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.
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.
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
- Sylvie Simmons On Her Leonard Cohen Biography, The Uke, & All Sorts Of Good Stuff
- Sept 18, 2012: “I’m Your Man” By Sylvie Simmons Becomes The Definitive Leonard Cohen Biography
- Another Other Songs Of Leonard Cohen Album: Liner Notes by Sylvie Simmons
- “Ballad Of Len” – Leonard Cohen Musical Tribute Performed By Sylvie Simmons & Heidi Clare
- Sneak Preview From “Leonard Cohen Master Of Song” By Sylvie Simmons – MOJO #279
- Hear Sylvie Simmons Reveal Leonard Cohen’s Meditation Thoughts & More: 2013 Australian Radio Interview
- Hear Sylvie Simmons Talk To Libby Znaimer About Leonard Cohen’s Singing Voice & His Women
- “[I’m Your Man By Sylvie Simmons is] the best book I’ve read about Leonard Cohen. It’s one of the best music books I’ve ever read; one of the best biographies I’ve read. It’s one of my favourite books.”
- Video: Sylvie Simmons Reads From, Talks About Her Leonard Cohen Bio “I’m Your Man”
- Recovered Sylvie Simmons Facebook Music Interview A Must-Read
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.”
- OK, I may have used her as an unpaid, albeit not unacknowledged, intern at times. [↩]