasil (UCSfm, Brazil)

Friday, April 29th, 2016

O artista canadense Leonard Cohen além de ótimo músico e compositor, também é um escritor de mão cheia. Já lançou romances, novelas e tem uma obra poética de grandiosa valia, totalmente deslocada do âmbito musical.

Aqui no Brasil, foram lançados apenas dois desses livros: o romance “A Brincadeira Favorita (Cosac Naify) e o apanhado de poemas “Atrás das linhas inimigas do meu amor” (7 Letras). Por isso o lançamento de um de suas biografias no Brasil é algo que precisa ser comemorado.

No Canadá, EUA e Europa, o talento de Leonard Cohen é público e notório, ninguém duvida disso. No entanto, a vida pessoal do gênio por trás de canções como “Hallellujah”, “Suzanne” e “Bird on the Wire” ainda é uma incógnita para grande parte do público. É aí que a jornalista Sylvie Simmons se propôs a investigar a fundo a carreira de Cohen, apontando o trajeto percorrido por ele desde a infância no Quebec até a ascensão ao status de ícone da música e da poesia contemporâneas.

Ao expor a intimidade fascinante do artista canadense, Simmons não apenas sacia a curiosidade dos fãs, mas revela a singularidade de uma das mentes mais brilhantes de nossa época. Em “I’m Your Man – A vida de Leonard Cohen” (Best Seller) o leitor será capaz de contemplar de uma perspectiva privilegiada a espiritualidade ímpar de um homem que questionou e sentiu todos os mistérios da existência humana com entrega e paixão.

Sylvie Simmons é também responsável por “Um Punhado de Gitanes” (Barracuda), ótima biografia sobre o cantor e compositor francês Serge Gainsbourg. “Não é uma biografia autorizada”, disse Simmons. “Leonard não sugeriu nada e não pediu que nada fosse omitido. Ele me concedeu duas entrevistas, já no fim de minha pesquisa. E usei também material de uma entrevista de três dias que eu havia feito com ele para a ‘Mojo.’”

Simmons diz, no entanto, que entrevistar Leonard Cohen, por vezes, até atrapalhou a pesquisa.

by Flávia Vidor for UCSfm

Leonard Cohen, ícone na literatura e na música, ganha biografia capaz de decifrar sua complexidadeo (Estadão, Brazil)

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Livro ‘I’m Your Man’, escrito pela jornalista Sylvie Simmons, chega agora ao Brasil

Foram três tardes diante daquele homem. Vestia-se impecavelmente, assim como em seus shows ou em aparições ao vivo. Terno preto, bem alinhado, nariz ligeiramente adunco e um olhar profundo, embora as pálpebras, então aos 64 anos, já se mostrassem cansadas, cobrindo levemente os olhos azuis dele. Leonard Cohen mirava a jornalista Sylvie Simmons sem trégua, enquanto respondia a questões a respeito de sua vida, livros, discos, religião. Toda a complexidade daquele homem com o dom para o melancólico se espalhava por suas frases, mas havia pouca objetividade ali. Sylvie só foi perceber a esperteza traquina ou posição defensiva de Cohen dias depois, ao ouvir as gravações. Naquele mesmo ano de 2001, a editora da jornalista lhe cobrou uma nova biografia. Diante da ausência de livros com profundidade que tratassem do músico canadense, Sylvie assumiu a missão de tentar decifrar quem, afinal, é Leonard Norman Cohen. 

Não foi das tarefas mais fáceis, a autora admite ao Estado por telefone, em uma longa conversa sobre a cena roqueira de Los Angeles nos anos 1970, jornalismo musical e, claro, a adoração dela “pelas canções mais tristes de Leonard Cohen”. Com a biografia I’m Your Man, livro lançado nos Estados Unidos e na Europa em 2012, que agora chega ao Brasil pela editora Best Seller, Sylvie se dá por satisfeita. Ao longo de 503 páginas, ela oferece o retrato mais profundo já visto de um dos artistas mais difíceis de se decifrar do universo pop. Se é que se pode dizer que Leonard Cohen está, de fato, no universo pop.

Músico e escritor Leonard Cohen
Músico e escritor Leonard Cohen

Filho de judeus, nascido no Canadá, o músico e escritor ataca pelas sombras. Vive em um canto escuro do pop, como se estivesse sentado ali, em um canto do bar, observando a cultura contemporânea, a vida cotidiana. Apenas meia-luz é jogada sobre ele, enquanto um cigarro queima e joga fumaça pelo ambiente e um copo de uísque com gelo transpira e escorre até o porta-copos. 

Cohen nunca foi só escritor. Nunca foi só músico. Nunca foi só um interessado na ligação entre o homem e a espiritualidade. O que Sylvie foi capaz de fazer, em I’m Your Man, é escancarar como Cohen é capaz de flanar por tantas vertentes, imprimindo sua visão pessoal por aquilo que vive e viveu. A música veio depois. Retrata Sylvie em I’m Your Man, que Cohen é um sujeito torturado pelas palavras – e, através delas, encontra a paz. “Leonard é uma pessoa com uma personalidade estranha”, diz a autora. “Trata-se de uma pessoa que vive em uma dualidade constante. Vive entre uma forma e outra. Ele ama escrever, mas, enquanto está escrevendo, perdia esse amor e queria compor música. E quando fazia música, queria fazer outra coisa. Era sempre uma tortura.” Ela conta ter vivido “dentro da cabeça de Leonard Cohen por três anos” e ainda se indagava os motivos pelos quais ele transitava entre a música e a literatura, porque escolhera viver solitário. “Ele não soube me responder”, conta Sylvie. “Dizia ser uma coisa muito intrínseca. Era fácil ser um poeta, ter uma esposa, mas aquele não era o caminho dele. Não era o que ele deveria fazer.” 

Filho do dono de uma loja de trajes formais, Leonard viu em seu pai um sujeito sempre alinhado, mesmo em situações que não pediam o traje pomposo. E essa herança diz mais do que as toneladas de páginas escritas por Cohen em seus 15 romances e livros de poemas ou em 13 discos. Cohen é o homem de terno preto e palavras soturnas do pop. “Querida, eu nasci de terno”, afirma ele, misterioso como sempre, à autora. E aos leitores e ouvintes. 

By Pedro Antunes for Estadão

‘Garota do rock’ decifra em livro o mito Leonard Cohen (O Globo, Brazil)

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

A jornalista inglesa Sylvie Simmons chega ao Brasil com ‘I’m your man’

RIO – Em 1977, a jornalista Sylvie Simmons trocou Londres por Los Angeles, para cobrir uma fervilhante e milionária cena musical. Tornou-se uma solitária garota num mundo masculino, mas não se acanhou e realizou históricas entrevistas.

— Eu não me dei conta de que precisava de um pênis para ser uma jornalista de rock! — brinca ela, que enfim tem editada no Brasil a tradução de seu livro de 2012: a biografia do cantor e compositor Leonard Cohen “I’m your man” (Best Seller).

A ideia do livro veio em 2001, quando Sylvie entrevistou o autor de “Hallelujah”, “Dance me to the end of love”, “Suzanne” e “So long Marianne” ao longo de três dias.

— Quando fui fazer as transcrições, me dei conta de que ele tinha conseguido falar muito e não dizer nada. E aí fui ler os livros que havia sobre Leonard. Nenhum conseguia captar sua essência — conta ela, que passou a agir “meio como detetive”. — Havia muitas lacunas na sua história, que não era uma linha reta, mas várias linhas que convergiam. Descobri que se você ignorasse um só aspecto de sua vida, não haveria Leonard Cohen. Sua poesia, suas canções, sua espiritualidade, seus casos com mulheres, suas experimentações… tudo estava conectado.

O volume sobre “o homem que nasceu de terno”, poeta tão respeitado quanto compositor de canções, soma-se a outros livros de Sylvie Simmons sobre Neil Young, Johnny Cash e Serge Gainsbourg — todos músicos difíceis, com obras colossais.

— São homens muito complicados, mas também pessoas fascinantes, sem livros que contassem as suas histórias de vida de uma forma que eu considerasse satisfatória. Eu nunca vi, por exemplo, um livro que falasse das mulheres na vida de Neil Young — diz a inglesa que, agora, enfim, dedica-se a escrever a biografia de uma mulher, da qual ela não revela o nome. — É uma daquelas artistas que não entregam nada nas entrevistas, uma mulher muito interessante da música.

Sylvie Simmons, em um dos seus shows como cantora – Di Holmes / Divulgação

Hoje em dia, Sylvie se divide entre os livros e os palcos. Na turnê de lançamento da biografia sobre Leonard Cohen, ela complementava as leituras de trechos da publicação com shows feitos só com ukulele e voz. E em 2014, gravou o álbum “Sylvie”.

— Quando me deram um ukulele em 2006, todas as canções tristes que cantava quando garota voltaram. E aí comecei a compor com amigos músicos. Eles disseram: faça um disco, nós te ajudamos! — conta.

by Silvio Essinger for O Globo

“‘Querida, yo nací con traje': Leonard Cohen” (El Tiempo, Colombia)

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

El tiempo SS cohen

‘Im Your Man’: The Life of Leonard Cohen (IOL – South Africa)

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Mention Leonard Cohen’s music and you’re quite likely to receive a gesture to slash your wrists; a musical appeal to Armageddon! Yet, in many literary and musical quarters he’s considered a genius.

As much as his music (and voice) will be associated with solemnity and introspection, of despair and angst, of tapping deep into the definitive issues of human life, Cohen commands a quite extraordinary following.

Sylvie Simmonds’ 500-page trawl through Cohen’s life is sometimes mesmerising for the light she throws on this man; someone who regularly and suddenly cut himself off from life (at one time he took five years out and lived as monk in a Buddhist retreat); of a man who was swindled out of his entire fortune (some $15 million) and yet returned at the age of 72 to embark on a mammoth set of global concerts that unearthed worldwide acclaim for his work.

Simmonds succeeds in depicting someone who agonised and inched his way into becoming one of the great musical wordsmiths of his generation. (His anthem hit Hallelujah took him five years to write!). As much as she might have achieved this, I’m Your Man also tends at times to deflect from this genius and the core moments of his turbulent, intriguing life.

At times the book errs towards a day-in-the-life account that muddies a clearer appreciation of the man and his work, yet unwraps a reclusive life that gave us songs and insights that inspired poets, authors and musicians worldwide.

Cohen is finally revealed as a genial and gracious perfectionist; a personality devoured by an exacting pursuit of poetry and song writing.

by Richard Compton for IOL

Sylvie Simmons: I’m Your Man – The Life Of Leonard Cohen (Off The Tracks – New Zealand)

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

We only know so much about Leonard Cohen from his poems and songs – he is both diarist and then in the truest sense of autobiography he is the unreliable narrator. With Cohen, mostly, you can tell he’s doing that on purpose, as the voice has deepened over the years there’s even a bit of extra tongue for the cheek, the sardonic lines all but drip from the page – or, if reinterpreted for song, the stage. And everything he says is totally believable in that voice. Which must of course mean there are a fair few lies in there.

Sylvie Simmons is not the first Cohen biographer – but she is the best. This is the best book that will ever be written about Leonard Cohen. Simmons of course had the benefit of seeing some of the mistakes in print from those that tried before her, so that helped her in knowing to avoid/correct them. But she brings to this book so much of herself, not least her own formidable wit and writing skills, her own mischievousness – a match for Leonard’s no doubt – her own love of language and then the stripes she earned covering so much music across almost every popular genre for the last 30+ years. You get Simmons’ personality in this book – but right from the prologue, a perfect one-page opener, we have Cohen’s personality; we know Simmons has got it sussed. So we believe her. She is the reliable narrator.

Her book is a triumph – the finest Cohen bio, one of the best music books you could ever read and a marvel in studious non-fiction. She spoke with over 100 interviewees – managing, crucially, to get people on record who had previously avoided this lofty subject. Some, presumably, were never asked prior. But there are many coups – such as actress Rebecca De Mornay, former fiancée, a crucial muse, collaborator and – in the book – a strong, clear voice.

From further back in Cohen’s past Simmons tracks down producer Bob Johnston, childhood pal Mort Rosengarten and the rabbi who encouraged him towards Bar Mitzvah. There were visits to Mt Baldy, drop-ins on the two Suzannes from Cohen’s life, the Marianne of So Long Marianne, a stop-in at the Chelsea Hotel. And you feel all of this research on every page. You read this book and know that as much as Cohen locked himself away and did the work – over so many years – Simmons has, in her own way, replicated that. She has done the work.

It reads like a dream – a page-turner, across all 500-some pages. We have Simmons’ voice but in that great journalistic skill she presents – and even inhabits – the voices of other people. We are so sure we’re hearing from the right people at the right time; a quote to clarify, an amusing anecdote, pieces of trivia, fascinating insights.

The book balances assessment of the poems, novels and music where so many other tomes focus only on Cohen’s academic/literary endeavours, or his slightly off-centre placement within pop-music’s canon. Very few of the past biographers have adequately addressed both; no one has shown the integration of the works/worlds so seamlessly.

Simmons’ masterstroke is in getting to all of the women; they are the muses for Cohen through life and work. Within that there’s the revelation to treat this all holistically, to not separate life and work but see them as symbiotic, swapping places as one becomes catharsis for/from the other. In Cohen’s life (and therefore work) the women, the depression, the writing – all were interlinked, three vestiges that grew from/with one another.

There are rock’n’roll stories – such as the infamous madness of the Phil Spector sessions, a gun held to Cohen’s head at one point. Iggy Pop shares a wonderful story that just couldn’t be made up – and if you read it with any doubts Simmons provides the Polaroid, a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction ace card.

From the early years – picked over so studiously and lovingly – through to his comeback world tours and new album, Simmons shows so much love for Cohen, but never bumbles towards hagiography. She had his blessing for the book but then Cohen stood back. Respectfully, cleverly, Simmons never tries too hard to unravel/reveal Cohen’s mystique. Granted, it’s never an easy task to do so, but knowing one shouldn’t try is some of the best wisdom Sylvie
showcases with I’m Your Man.

A book to return to – not just for the life-story but for the telling of the tale, I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen is simply one of the best books I’ve ever read. Devotion pours from each page. The timing of the book was of course perfect. The writing of it is exquisite.

by Simon Sweetman for Off The Tracks

Clearing away the smoke: biographer and Cohen connect by love of ukulele (The Australian)

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

WRITER Sylvie Simmons absorbed so much of singer Leonard Cohen’s work while she was writing his biography that some of his talent and his material rubbed off.

That’s why the veteran English music journalist, a guest of this week’s Sydney Writers’ Festival, turned her world promotional campaign for I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, into a mini-concert tour in which she and her ukulele pay tribute to the acclaimed Canadian songwriter’s best work.

“Everybody who’s a music journalist is accused of being a failed rock star or a closet rock star,” Simmons said in Sydney yesterday. “I just waited 37 years to do it.”

The San Francisco-based writer, who has interviewed just about every rock star worth talking to since starting her career with the British magazine Sounds in the late 1970s, said she shares her passion for the uke with the subject of her book, which she spent three years working on.

“Cohen himself played the ukulele so there’s a connection there,” she said.

The writer, who has written biographies of Serge Gainsbourg and Neil Young, travelled with her uke when she was researching and doing interviews for her Cohen book.

She came up with the idea to perform as part of her tour to launch I’m Your Man in the US last year, enlisting local musicians to help her in each city through her connections as a journalist.

‘It came everywhere on my travels,” she said of her instrument. “It was a companion. So I thought, well, this uke has been everywhere with me and I’ve jammed with monks and rabbis on it, so I’m going to sing some of Leonard’s songs.”

Simmons has had a long association with the singer. She wrote the liner notes for his 1970 album Live From the Isle of Wight and interviewed him several times during his career before embarking on the biography.

“The genesis of the book was writing a feature on him for Mojo magazine in England in 2001,” she said. “The interview lasted three days. Anyone who has spent that amount of time with him would think they had him nailed. But he had blown smoke in my eyes. He’s so straightforward and seemingly honest and naked in his way of talking to you, but he doesn’t tell you everything. My starting point with the book was to fill in those gaps.”

I’m Your Man made the New York Times bestsellers list when published last year and has enjoyed critical acclaim around the world.

This is the writer’s first visit to Australia, but she said she had an affinity for the country through some of the artists she had interviewed and written about.

“I was writing about AC/DC very early on in their lives so there is a connection that way,” she said.

Simmons will conclude her Australian visit with a concert in Petersham tomorrow, joined by local performers to interpret Cohen’s finest moments.

by Iain Sheddan for The Australian

Sylvie Simmons and Don McGlashan and Leonard Cohen: “at the unpopular edge of pop music … where the most interesting stuff is”. (Christchurch City Blog – New Zealand)

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Last night Sylvie Simmons, Leonard Cohen’s biographer, and the awesome Don McGlashan joined forces. They sang their songs – and a few Cohen numbers. Sylvie played ukulele and Don the guitar, and they were introduced by music journalist Nick Bollinger.

In between the songs was discussion on Cohen, songwriting, and White Valiant for you McGlashanites. Don admitted he doesn’t usually like rock biographies as they are all “and then there was another amazing party and you weren’t invited”.

Highlights of this rather chilled out and beautiful evening:

Don enjoying doing an unplugged gig: “I normally wouldn’t tell that story, because there’d be a drummer behind me saying FFS.”

On Keith Richards writing Satisfaction after a dream, Sylvie said wryly: “I haven’t woken up to satisfaction for a long time”.

Sylvie on Leonard’s songcraft and constant honing of his songs: “He will just be perfectionist for ever and eternity”.

Leonard Cohen reading lyrics to Suzanne Vega, women on sun loungers moving closer to hear.

Don explaining White Valiant, and saying “I am at the unpopular edge of pop music … where the most interesting stuff is”.

Don playing the euphonium (not, as I suggested “blowing into an upside down tuba”). I think this was done on a verse of Famous blue raincoat, but correct me if you were there …

Don’s song Marvellous year. I am a huge fan of songs with lists (a la We didn’t start the fire by Billy Joel), and this is up there:
We had Democracy, Dentistry, Waist-band elastic, Rhythmic Gymnastics, The Rule Of Law, The Rule Of Thumb, Fire, The Wheel, Rugby Union, The Petrol Engine, The Old-Age Pension, The Fire Of Hades, The Briscoes Lady, Dental Floss, Motorcross, The Koran, The Torah, Interflora


Don giving his guitar some astonishing effect pedal action on Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne.

by Donna for Christchurch City Blog

Opening night at AWRF 2013: Great show! (Books in the City NZ)

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

New Zealand Listener Gala Night is the official name of the event which launched a thousand AWRF sessions — well, maybe not a thousand exactly but lots, plenty for everyone, I’d say, even with two superstar events, the lunch with Sir Max Hastings and the concert by Leonard Cohen biographer, journalist and rock chick Sylvie Simmons plus New Zealand’s own Don McGlashan, sold out. At the Opening Night Party a number of tales were being told of the machinations and subterfuges being used by frustrated Cohen-Simmons-McGlashan fans attempting to procure a place at the latter. I’m not sure if Max Hastings fans were doing the same; they might be thinking of just walking on in, as Sir Max famously walked on in to Argentine-occupied Port Stanley ahead of the British troops during the Falklands war.

The Book Council’s True Stories Told Live format was reprised for this year’s Gala Night, an infinitely superior choice to those serial 10 minute readings which were always so unsatisfying. The storytelling is… I was about to start hunting for a suitably enthusiastic word when I remembered that tonight they had actually all been used by Carol Hirschfeld. Wild, wooly, serious, frivolous, entertaining, provoking … and that was just during her introduction — her wrap up had again as many. The adjective which at least for me was the most significant of all, she practically threw away. “Eight writers are here to share a personal story — ” pause, reload — “personal and true, inspired by the theme An Open Book.”

And they were all true, you could tell, while at the same time being such stories, which has to be different than being true, although not exclusively so, of course.

Scottish poet Jackie Kay’s story was about meeting her Nigerian, bible-toting (in a plastic bag!) biological father for the first time and realising that the only thing they had in common was their toes.

Peter Bland told of living for years with a father who existed only in a photo, taken in Africa, showing a strapping young man with his foot on an elephant, presumably dead, and then one day coming home to find “an old, fat, bald man sitting there — my Dad”.

Shehan Karunatilaka was an unknown to me, a Sri Lankan novelist who landed in Whanganui with his family as a boy. It wasn’t easy being a Sri Lankan in Whanganui twenty years ago. His story took place in 1990, when he was 15, depressed and despondent, spending his time alternately crying and masturbating. Send me a sign, he asked God, who dropped a copy of Mayfair magazine in his path in reply. In the magazine, as well as the girlie photo stuff there was an article about the Police, his favourite rock group, which sent him off to Whanganui Library for a biography of Sting mentioned in the article. And what followed that was Lolita, The Sheltering Sky and the rest is history, as they say. “The book that changes your life doesn’t have to be Moby Dick“, he said. “It can be an old Mayfair magazine, stuck-together pages and all.”

Demonstrating a flair for the obsessive, Carlos Ruiz Zafón had hunted down a bookstore called “Acres of Books” in his adopted city of Los Angeles, because it had been recommended by Ray Bradbury. It contained a place called The Fiction Annex where you needed a flashlight just to find your way. Was it the Cemetery of Forgotten Books? Who knows…

And that fantastic Fast talking PI poet, Selina Tusitala Marsh, was as always sharp, funny and loving: “I didn’t grow up in a house with books”, she began. “The Bible, the phone book… but the first open book in my parent’s house was my PhD thesis — being used as a doorstop”.

Everyone will have had their favourite line, of course, and mine was Stephanie Johnson’s almost Raymond Chandleresque opener (her hair style very Lauren Bacall to boot), “You reach an age when you are to yourself an open book”.

An auspicious start to a long weekend full of good stories about books. Festival Director Anne O’Brien calculates that there are 150 “writers and thinkers” appearing, and not all at a cost. The Festival has way more free events than ever before, including readings sessions every afternoon. The full programme is here. Auckland Libraries staff will be out in force at the Festival of course, and giving you the lowdown here on Books in the City.

However you decide to do it, if you’re a reader you owe it to yourself to sample the wares. As Anne O’Brien promised the faithful tonight, “Seduction is waiting for you around every corner”. Or was that what Sylvie Simmons said when she was talking about her days as a rock journalist in the ’70s, adding, “Not going to happen, you knew where it’d been”.

by Karen Craig for Books in the City

Radio NZ Interview (New Zealand)

Monday, May 13th, 2013