An evening of music: Sylvie, accompanied by Colombian guitarist Nicolas Holguin, will play a concert made up of Leonard Cohen songs and songs from her debut album Sylvie, which the Guardian described as “one of the most beautiful albums of the year.”. Please check feriadellibro.com for tickets, information and any last-minute schedule changes
Sylvie returns to Colombia for the second time this year to talk about Soy Tu Hombre: La Vida de Leonard Cohen – the S. American edition of her international best-seller I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen – at the Bogota Book Fair. An evening of words and music, Sylvie will be interviewed onstage by Colombian journalist Jaco Celnik and she will give a solo performance of Cohen songs. Please check event website for tickets, information and any last-minute schedule changes.
- Sylvie Simmons: Que Viva Musica – Bogota
May 1 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
- Conspiracy Of Beards Live Studio Performance On Put The Needle On The Record – NYC
May 1 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
- Conspiracy of Beards Concert – NYC
May 1 @ 11:00 pm – 11:55 pm
- Sylvie Simmons: In Concert – Bogota
May 2 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
- Conspiracy of Beards Concert – NYC
May 2 @ 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
- “So Long Leonard…” (Homenaje A Leonard Cohen/Tribute To Leonard Cohen) – Bilbao
May 2 @ 10:00 pm – 11:55 pm
Sylvie Simmons will be appearing at FILBo 2015 in Bogota on May 1, 2015 to discuss Soy Tu Hombre: La Vida de Leonard Cohen – the South American edition of her international best-seller I’m Your Man and on May 2, 2015 to perform a concert made up of Leonard Cohen songs and songs from her debut album Sylvie.
The full article, I’m Your Woman by Oli Pritchard (Bogota Post: April 20, 2015) is extensive and entertaining.
Information about Sylvie Simmons’ Bogota appearances can be found at the Cohen Events Calendar (search for Sylvie Simmons).
Caveat: I am not an unbiased reviewer. I was one of several Leonard Cohen fans with whom Sylvie Simmons conferred in the process of researching and writing this biography; a handful of my contributions, in fact, made it into the book. Further, Sylvie has participated, more or less willingly, in an interview or two as well as a few other projects that were published on this site (see Sylvie Simmons At Cohencentric below).
Consequently, I am profoundly grateful that “I’m Your Man” is a conspicuously, unequivocally marvelous book; had it been otherwise, this would be one incredibly awkward review to write.
Review: “I’m Your Man”
On its release date, September 18, 2012,1 “I’m Your Man – The Life Of Leonard Cohen” by Sylvie Simmons will become the definitive biography of Leonard Cohen.
Unsurprisingly, the 533 pages of text2 are written with the clarity, style, and attention to the telling detail characteristic of an acclaimed music journalist with over thirty years of experience.
Appropriately, given the subject of this biography, the content is far more extensive and dense than the typical volume of pop star puffery or entertainer expose. While not as exhaustive as, say, Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, “I’m Your Man” is packed with a staggering number of captivating, often revealing stories about Leonard Cohen. Even long-time, well-read Cohen fans will discover previously unknown facts, incidents, and anecdotes about the Canadian singer-songwriter. (Having read “I’m Your Man,” the realization that still more Cohen stories were collected that did not become part of the final version of the book, either because of necessary editorial cuts or the interviewees’ wishes that the information be withheld, evokes severe cognitive dissonance.)
“I’m Your Man” sets forth the significant historical facts about Cohen, his family, and his professional life in straightforward chronological fashion.
The major themes of Cohen’s life, his depressions, his ambition, his extensive drug use, his artistic influences, his religious and spiritual explorations, and, of course, the women and the roles they played in his bed, his life, and his art, are interwoven throughout the biography.
“I’m Your Man” is authoritative without being condescending, respectful without being obsequious, compellingly readable without being dumbed down.
And some portions are wry, droll, and witty; other parts are pretty darn funny.
Most remarkable, however, is the success with which the author captures Cohen’s conversational tone.3 Those familiar with Cohen’s use of language in his music, poetry, novels, and interviews will detect a resonance with the words and phrases of this book.
I’ve searched for a couple of negative (or at least less positive) points I can include to support the illusion that this is a balanced review. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. “I’m Your Man” shares the inherent quirk of all significant biographies: the readers who already know the most about the subject are the ones who will garner the most from the book. Allusions to Cohen’s traits, song titles, and history, for example, will be missed by those who haven’t gone beyond figuring out it was Leonard Cohen rather than Jeff Buckley, Alexandra Burke, or Shrek who wrote”Hallelujah.” On a deeper level, behavioral patterns evident to those who have followed Cohen’s career may well be indecipherable to those for whom this is virgin territory. The ideal reader, I suppose, would be an ardent fan who has listened to Cohen’s albums, attended a couple of his concerts, perused a few articles about him in the press or on one of the Cohencentric web sites but has never read one of the Cohen biographies. Be assured, however, that even those who have only discovered Cohen recently and those who have listened to Cohen’s music for decades, have read everything printed about him in any language, and have been to a half-dozen Cohen concerts – so far this year – will find the book an enchanting read.
2. Sylvie Simmons is not neutral on the matter of Leonard Cohen. She admires his music and his poetry, considers him endlessly interesting and intriguing as a subject, and finds him gracious and companionable as a person. On the other hand, she doesn’t hesitate to point out his incongruities and weaknesses. Nor does she try to persuade the reader that she is invulnerable to Mr Cohen’s not inconsiderable charms. Indeed, her fascination with Cohen propels the biography, lending enthusiasm to the elegance of the prose.
So, I’ll end by repeating the assessment I offered at the beginning of this post:
“I’m Your Man” is a conspicuously,
unequivocally marvelous book.
Sylvie Simmons At Cohencentric
In December 2009, Sylvie participated in a Q&A posted on this site as Sylvie Simmons On Her Leonard Cohen Biography, The Uke, & All Sorts Of Good Stuff.
Since then, she has appeared sporadically in posts (e.g., Sylvie Simmons On The Emotional Impact Of Finishing Her Biography Of Leonard Cohen), has written the liner notes for the Cohencentric produced collection, Another Other Songs Of Leonard Cohen, and within the past month has performed – in public – the “Ballad Of Len,” a musical tribute to Leonard Cohen with lyrics I wrote set to a tune not unlike that of the theme song for The Beverley Hillbillies.
- “I’m Your Man” will be released on different dates by its various publishers in different countries. September 18, 2012, the release date in the US, is is the earliest of the publication dates. [↩]
- Page numbers are based on an uncorrected advance copy of the book; your page count may vary. “I’m Your Man” also includes 23 pages of end notes and 16 pages of photos along with an index and the usual assortment of acknowledgements, permissions, … [↩]
- OK, substantial portions of the book are Cohen’s conversations with Simmons, but even the other parts of the book capture Cohen’s conversational tone. [↩]
The Ballad Of Len
The latest in the long line of musical tributes to Leonard Cohen, a group that includes songs by such luminaries as Peter Gabriel, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Elton John, Sting, Pixies, Nick Cave, R.E.M., and many, many others, is now online.
“The Ballad Of Len,” featuring lyrics by DrHGuy and set to music not unlike that of the theme from The Beverly Hillbillies, was performed August 4, 2012 by Sylvie Simmons, the renowned music journalist whose Leonard Cohen biography, “I’m Your Man,” is due to hit the bookstores, both virtual and brick and mortar, this fall, and Heidi Clare, widely acknowledged as the best, most powerful old-time fiddler performing today, at the Madison Leonard Cohen Event held in Madison, Wisconsin.
No, I have no idea what Ms Simmons and Ms Clare were thinking – or smoking – when they agreed to this.
But, if you’ve always craved hearing a parody of “The Ballad Of Jed Clampett” commemorating the 2008-2010 Leonard Cohen World Tour sung in a British accent accompanied by ukelele and exquisite fiddling well, friend, this is your big chance.
Sylvie Simmons & Heidi Clare – The Ballad Of Len
Video by Maarten Massa
Ballad Of Len – Lyrics
Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Len
Up on Mount Baldy he was contemplatin’ Zen1
Then one day checking his retirement stash,
He found out that he was plumb out of cash2
(Swindled that is, cleaned out, busted)
Well, Our Man’s3 future was looking insecure
Rob Hallett4 said “Len, you’ve gotta go on tour,”
Said on the road is the place you oughta be
So he bought a fedora and signed with AEG5
(Worldwide that is, Europe, North America, Down Under)
Well the concerts were a hit right from the kickoff show
Fredericton6 welcomed him with a standing O
The Tour earned big bucks and even more esteem
Not too bad for a kid with a crazy dream7
(White man dancing, cheerfulness breaking through, dum, dum, dum, da, doo, dum, dum)
In Vegas three years later the tour was finally done8
When Leonard told the crowd, “God bless us every one”
Now Cohenites9 are happy from Manhattan to Berlin10
Leonard’s going back on tour11 – here we go again
(Presales, VIP packages, Y’all buy that I’m Your Man biography now, ya hear?)
- Leonard Cohen resided at the Mount Baldy Zen Center near Los Angeles from 1994 – 1999. During his stay, Cohen was ordained as a Rinzai Zen Buddhist monk, taking the Dharma name Jikan. For more information, see 10 Years Ago – Leonard Cohen Comes Down From The Mountain [↩]
- Cohen sued his former manager for stealing $5m from his retirement fund while he was at the Zen Buddhist monastery. [↩]
- “Our Man” is one of Leonard Cohen’s many nicknames. See Leonard Cohen, AKA … – The Nicknames, Item #50 [↩]
- Rob Hallett is a concert promoter for AEG, who among other accomplishments, is held to have coaxed Leonard Cohen out of retirement for the 2008-2011 World Tour. Source: Praise Be… Or How “Hallelujah” Man Leonard Cohen’s Comeback Actually Happened by Johnny Black (Rock’s Back Pages, Jan 9,. 2009) [↩]
- The Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) is a sporting and music entertainment presenter and managed Leonard Cohen’s 2008-2010 Tour [↩]
- Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, was the site of Leonard Cohen’s first concert of the 2008-2010 Tour, performed on 11 May 2008. [↩]
- A recurrent schtick in Leonard Cohen’s 2008-2010 concert routine was noting that when he last performed at a given venue when he was 60 years old, “just a kid with a crazy dream. [↩]
- The 11 Dec 2010 Leonard Cohen Las Vegas show closed out the 2008-2010 Leonard Cohen World Tour [↩]
- Cohenites is the preferred term for Cohen followers [↩]
- As in “First We Take Manhattan … [↩]
- The 2012 Leonard Cohen Old Ideas World Tour begins Aug 12, 2012 [↩]