I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen
Reviewed by Melanie Haupt, Fri., Oct. 26, 2012
I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohenby Sylvie Simmons
HarperCollins, 576 pp., $27.99
A whole new generation of music lovers came to Leonard Cohen through Jeff Buckley's breathtaking cover of "Hallelujah." Some might argue, in fact, that the goodwill engendered by Buckley and countless other interpretations of the now pop standard kickstarted the iconic status/resurgence that Cohen enjoys today. Sylvie Simmons' exhaustive biography traces Cohen's journey from rising star on his native Canadian literary scene to the mushrooming of "Hallelujah" in popular culture and a return to touring in 2008 that revitalized his career. (Cohen himself performs at Bass Concert Hall on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.) And yet, such an epic recounting of his life raises the question: What's the value of pulling back the curtain? Shouldn't some things remain a mystery? As Simmons recounts the details of Cohen's numerous romantic entanglements, she paints a somewhat damning portrait of the artist, now an august 78 years old, as someone for whom the drive to create became far more sacred than the doldrums of domesticity. Women and sex were expendable, as easily consumed and discarded as a bag of Skittles. Meanwhile, Simmons' deep research into Cohen's four-decade-long musical career translates into an epistemology for nearly every song and poem in his oeuvre, which simply isn't necessary. Readers may find themselves wishing for more of Simmons' crisp, self-assured readings of Cohen's lyrics, or deeper engagement with the implications of historical contexts for the artist's work. That said, no one will be able to read this biography and listen to Cohen's music in the same way again.
Sylvie Simmons reads from her book and breaks out her ukulele in-store at Waterloo Records, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 5pm. Sylvie Simmons also takes part in TBF's Lit Crawl. Her "And Rock & Roll" panel discussion weighs in Saturday, Oct. 27, 9-9:45pm, at Shangri-La, 1016 E. Sixth.