Given the recent spate of biographies of slightly shop worn musical idols, I’m guessing that based on the success of Keith Richard’s Life, book publisher’s are all in on these kinds of books. Though it must be said that there has been a marked improvement in these life stories, less hagiography, more thoughtful retrospection and revelation. Here’s a roundup
HELLO, GORGEOUS: Becoming Barbra Streisand by William J. Mann (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin (Touchstone)
I’M YOUR MAN The Life of Leonard Cohen By Sylvie Simmons(Ecco)
I’m a late convert to the idolatry of poet/singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, having been transfixed by his Ten Songs recording circa 2000. And of course he was much in the music news, launching a world tour two years back, hoping to recoup some financial security after being impoverished by his thieving former manager. That tour produced a live recording and DVD is nicely complimented by a documentary entitled I’m Your Man.
Janet Maslin summarizes the books contents:
I’m Your Man” goes on to provide glimpses of a well-chosen few of Mr. Cohen’s relationships with women (that’s all, because this isn’t an encyclopedia); his search for spiritual enlightenment; the experiment in terror that was his collaboration with Phil Spector on “Death of a Ladies’ Man”; the extravagant drug and alcohol use that explains some of his stranger recordings; the financial scandal that robbed him of his savings; and his miraculous comeback — an unexpected fringe benefit of that larceny — as a septuagenarian live performer.
August Brown points out
One challenge of assessing Leonard Cohen’s musical legacy is that there’s so much non-musical stuff to unpack. From his vast body of literary work to his religious triangulation — Jewish by birth, artistically obsessed with Christian imagery and later ordained as a Buddhist monk — Cohen’s music is just one facet of a creative and inner life in which each element could warrant its own book treatment.
Sylvie Simmons’ “I’m Your Man” tries to synthesize all these stories into a new gold standard of Cohen bios. She’s given similar treatments to Serge Gainsbourg and Neil Young, but this might be her densest source material yet. In it, she goes deep into his Montreal upbringing, his writing process and the slow burn of his musical prowess and rise to fame.
WAGING HEAVY PEACE A Hippie Dream By Neil Young Blue Rider Press
WHO I AM By Pete Townshend.(Harper)
Mick Jagger by Philip Norman (Ecco)
Currently reading Woes of the True Policeman by Roberto Bolaño Natasha Wimmer (Translator) (FSG)