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Library Journal Review
At age 78, iconic musician Leonard Cohen is enjoying a remarkable comeback. The singer, songwriter, poet, and novelist has started his fourth major tour in five years and released the highly acclaimed album Old Ideas in January. Veteran music journalist Simmons (Neil Young: Reflections in Broken Glass) spent three years tracking Cohen's life, career, and travels. The result is the most extensive biography of the man to date-more substantial and insightful than Anthony Reynolds's 2010 Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life. Simmons covers every aspect of Cohen's fascinating life, the highs and the lows (and Cohen had many lows). She interviewed the musician at length, as well as his friends, lovers, and associates (including Judy Collins, Lou Reed, and Philip Glass). The book discusses Cohen's creative process and his endless search for enlightenment at length. Simmons also provides a revealing account of Cohen's five years in a Zen Buddhist monastery and the financial and legal woes that propelled him back on the road as a performer. Verdict Die-hard fans will appreciate the many details of album production and business deals, while casual fans will enjoy the personal drama and the origins of Cohen's best-known songs, such as "Suzanne," "Hallelujah," "Sisters of Mercy," and "Famous Blue Raincoat."-Thomas Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
In this vibrant and enthusiastic chronicle of Leonard Cohen's life, music critic Simmons (Neil Young: Reflections in Broken Glass) draws extensively on interviews with Cohen's friends and associates, as well as on his private archives, his unpublished writings, and his published stories and poetry. The author narrates Cohen's life from his childhood and youth in Montreal-where he started writing poetry and stories when he was 15-through his aborted college career to his move to Manhattan in pursuit of music; his rise to fame with such songs as "Suzanne," "Bird on a Wire," and "Hallelujah" (one of pop music's most recorded songs); his often difficult relationships with women; and his search for tranquility and order in his embrace of Buddhism. Carefully weaving the threads of all of his songs and albums through the patterns of his life, Simmons craftily explores the themes that regularly mark Cohen's work: desire, regret, suffering, love, hope, and hamming it up. Cohen emerges from this definitive biography as a sensitive and intensely serious artist whose reverence for the word and deep love and respect for his audiences continues "to dissolve all the boundaries between word and song, between the song and the truth, and the truth and himself, his heart and its aching." (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* As a teenager in Montreal, Leonard Cohen learned six chords on a guitar from a young Spanish teacher that would form the foundation for all of his songs. In this compelling biography, Simmons chronicles the career of the courtly, elegant I was born in a suit singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist, from his first band in Montreal (a country-and-western trio, no less) to his early days in New York, where he lived at the famous Chelsea Hotel, to his most recent world tour, during which the seventysomething Cohen literally skipped onstage. Simmons includes fascinating anecdotes Cohen meeting Judy Collins, who would later record one of his signature songs, Suzanne ; encountering fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell in Greenwich Village (Mitchell's A Case of You was inspired by Cohen); scary recording sessions with the gun-toting record producer Phil Spector, and spending time at a Zen monastery. Simmons also discusses at length Cohen's impressive body of work, including poetry and prose as well as songs (his iconic Hallelujah has been covered by more than 300 artists), mentions his numerous bouts of depression, and recounts his unfortunate financial difficulties when his former manager stole funds from his retirement account. A must for anyone interested in one of the most influential songwriters of our time.--Sawyers, June Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
An elegant, deeply researched life of the Canadian musician, poet and novelist. With the resurgence of his career in the last decade, Cohen has been the subject of several new books, but it's hard to imagine a better one than veteran music journalist Simmons' (Neil Young: Reflections in Broken Glass, 2001, etc.) work. Born into a wealthy family of Jewish clothiers in Montreal, Cohen became one of Canada's leading young literary lights with his early volumes of poetry and two well-received novels. He was already in his early 30s when he became a professional musician, after folk singer Judy Collins brought his songs to the world's attention with her cover of "Suzanne." Beginning in 1968, the globe-trotting, seemingly driven Cohen recorded a series of wise, dark albums that made him a star in Europe and brought him a far smaller but devoted following in the United States. He was enjoying renewed commercial and critical success in the mid-'90s when he withdrew into a Zen Buddhist monastery for more than five years. Upon his return to the world, he discovered that his longtime manager had embezzled millions; his unexpected penury prompted a wildly received 2008-2009 world tour that grossed $50 million and finally lifted him, as a septuagenarian, into the top echelon of international stars. Simmons follows every step of Cohen's peripatetic artistic journey with acuity and no small measure of poetic observation. Drawing on interviews with Cohen and most of his important collaborators and paramours, she paints a deep portrait of a man seemingly torn between the spiritual and the worldly, deeply gifted but plagued by abiding depression and frequent self-doubt. Simmons offers an abundance of revealing stories about Cohen's ardent womanizing, restless pursuit of enlightenment through sex, drugs, alcohol and spirituality, and sometimes excruciating artistic perfectionism. He emerges in his full complexity, brimming with both seemingly boundless brilliance and abundant human imperfection. Taking on a looming subject with intelligence and wit, Simmons manages to take the full measure of her man.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.