The new book "I'mÂ YourÂ Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen" by the London-born, San Francisco-based music journalist Sylvie Simmons has been called a "mesmerizing labor of love" and âthe major, soul-searching biography thatÂ Leonard Cohen deservesâ by Janet Maslin inÂ The New York Times. Simmons is no stranger to charismatic subjects (see her previous biography of Serge Gainsbourg), and this examination of Leonard Cohenâs various roles as poet, novelist, singer-songwriter, visionary, and ladiesâ man reveals a devotion to honoring his talent and exceptional integration of emotion and intellect, made so clear in these lyrics to his song âAnthem.â
Ring the bells that still can ringÂ
Forget your perfect offeringÂ
There is a crack in everythingÂ
That's how the light gets in.Â
Simmonsâ nuanced view of Cohen, supported by exhaustive research and unprecedented access to Cohenâs personal archives and interviews with more than a hundred sources closest to Cohen -- including lovers, friends, monks, professors, rabbis, fellow artists, and muses, along with Cohen himself -- follows him from a devout Jewish childhood in Montreal toÂ New York, Mumbai, and the Greek island ofÂ Hydra.
Biographile asked Brooklyn-based illustratorÂ NathanÂ Gelgud to share his take on the book. Below, he illustrates some moments from the chapter about Cohen's years spent living at aÂ Zen centerÂ on a mountaintop above Los Angeles in the 1990s. At the peak of his worldly success (which has included induction into the AmericanÂ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and sold-out world tours), he became an ordained Buddhist monk and took the name Jikan, translated as âordinary silence.â