Back to the desert

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Sylvie is heading back to Tucson, Arizona soon to record a new album. Howe Gelb of Giant Sand will once again be producing and adding his musical magic along with Thoger Lund. The new songs Sylvie is recording include several that she has played at recent shows – including “Keep Dancing,” “Nothing,” “Creation Day,” “Waiting For The Shadows,” “Imaginary Boy” and more.

Sylvie will also be doing a few shows in the Tucson area. Please see the tour page for details.

Here’s a pic of Sylvie performing with Howe and Thogerat the Henry Miller library in Big Sur.

SS HG TL Big Sur2 copy

That’s my way to say goodbye

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

SS and LC montage

Hi  and a belated happy new year. Sorry it’s taken me a while to update this news page. The news was so sorrowful as last year came to a close that I simply got on with the task of talking to radio interviewers and magazines about Leonard Cohen, writing obits and articles about him, meeting with his friends, singing in trubute concerts with musicians who loved and admired him, as my way of saying goodbye.

I think I also forgot to mention that, before Leonard passed away, I learned that there are some new editions of “I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen.” There will be an edition in Czech and one in Korean, and a Turkish edition (http://www.rob389.com/dp/tr/11/9786056640797) was recently released.

I have also been busy completing my first book of poetry, Sometimes I Dream of Holes. If all goes to plan the book will be published in the autumn in English and Spanish. The last poem in the book is about Leonard Cohen.

My belated New Years Resolution is to check in with you more often. See you soon I hope and feel free to keep in touch.

Leonard Cohen: 21st Sept 21 1934 – 7th Nov 2016

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

Biographer recalls Cohen as a serious man and a great artist

by Sylvie Simmons

 

Photo: Paul Chiasson, Associated Press

I’m shaking as I write this. My brain is numb. In this year of losses, so many losses, in this black week for the world, for me this tops them all.

The radio and newspapers keep calling, wanting details of where and how he died. Well, he died at the top of his game. He went out in a blaze of glory. He died with his boots and his suit on. Not onstage — his declining health put paid to those three-hour shows, the rat pack rabbi falling to his knees — but in his home studio, where his son Adam Cohen helped him deliver a masterpiece,“You Want It Darker.” It came out only days before his death.

The album title didn’t have a question mark; darker is clearly what we want. And Cohen was always so good at dark, be it black humor, the darkness of the soul or the depths he mined for his poems and songs.

This was his third album in five years, which was miraculous, given that in 49 years he had released just 14 studio albums. Cohen was a lifelong perfectionist. He talked about songs having to be torn from him.

That old story about Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan trading lyrics in a Paris cafe is true. Dylan showed Cohen a new song and Cohen asked him how long it took to write it. “Fifteen minutes,” answered Dylan, and asked him how long it took to write “Hallelujah.” Cohen replied, “A couple of years” — too embarrassed to tell him it was five.

Maybe it was longer still, and Cohen was too embarrassed to tell me. But when those remarkable comeback tours came to an end, he returned to his original job, writing, with gusto. “Time speeds up the closer it gets to the end of the reel,” he told me. “You don’t feel like wasting time.”

“You Want It Darker” is one of the richest, deepest, most beautiful albums in a lifetime of rich, deep and beautiful work. He was a serious artist. A deep man, very deep.

“How do we produce work that touches the heart?” he said two decades ago, when he was living on Mount Baldy as an ordained Buddhist monk. “We don’t want to live a superficial life. We want to be serious with each other, with our friends, with our work. Serious has a kind of voluptuous aspect to it. It is something that we are deeply hungry for.”

Cohen was born in Montreal to a family of stature — his forefathers were rabbis and founders of synagogues and newspapers — and never denied that he was from the right side of the track. He grew up pre-rock; the tradition behind him was poetry. Raised on the English poets, at age 15 he discovered the work of Federico Garcia Lorca. That was the same year that he started to play guitar.

He said that there was music behind every word he wrote. He was a published poet, a golden boy of Canadian poetry before he tried his hand at writing songs. He never stopped writing poetry. He also published two novels. As a visual artist, he painted a series of droll self-portraits.

Cohen sang himself back home in his last album. The cantor and the choir of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, the synagogue that his great-grandfather founded, accompanied him as he sang “Hineni,” I am ready. Yes, he’d been saying that for years, if not in Hebrew.

Although he could laugh about himself and often did, he was serious about life and death, about family, about being a Jew. His lifelong spiritual explorations were also serious; they were never an accessory for him.

So many stories of the lives of musicians and poets have an unhappy ending. But not Leonard Cohen. He had his career upside down, more popular at the end than in the beginning, when there were critics saying they should give away razor blades with his LPs. For decades Cohen suffered clinical depression. He knew darkness and looked right into its eyes and managed to raise a smile. And an extraordinary body of work.

“This world is full of conflicts and things that cannot be reconciled, but there are moments,” he said, “when we can embrace the whole mess.” I was just thinking of that quote after the election on Tuesday, Nov. 8 — not knowing that Cohen hadn’t lived to see the result.

I’m going to miss that man. Everything. The whole mess. I’m so very grateful to have known him, to have had his support and friendship. And so grateful to have his words and music. He is irreplaceable.

Sylvie Simmons is Leonard Cohen’s biographer. “ I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen (Ecco) was published in 2012. She is a San Francisco-based music journalist and singer-songwriter.

Desert rocks

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

sylvie_simmons_jpgTucson, Arizona legend Howe Gelb celebrated his 60th birthday on 22nd October with a giant hometown concert, four hours long, featuring special guest musicians from across his 50-album career.

First up was Sylvie, who sang “Midnight Cowboy” with a cast of luminaries as her backing band, including Howe on guitar and Maggie Bjorklund on pedal steel. The lineup included Thoger Lund (bass), Brian Lopez (guitar), Gabriel Sullivan (guitar), Tommy Larkins (drums), Neil Harry (pedal steel), Winston Watson (drums), Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), Tom Walbank (harmonica), John Convertino (Calexico, drums), Lana Kelly (vocals), John Diaz (trumpet), Annie “Sister Town” Dolan (guitar), Scott Garber (bass) and  Patsy Gelb (vocals), plus two members of the Sno’ Angel gospel choir, UK-via-Portland singer Scout Niblett,  and John Doe and Exene Cervenka from X.

Here’s a report from Tucson Weekly.

http://www.tucsonweekly.com/TheRange/archives/2016/10/25/in-the-flesh-howe-gelbs-60th-b-day-bash-at-the-rialto-theater

No 1!

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

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“I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen” is back at the top of the Canadian charts. Sylvie’s book first hit the number one slot shortly after it was first published at the end of 2012.  The book is also back in the top ten  in the US at #8. Leonard Cohen has been getting all sorts of attention since his 82nd birthday on September 21st and his announcement that he would be releasing a new album, You Want It Darker, in late October.  The editor of the prestigious US magazine  New Yorker, David Remnick wrote a long article on Cohen that cited a number of times what he called “Sylvie’s excellent biography.”

Sylvie’s five-star review of Cohen’s You Want It Darker album is in the new issue of MOJO magazine, dated November 2016.

lc-no-1-amaz

You Are In My Arms

Thursday, October 6th, 2016
unknown‘You Are In My Arms’, the first single from the album Sylvie, is also the first track to be covered by another artist!
Keoki Kahumoku, who is a sixth generation Hawaiian slide guitar player and a six-time Grammy winner, will feature his version of the song on his upcoming album. Keoki, who lives on the Big Island, met  Sylvie at a ukulele workshop in San Rafael, California. When she played him the song, he began including it in his live shows.ss-old-uke-copy
Listen to the song here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wKRD1VrPL4

SS + SS

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

ss-ssSimon Sweetman, the  New Zealand rock journalist,  recently visited Sylvie  in San Francisco. He wrote this. He also recorded  this podcast, which you can link to in the last paragraph. Here’s a photo of the last time the two SS’s talked – onstage in N.Z three years ago.

New Music!

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

House of fun LA copyOn June 22, Sylvie was on the Irwin Chusid show on WFMU radio, New Jersey. She had her ukulele with her and sang some of her songs – including a brand-new song called “Nothing. This is the first time she has played the song on-air. You can listen or download here:

http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Sylvie_Simmons/

(There’s no photo of Sylvie at the radio station but here’s a recent shot from a show at the House of Fun in Los Angeles)

Words – written and spoken

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

Interviews – all kinds of them!

Here’s Sylvie being interviewed last week for a Canadian podcast. She talks about Leonard Cohen, writing books, and her life as a musician. http://www.travelsinmusic.com/leonard-cohen/

The BBC has just reposted “The Rock Chick”, the documentary it made on Sylvie while she was still working on her Leonard Cohen book and not long after she started playing ukulele!  http://ow.ly/ynB8302vJZR

And here she is interviewing heavy metal singer-guitarist Lita Ford about her new autobiography, on stage at the Chapel in San Francisco.

Finally, the latest interviews Sylvie has been writing for  MOJO are: a rare interview with Bob Dylan’s and Leonard Cohen’s legendary producer, Bob Johnston (issue #272) and an epic article and interview on another legend, Terry Reid (#273). She also did a very long, heart-to-heart interview with Lars Ulrich of Metallica, which will appear in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

 

Brazilian press loves I’m Your Man: A Vida De Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

SS & LC, pic by LC on imac

The Brazilan press has hailed the new Portuguese edition of I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen with rave reviews.

Estado newspaper wrote that it “offers the deepest picture ever seen of one of the most complicated artists [in] the pop universe – Cohen was not just a writer and never just a musician. What Sylvie was able to do in I’, Your Man is throw Cohen open, taking you through so many strands of the lives he lived… the mechanics of feeling… what is love.”

http://cultura.estadao.com.br/noticias/musica,leonard-cohen–icone-na-literatura-e-na-musica–ganha-biografia-capaz-de-decifrar-sua-complexidade,10000027814

UCSFM wrote, “By exposing the fascinating intimacy of the Canadian artist, Simmonsnot only quenches the curiosity of fans but reveals the uniqueness of one of the most brilliant minds of our time. In I’m Your Man the reader will be able to contemplate a privileged perspective, the unique spirituality of a man who questioned and felt all the mysteries of human existence with delivery and passion.”

http://ucsfm.com.br/biografia-de-leonard-cohen-e-lancada-no-brasil/

O Globo newspaper featured an interview with Sylvie and a link to one of her songs:

http://oglobo.globo.com/cultura/garota-do-rock-decifra-em-livro-mito-leonard-cohen-19053407

The Brazilian edition is published by Editora BestSeller in Brazil and contains a 16 page glossy insert of photographs, many in color.

Sylvie, meanwhile, has been in Los Angeles performing with the celebrated, all-male, a capella Leonard Cohen tribute Conspiracy of Beards, opening their shows with a full set of her own and Cohen’s songs, and joining the 24-piece choir as their guest singer on Leonard Cohen’s song ‘The Window’. Her last show with the group will be on Sunday May 8th at the beautiful Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, California. See ‘Tour’ for more details.