A Cohencentric Appreciation Of Sylvie Simmons: Music Journalist, Rock Chick, & Leonard Cohen Biographer

The most joyous part of the Cohencentric Farewell Tour (well, at least from my perspective) is the opportunity to acknowledge those folks who contributed to this site’s success.

Sylvie Simmons

In 2009, I received a message from Sylvie Simmons, who had then convinced various publishers that she would complete a biography of Leonard Cohen in the foreseeable future, complimenting my blog and asking my assistance in her preparation of this biography. And, I knew what that meant. Yep, that’s right – it meant

Sylvie Simmons was contacting every living Leonard Cohen fan
to solicit help writing her Leonard Cohen biography

Since then, Sylvie not only published that biography (see Sept 18, 2012: “I’m Your Man” By Sylvie Simmons Becomes The Definitive Leonard Cohen Biography), complete with a fulsome acknowledgement of and a couple of footnotes attributed to yours truly but also became a significant feature on Cohencentric. This post, in fact, will be the 142nd Cohencentric entry in which Sylvie Simmons plays a role.

From that first email, Sylvie treated me respectfully. She credited my efforts – unlike many, many other media, museum, and music professionals who used my sites as an unrecognized information source and me as an unpaid intern to do their research.

Sylvie modeled integrity, ethical journalism and personal honesty; Sylvie always followed through on her promises – even promises she should never have made. She was hard working, skillful, and pretty darn funny.

Best of all, Sylvie’s graciousness rivaled that of Leonard’s. She has been what can only be described as bizarrely openhanded in contributing to Cohencentric.

Now, some of those contributions fell into the realm of nice but not onerous things to do. She sent me, for example, articles about Leonard Cohen I was otherwise unable to access and this photo of the Caesars Palace marquee promoting Leonard’s 2010 Las Vegas show for my Signs Of Leonard Cohen collection.

She was also, however, incredibly generous with her time, efforts, and storehouse of contacts and information. She put me in touch with and provided character references to photographers, journalists, and musicians I couldn’t  otherwise reach. She quickly responded to a bevy of questions I asked.1

Sylvie also submitted to the first Cohencentric Q&A: Sylvie Simmons On Her Leonard Cohen Biography, The Uke, & All Sorts Of Good Stuff. This interview, a dandy read on its own, was, in addition, the leverage for the many subsequent Q&A’s published on this site (“Dear ________, I am writing to request a Q&A with you. Cohencentric has previously published Q&A’s with other notables, such as Leonard Cohen biographer, Sylvie Simmons.”)

Best of all – and, a little unbelievably in retrospect – Sylvie was game for just about anything Cohenesque.

When I wrote her about Leonard Cohen’s 1968 appearance in Seventeen Magazine, she pitched in, as per this excerpt:

Acutely aware of my lamentable scholarly deficiencies in the area of periodicals targeted to adolescent females, I consulted with distinguished music journalist, revered rock chick, and  Leonard Cohen biographer, Sylvie Simmons, whose pertinent credentials in this case include once being a teenage girl and, albeit briefly, a girls’ teenzine writer renowned for  asking  deep, soul-penetrating questions of, among other, David Cassidy (while sitting in Mr Cassidy’s lap),  the Jackson 5, the Bay City Rollers, and David Bowie. Her critique follows:

As a former (very briefly) writer for a teen magazine, I can state without any fear of contradiction that this is the worst teen mag piece I’ve ever read.

‘State of grace’. Puh-lease! Where are the hobbies, most embarrassing moment, collar-and-inside-leg-size and taste in girls questions. Though the pic makes him look like the kind of old man any self-respecting 17 year old girl in the sixties would have been warned not to talk to.

And, she agreed to write the liner notes for Another Other Songs Of Leonard Cohen Album, Cohencentric’s freebie bootleg album, gratis (keep in mind that Sylvie earns her living selling what she writes). As I noted at the time,

Because of that pesky pending litigation, DrHGuy cannot comment upon rumors that blackmail, threats, or kidnapping were involved in garnering the participation of Sylvie Simmons in the Another Other Songs Of Leonard Cohen Album project. Besides, now the notes are done so nobody got hurt – and isn’t that the important thing? Actually, DrHGuy, lacking the sufficient resources to have emulated Don Vito Corleone in making “an offer [s]he can’t refuse,” opted to make Sylvie an offer she couldn’t refute, i.e., participation in this project would result in no imaginable benefits to her.

The first lines of Sylvie’s notes follow:

There was something on the radio about Michel de Montaigne, the French Renaissance essayist. From the day he was born, he heard nothing but Latin – an experiment conducted by his dad. Montaigne grew up as fluent in Latin as his schoolfriends were in French. He also suffered depression. The famous Essays he wrote were a form of self-therapy, it said. Which wouldn’t have made him popular with Dr Heck, the shrink, Leonard Cohenite and philanthropist who, along with messalina79, compiled this free album and then signed me up to write free liner notes. Leonard, famously, spent his life avoiding psychiatrists; Leonard, as we all know, was uncommonly smart.

Even that, however, pales in comparison to Sylvie’s performance of “Ballad Of Len,” a tune featuring lyrics by DrHGuy and set to music not unlike that of the theme from The Beverly Hillbillies, at the 2012 Madison Leonard Cohen Event.

From the original post:

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

There’s more, but you get the idea – Sylvie Simmons is a star.

A Cohencentric Sampler Of Sylvie Simmons Posts

Credit Due Department: The photo of Sylvie Simmons atop this post was taken at Golden Gate Park in Summer 2009 by Henry Wimmer’s iPhone and may or may not be included in the forthcoming “The Many Moods of Sylvie – Portraits Of A Diva.”

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  1. OK, I may have used her as an unpaid, albeit not unacknowledged, intern at times. []

Help Choose “Greatest Hits” For The Cohencentric Farewell Tour

As part of The Cohencentric Farewell Tour, we’re running – one last time – this site’s Greatest Hits. While it’s simple enough to calculate which posts garnered the most views, limiting Cohencentric’s Greatest Hits.to the most generically popular posts would result in a collection egregiously devoid of those entries holding special significance to specific viewers, for example:

  • A performance video from a well-remembered concert
  • A Leonard Cohen quotation that somehow helped during a difficult time
  • An instance of Leonard’s stage banter that was especially insightful, funny, or provocative
  • A photo of Leonard that resonated
  • An animation that moved you
  • An interview or essay that lent new awareness into Leonard’s life and work
  • A photoshopped graphic, sophisticated witticism, or goofy wisecrack that produced a chortle or two

There’s more, but you get the idea – if a Cohencentric post is a Greatest Hit for you, then it’s a Greatest Hit.

Send the links to the posts, lists, tags, categories, etc. you nominate for Cohencentric’s Greatest Hits to the email address listed below along with an explanation of why that post is important to you. Also, let me know how you prefer to be identified (e.g., real name, alias, anonymous …) if your recommendation is published.

Cohencentric Farewell Tour: Thank You & FAQ

Thank You

First and most importantly, I am profoundly touched by the response to my announcement that Cohencentric is entering its final months. The many, many thoughtful comments, emails, and messages have been heartening and genuinely moving.

FAQ

Several folks have asked the same questions, the answers to some of which follow:

  • How important is the cost? The point I was trying to make in writing “why pay $2000 a year to be abused” (which was a parenthetical, by the way) wasn’t so much to complain about the money I’ve spent over the last ten years (although the amount, as the researchers say, is not trivial) as to emphasize that Cohencentric and its predecessors have been the result of a voluntary effort on my part. Other than a few advance copies of books about Leonard Cohen, tickets Leonard comped me for a couple of concerts, and a handful of collectibles from Leonard and fans, the only compensation I have received for my work on these sites is the appreciation of readers. Even were I to receive, say, a Canada Council for the Arts grant, it wouldn’t magically solve the problem – well, unless it was lucrative enough to allow me to blog from Hydra. Regardless, “why pay $2000 a year to be abused” is best translated as “why should I compete for abuse.”1
  • Why not raise money by selling subscriptions to or running ads on Cohencentric? Many photographers, collectors, and writers have given permission to post their work on Cohencentric with the implicit understanding that it was a not-for-profit site. Charging for subscriptions or inserting ads might not be technically illegal, but it would be, in my view, an ethical violation.
  • Could the Leonard Cohen estate organization contribute to Cohencentric? There is no evidence that the Leonard Cohen estate organization has any interest in supporting Cohencentric.
  • How about Sony? Substitute “Sony” for “the Leonard Cohen estate organization” in the above item.
  • Is there someone else who could take over the site? I have actively searched for someone to take over my role without a glimmer of success.
  • How about offering a version of Cohencentric that would require less time and effort? A trait I shared with Leonard is the unwillingness to produce work that is less than my best.
  • What do you mean by abuse (as in “why pay $2000 a year to be abused”)? Nothing special; just the usual kind of stuff bloggers face: nasty comments by wannabe trolls (I especially admire those who excuse their noxious remarks by employing “That’s just my opinion” like it’s a Get Out Of Jail Free card), folks reposting my original content without attribution, those who vehemently defend their personal, idiosyncratic visions of Leonard Cohen against the perceived indignity of photos, videos, jokes, quotes … appearing on this site – none of which ever caused Leonard himself to complain.

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  1. It wouldn’t be the first time. A buddy described the medical school environment as a batch of underlings raising their hands and shouting to the demigods, “Me, me. Don’t crap on him. Crap on me. []

Cohencentric: Leonard Cohen Considered – The Farewell Tour

I Did My Best, It Wasn’t Much

After posting about Leonard Cohen for more than a decade, thus achieving my goal of creating the Internet’s most devoutly irreverent, delightfully droll, and distinctively offbeat Leonard Cohen site administered by a deeply superficial, nonpracticing agnostic hard-core dilettante, I am announcing my impending abdication.

Farewell Tour?

Well, the notion of producing a Cohencentric Farewell Tour seemed less rude – and a lot more fun – than precipitously deleting the site from the Interwebs. In addition, I’ve committed to a handful of projects that aren’t yet ready to publish, and my contract with the company hosting this site doesn’t terminate until later this year. Also, the essential and gratifying obligation of acknowledging the multitude of friends, photographers, writers, collectors, and fans who have generously contributed to Cohencentric’s success will require time. Accordingly, Cohencentric will be online until this Fall, and, until then,

We’ll give you everything we got

Why Stop Now?

More than once over the years, I’ve been so disenchanted that I decided to terminate my site (why pay $2000 a year to be abused – and not in the fun way?), only to be seduced into continuing by Leonard’s words to me, delivered in person or by email. (No, I don’t believe Leonard intentionally lured me into staying the course; it just turned out that way.) Given that I will never again hear from the man who was my audience of one, persevering has become even more difficult.

Now, anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to find that I have maintained an incredibly detailed list of grievances that led to this final determination to skip off the stage, but, heck, as Leonard observed,

Nothing in this human realm is meant to work. So once you can deeply appreciate that…the mind of compassion grows if you understand that everybody’s up against it.1

OK, OK, I’m still working on that mind of compassion thing.

Truth is, I can’t complain. The way things work is that no one was obligated to praise, applaud, or pay for my efforts. And, there have been lots of folks who have liked my stuff and have been gracious enough to say so.

What Now?

Other than Cohencentric’s publishing schedule becoming less consistent/obsessive and the reposting – for the last time – of some of Cohencentric’s Greatest Hits, little will change during the final phase of this site’s existence. So, those of you who are fans can continue to enjoy Cohencentric for a while; and, the rest of you can look forward to the time when Cohencentric is no more. Everybody wins.

Update: Help Choose “Greatest Hits” For The Cohencentric Farewell Tour

What Next?

Well, “announcing my impending abdication” isn’t the same as “announcing my impending retirement.” I will be embarking on a new quest after the first of the year. But, more about that later.

Update: Cohencentric Farewell Tour: Thank You & FAQ

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  1. From Leonard Cohen interview With Stina Dabrowski (Mount Baldy Zen Center: 1997. []

Cohencentric Tops 4,000,000 Hits: March 29, 2018

Ah, we’re drinking and we’re dancing
and the band is really happening

Early this morning, Cohencentric earned its four millionth unique view since opening March 7, 2015. I want to thank all those who visit this site and all those who have contributed to these 6,000+ posts.

This count does not include Cohencentric’s affiliated YouTube videos, Facebook Page, Twitter account, nor, of course, the hits garnered by Cohencentric’s predecessors, 1HeckOfAGuy.com and DrHGuy.com during their many years of operation.

About The Leonard Cohen Animation Trilogy Atop This Post

Individual animations and source information:

  1. We’re Drinking
  2. And We’re Dancing
  3. And The Band Is Really Happening

View more animated gifs at Leonard Cohen Animations

Cohencentric 3 Years Old Today – And We Miss Our Audience Of One: Leonard Cohen

chucklesThe above graphic and quote from Leonard below are from Cohencentric’s first blogiversary post on March 7, 2016.

quoteup2
Thanks for the many chuckles, Allan, and the sometimes embarrassing reminders of past follies. Deeply appreciate your efforts on my behalf. Brilliant work. Better than Drudge. Gratitude and warm regards to you and The Duchess.

emb200

quotedown2

Leonard

 

The State Of The Blog: March 7, 2018

Since Cohencentric came online March 7, 2015, it has published over 6000 posts chock-full of information, photos, videos, animations, audio recordings, musicological and philosophical discussions, and even the occasional joke. That’s an average of 5-6 posts added to the site each day, 365 days a year. Not so shabby. And in just these three years, Cohencentric has accumulated 3.9 million hits (aka unique views). Definitely not too shabby.

History

As long-time readers know, Cohencentric.com is the phoenix version of 1HeckOfAGuy.com. The first 1HeckOfAGuy.com post went online 12 years ago – March 3, 2006. The early posts (for example, the second entry, A Heck Of A [Warm-Up] Guy) focused on my life and interests.. For those keeping score, the first mention of Leonard Cohen at the 1HeckOfAGuy URL was the July 6, 2006 entry, “Do I Have To Dance All Night” – The Best Leonard Cohen Song You’ve (Probably) Never Heard, and posts about him, Anjani, Lorca, Adam,  and the rest of the gang were for some time only occasional occurrences. That site closed, for all practical purposes, in mid-February 2015.1 More information about 1HeckOfAGuy.com is available here.

Cohencentric Changes Coming

I had indicated that this post would include a discussion of changes coming to Cohencentric but belatedly realized that this celebratory entry was not an auspicious occasion for such an issue, so that announcement will be published later.

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  1. 1HeckOfAGuy.com still exists, albeit only as a site redirecting folks looking for a Leonard Cohen post originally published on that site to Cohencentric []

February 14, 2015: “DrHGuy.com is now closed and 1HeckOfAGuy.com will close in a couple of days”

hoag10f

The “Memories” section of Facebook informed me that my February 14, 2015 post was

As some of you already know, DrHGuy.com is now closed and 1HeckOfAGuy.com will close in a couple of days. I apologize for the abrupt termination. The reasons, which have accumulated over time, are too complex, painful, and sad to go into. As Leonard once said about losing his retirement fund, “It’s enough to put a dent in your mood.”

I have hopes of resurrecting a Leonard Cohen site at some point…

I appreciate the kind thoughts and good wishes extended by many readers.

Allan
~aka DrHGuy at Heck Of A Guy

Indeed, after nine years of publishing, 1HeckOfAGuy.com, for all practical purposes,1 closed within 48 hours.

And, with encouragement from Leonard, Cohencentric.com arose from the ashes less than a month later.  Wacky stuff, eh? On March 7, 2018 – 6,000+ posts and nearly 4,000,000 hits later – Cohencentric will celebrate its third anniversary online. But, things are changing, so …. stay tuned.

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  1. A 1HeckOfAGuy.com single post persists, informing folks about the move to Cohencentric.com and AllanShowalter.com []