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I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  3,676 ratings  ·  492 reviews
Leonard Cohen, one of the most important and influential artists of our era, is a man of powerful emotion and intelligence whose work has explored the essential issues of human life—sex, religion, power, love. Cohen is also a man of complexities and seeming contradictions: a devout Jew, who is also a sophisticate and a ladies' man, as well as an ordained Buddhist monk whos ...more
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Ecco (first published October 18th 2011)
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Paul Bryant
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Revived review in honour of this great singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, comedian and graceful human being. He's been with me almost every step of the way in my life, his sorrowful black humour was often a small kind glimmer in my own sometime darkness.

I saw Leonard in concert in 1993 in London. After one song he thanked the audience. "I'd like to thank you for all the cards and letters you've sent over the years, they were all very welcome. But I have to say… they didn't help a bit."


A b
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
My earliest recollection of Leonard Cohen was when I first listened to 'Everybody Knows' in 1990 yet I had no idea who sang it and didn't think much else about the artist until a few years before his death when I was given a copy of one of his albums but I distinctly remember hearing the song back then and feeling wowed by the tone of voice. It was like something I'd never heard before.

I was prompted to read this book shortly after his death as I remember having a lump in my throat at the world
May 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What I learned from reading "I'm Your Man":

1. How many different drugs Leonard has taken: many!

2. How many women Leonard has been romantically involved with: many, many!

3. How many celebrities in the music world Leonard has associated with and worked with: many, many, many (quite a few of whom could be on list #2 as well!)

4. Interesting tidbits about his life and career that were previously unknown to me. For example, there were two Suzannes in his life. The one who was his common-law wife for 1
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
So great to have a kid who works in a bookstore, who knows what I REALLY want. Have to keep from gulping this down at a single sitting.
This was a compulsive read, especially strong in informing us about the conditions and circumstances behind the recordings of the various albums, giving faces and stories to the sounds I know so well, having become a Leonard Cohen fan in high school--can still see my friend's lliving room where I first heard that compelling Spanish guitar.
Carl R.
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I feel cheated, and by my own self. Leonard Cohen was a major part of my life, and I didn’t even know he was there. Talk about clueless.

Born in Montreal, just a few years before I was, he was raised among the well-to-do Jews of that community. As an adolescent, he became a wanderer of the nighttime streets (a habit he never discarded), then (events overlapping) a poet. Not a particularly successful one at first, though he did become part of the beat community—to the extent there was one—in Montr
It is very hard to express what Leonard Cohen means to me. He is the poet of my soul; by some impossible feat, he has written about my childhood, my love, my mind and my life without ever having met me. At times, he is so close to the truth of things that have actually happened that I wonder if he wasn't in the room with me, listening, taking part in my most intimate moments. I will never be able to properly express my gratitude for his existencr and the gift he gave to the world by creating poe ...more
Bruce Hatton
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
It would be little of an exaggeration to call this biography, definitive. Thankfully, eschewing any arty cut-and-paste techniques, it take us chronologically through the life of Leonard Cohen; from his birth on 21st September 1934 to an upper-middle class Jewish family in Montreal up until 2012, the date of the book’s publication. Even at the grand age of 77, Leonard still produced two more albums of music, a book of poetry and undertook a world tour before his death on 7th November 2016. A post ...more
I found most of this book pretty uninteresting. I'm not sure how much this reflects a fault of the book in particular and how much it's just consequence of a larger issue I have with biographies.

The biographies I've read split pretty clearly into two distinct categories. The biographies of people famous for specific, exceptional, usually lurid actions -- famous criminals, cult leaders, and the like -- have been very enjoyable. On the other hand, biographies of people famous for sustained activit
Mar 17, 2013 rated it liked it
I started reading Cohen's poetry when I was in high school, but I had no conception of him as a musician. It took me till I was in my early 20s to fall in love with his music, with his voice. At that time I was falling in love with a great many people and things. Leonard is still with me, unlike most of the rest. His music rewards contemplation, it rewards analysis, and it rewards showing up. I have seen hundreds of concerts in my life, and the two that were best by miles were Cohen's- so much s ...more
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, treasure
I’m writing this review from a cemetery, which seems fitting. I came across Leonard’s words and melodies at the right time - I fully immersed myself in them (and in this biography) for the past four months, and have so found one of the most effective anxiety relievers as well as a major artistic influence. Finishing this book feels like a small death. Sylvie Simmons is a very gifted author and set the standards high for biography writing - I gained a lot from reading “I’m Your Man”, far more tha ...more
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've long been a fan of Leonard Cohen's music, even when being a fan of his was neither popular nor profitable. (Just joking about the "popular and profitable.")

I read this book because although I know his songs very well, I knew very little about his life.

The book addresses his life very closely, and the author interviewed a amazingly large number of people when researching the book, including Mr. Cohen himself. She even interviewed Mr. Cohen's love interests, all of whom, it seems, still feel
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
An evening out for Paul Bryant. Ian Bell was in town to open a display of his photography of rock musicians and I was lucky enough to get to talk to him.

Paul, I’m sure you are going to want to start with the bad news.

Me: Have you photographed Leonard Cohen?

Yes, a few times?

Me: And Bob Dylan?

Maybe half a dozen.

Me: What do you think of Dylan’s concerts?

Picture being at a Heston Blumenthal dinner. It’s cost you $500. The table is lovely, the view gorgeous, the menu looks fantastic. And then you
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
reading this book, i feel like i got to be good friends with Leonard Cohen. Simmons was thorough in her research and compassionate. Leonard Cohen is the patron saint of lovers and poets. I hope he stays on this Earth for a good long time. for anyone who's even the slightest bit interested in the man, his poetry, his music, his lovers, his philosophies and his religion, this book will be unputdownable. i highly recommend it. i had the joy of reading it and stopping to search for videos to check o ...more
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
"Never meet your heroes" — so the saying goes. It doesn't even have to be face-to-face; be it from across the page or from beyond the grave, they will invariably disappoint.

Leonard Cohen's career is unusual to say the least. Known primarily for his contributions to popular music — with his 1984 "Hallelujah" becoming something of a standard, having been covered by over 300 different artists since its release — Cohen actually got his start writing poetry and prose fiction in the 1950s and 1960s,
Nov 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
First off, this book blows away any former works on Cohen's life. Nadel's book was very good and it's been perhaps been unfairly overlooked by non-fans- but Nadel's book was too focused on the thesis that Cohen is a brilliant nihilist to tell a compelling and fulfilling life story. Also it had to stop just when things got interesting- the Cohen revival, the O2 show. Simmons obviously adores Cohen and that'll probably irritate those who don't feel the same way about, as Nadel and many others have ...more
Oct 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Spectacular. Could not put it down. I've been an enthusiastic & grateful Leonard Cohen fan since my early teens (so, decades) but knew surprisingly little about his life. I was afraid reading the book would make me like Cohen & his work less (as biographies often do) but the effect was the opposite--my respect and awe have increased. Cohen has battled all his life to express his vision as honestly as possible, which has not always made for the happiest life (for him or for those close to him). T ...more
Ann Diamond
Apr 29, 2015 rated it liked it
REPOSTING THIS REVIEW (after taking it down a few months back).

Leonard Cohen is a hero to many. A nicer, more polite and articulate public figure would be hard to find. But as Robert McKee says, "True character is revealed only by action taken under pressure." The true story of Leonard Cohen's life would expose a lot of 20th century secrets, since Cohen was part of so many world-shaking events, movements and trends. From the MKULTRA program to the Bay of Pigs, from sixties' folk music to 90s pha
James Murphy
There's a story early on in I'm Your Man about the 13-year old Leonard Cohen, interested in magic, hypnotizing a maid and telling her to take her clothes off. Briefly we're told of his panic when she does. We're told of his fear of young hypnotist and subject being discovered by his mother and having to explain. What do you do when you're 13 and faced with a naked woman for the first time, completely under your control? Though this is the kind of story which necessarily needs a conclusion, we're ...more
Whew. This is an exhaustive volume. I'm totally impressed by Sylvie Simmons' research and love the little bits where she writes about her interchanges with Leonard Cohen himself, because they're immediate and offer a point of view.

And as a writer, I love reading what Leonard Cohen says. For example, after he read Lorca he 'began to write poems in earnest'. He said
I wanted to respond to these poems. Every poem that touches you is like a call that needs a response, one wants to respond with one's
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sylvie Simmons's I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen is a solid biography that anyone looking to learn about Cohen's life should read. The detail and work put into this tome of a biography is simply outstanding. It's weakest points are in Simmons seemingly endless fascination with the celebrity world and Cohen's connections to famous icons of the 60's and 70's (notably Dylan, Collins and Specter). Of the 530~ pages this book consists of, perhaps 150 pages of celebrity nonsense could have b ...more
Cynthia Harrison
Oct 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Still not finished but I'm a sucker for artist biographies & a big LC fan. The first bit about his ancestry was a little dry. I'm about up to his breakthrough, so things should pick up after that. The thing that blew me away was that LC was a pudgy kid. You would never know it by his pics over the last 30 years. More when I finish:) ...more
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
I received this book from Goodreads free of charge and loved every minute of it. If you're a Leonard Cohen fan then this is the book for you. Sylvie Simmons has captured the elusive, complicated character of Leonard Cohen.

Dec 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fascinating book about a fascinating international treasure. I learned a lot about Leonard Cohen, about the music industry, and about the world, from this book.
Grace Coston
A Christmas present, along with "Old Songs". Perfect winter morning with the music, this book and time for as many cups of coffee as I want.
Aug 11, 2018 added it
I'm not a die-hard Leonard Cohen fan, but I've noticed that he's written a bunch of really good -- even great -- songs over the years, and was curious to learn more about his process and his very long and successful career as an artist, musician, and writer. At about 1/3 of the way through the book I wanted to stop reading because I was starting to really not like the guy (Leonard Cohen) and was worried that it was going to get in the way of my enjoyment of his music. He spent his 20s and 30s... ...more
Rachel Bellenoit
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
At first it was daunting to read a 500 page book. I've always loved Cohen's early work both musically and literally. This book was interesting. I'm now re-listening to the songs and albums and now they mean more because I've read the background of how he wrote and how he had his albums produced. Definitely a 'good' read!
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What is there to say about Leonard Cohen that he hasn't already said in his extensive musical repertoire, or the other biographies written about him haven’t already exposed? Quite a bit as far as I can tell… to read any bio you must be at least mildly interested in their work and influences but to read this book you must be a fan of LC, the man with the droning, monotone voice that writes in biblical verse. He was a mainstay of every college collection back in the day (my day anyway) so it was a ...more
Sep 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've heard of Leonard Cohen. I've heard his songs. They're good. I have his debut album on vinyl. But I didn't really know anything about him until I read this book. I think he's one of those people you just assume is a genius without ever having really listened to his lyrics or read his poetry. He gives off that genius vibe.
I've always thought that if you were a genius, part of being a genius meant producing effortlessly whatever it is you're a genius at. A genius is the best at his/her art and
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
In my opinion there is nobody that holds a candle to Leonard Cohen . As a songwriter, poet, and a purveyor of wit, intelligence and urbane elegance. I want to be Leonard Cohen when I grow up. Fresh off seeing him in concert,a masterful show. I cracked open Sylvie Simmons serviceable biography. Simmons does not crack the code of Cohen despite interviewing most everyone(Joni Mitchell and Phil Spector are uncooperative witnesses) including the great man; but she gets all the facts down. Every book, ...more
Clay Kallam
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I seldom buy books, and I can't recall the last hardcover I paid for, but I was more than willing to buy this one -- in part because I've always thought Leonard Cohen was the finest songwriter of his era, and in part because I spent so many years writing about pop music, and I wanted to reward an author with a sale.

As it turned out, this was money very well spent, as "I'm Your Man" is an exhaustive biography of Cohen that is more concerned with his work than with his many love affairs. Along the
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