Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: The Early Years

News about Leonard Cohen and his work, press, radio & TV programs etc.
User avatar
B4real
Posts: 6917
Joined: Sun Jun 07, 2009 4:49 am
Location: Q'ld, Australia

Re: Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: The Early Years

Post by B4real » Sat Nov 13, 2021 12:18 am

More info on this 3 part book series including vol 2 -

A Reluctant Star

https://www.australianjewishnews.com/a-reluctant-star/
Michael Posner describes Leonard Cohen as “one of the towering cultural figures of our time”. While there have been other biographies written about Cohen, they’ve all left Posner wanting more.

“I felt there was more information, more stories and more insights to be had,” the Canadian journalist explained. So he set about interviewing hundreds of people on his mission to speak to anyone who knew the iconic singer-songwriter.

It’s a mammoth project, but one that Posner believes needed to be written. Throughout the process, Posner has been privy to information like never before.

“I heard so many interesting stories about him and many of them were completely new stories, and many of the people I interviewed had never spoken before about him or about their relationship with him,” he said. “There were lots of interesting revelations for me and I hope for readers.”

The pessimistic poet
Cohen was often referred to as ‘the poet laureate of pessimism’, or ‘the godfather of gloom’, but he remains one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century, if not of all time. His influence has spanned decades with many of his songs still enjoying playbacks and international fame.

Cohen’s musical career lasted nearly 50 years, with his final album, You Want it Darker, released mere weeks before his passing in 2016.

He was a reluctant pop star. But despite being in the public eye, there was much that wasn’t known about him. Which is exactly what Posner is revealing.

“A major part of the book is devoted to a woman never previously identified who had a six-year relationship with Cohen in the 1980s, and who was an influence on the song Hallelujah and the song Take this Waltz,” said Posner. “Theirs was a long and somewhat tortuous relationship with many positive elements, but one that ended with a tragic second-trimester abortion and considerable emotional pain for her. It’s always interesting to try to connect the life of the poet or writer to his or her work, and I think telling these stories can help us do that.”

A story in three parts
Posner has now released two volumes of the three-part biography. The first concluded with Cohen’s first major concert tour, aged 36. The second volume follows on from the end of the tour in 1971 to the late 1980s. Described as a challenging time for Cohen, with his personal life in chaos and his career in shambles, Cohen turned to Zen Buddhism to help him cope.

But what surprised Posner most of all about Cohen was his ability to maintain so many romantic liaisons simultaneously while at the same time remaining proactive as a songwriter and a poet.

“He really laboured at these songs, sometimes for years, literally years,” said Posner. “Writing and rewriting and rewriting until he felt he could not improve upon the lyric any further.”

Hallelujah, in fact, took 10 years to write. It’s something that resonates with Posner, who has been writing the oral biography since November 2016, starting the project soon after Cohen’s death.

He was a reluctant pop star. But despite being in the public eye, there was much that wasn’t known about him. Which is exactly what Posner is revealing.

“The challenge and fun of the work has been trying to find people who are still alive, had some involvement with Leonard, knew about events or certain moments in his life and could comment on them knowledgeably,” he told The Times of Israel last year when he released the first volume.

“Part of the challenge has been locating specific people who I knew were out there, but I didn’t know where, or whether they would talk to me if I found them.”

Revealing the true Cohen
The biographies show the true Leonard Cohen, revealing what was really behind the public persona – the good and the ugly. Posner has spoken to so many people in Cohen’s world that he has become an expert on the musician.

“What I’ve learned is that I don’t want to reduce Cohen to a simple kind of binary character,” Posner told The Times of Israel.

“I don’t want to say he was a saint. I certainly don’t want to say he was a devil, but I think he was capable of encompassing aspects of both.”

He believes, though, that Cohen’s greatest love affair was with his work.

“I knew he had worked hard, but I had no idea exactly how hard.”

While Posner knows the three volumes will give a detailed insight into the man that Cohen was, he says it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“I don’t think any biography, including these, can definitively encapsulate the life of someone like Cohen,” he said. “I hope they will make a contribution to our understanding of the man and his work, and of his essential complexity.”


Leonard Cohen Untold Stories: From This Broken Hill, Volume 2 by Michael Posner

https://mtltimes.ca/books/leonard-cohen ... el-posner/
Canadian journalist and author Michael Posner’s most recent books delved into the lives of some of Canada’s most high profile personalities. His first project of that nature was as a ghostwriter for singer/songwriter Anne Murray’s autobiography All of Me. Then it was an oral biography of revered and controversial writer Mordecai Richer called The Last Honest Man. For his next subject, Posner decided to continue with the oral biography approach, as he examines the life and works of legendary singer, songwriter, novelist and poet Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen Untold Stories: From This Broken Hill, Volume 2 by Michael Posner (Simon & Schuster, $40)

However, the life, works and complexities that were part of Leonard Cohen’s 82 years of existence couldn’t be packed into a single volume. Instead, the impressions of Cohen that were garnered from interviewing a total of 550 people who knew, respected and adored him became a three-volume work of oral biography. It started last year with the first volume that was entitled The Early Years, and continues with the recent release of volume two, called From This Broken Hill (the third and final volume will be published next fall).

“Leonard Cohen was a fascinating, complicated character who had a multidimensional life,” said Posner during a recent phone interview. “He was a poet, novelist, singer/songwriter, a Zen student, a studier of Judaism, and a romancer of women, as opposed to Richler, who was not only known as a great writer, but also an anti-social animal and a curmudgeon.”

Posner admitted that Leonard Cohen grew on him because of the different kind of life he lead, but realized there was more to him than others from outside his circle knew about. So in 2016, he decided to write a biography of Cohen, but somehow stumbled upon the oral approach.

“I started talking with one person who knew him, who recommended that I talk to another person because they had interesting stories about him, and so on and so forth,” said Posner. “The other biographies that were published about Cohen (Various Positions and I’m Your Man) relied on the conventional narrative format, but I didn’t want to take that position. An oral biography leads to a structure where people tell things how it was, whether it be wrong or different, and lets the reader decide.”

“I like the oral format. It gives the reader more voices and tells the same story, but from a different point of view; it’s like the narrative that Akira Kurosawa followed in his classic 1951 movie Rashomon,” added Posner.

In volume two of his epic Leonard Cohen oral biography trilogy, it covers his dark period between 1971 and the late 80s. Following his sudden fame that enveloped him from the mid-60s to 1971 (thanks to the success of his first albums and novels The Favorite Game and Beautiful Losers), Cohen experienced a period in his life when his albums and books met with very little success in North America (but were successful in Europe), which resulted in him falling into a deep depression.

“During that period, Cohen’s personal life was a complete mess, he wasn’t getting the same acclaim like he did during the 60s, and he suffered from depression. He was the person who was seen walking around in his famous blue raincoat, and that was as good as it gets, and his personal and professional life doesn’t turn around until 1986,” he said.

Another impression the reader gets from volume two is that Cohen was quite the ladies’ man, and had a large succession of girlfriends and female lovers. “He was the embodiment of his book and album Death of A Ladies’ Man. He had a strong libido. He was a rock star with a fortunate position, which was that women literally threw themselves at him, and he didn’t have to work very hard at it,” he said.

Volume 2 of Posner’s oral biography trilogy of Leonard Cohen works so well in so many ways, because of the large myriad of people he interviewed for the book, plus the myriad of stories they tell of their encounters and friendships with him. Thanks to these multitude of voices from so many points of view and walks of life, the reader gets a multi-layered, mosaic portrait of one of the most legendary – and most complex – writers and musicians that Canada has ever produced during the latter half of the 20th century. Leonard Cohen was a multi-talented individual, but a complicated, divided soul, and thanks to Michael Posner and the more than 550 people he interviewed for this project, we get a much better, humanistic understanding at what drove the talented enigma that was Leonard Cohen.

However, Posner has this impression of Leonard Cohen’s artistic legacy. “As a lyricist and poet, he possessed great strength. Cohen was able to articulate different aspects of the human condition in a meaningful way. He was able to absorb and marry his rich skills with the melodies he wrote and composed. Bob Dylan may be the voice of our generation – and that’s true in many ways – but Leonard Cohen took that to another level, and became the voice of many.”

“Leonard Cohen was a towering great artist, and can be regarded as one of the few great Canadian cultural products. And as a singer/songwriter, he’s right up there with Dylan, Paul Simon and Jacques Brel. His work will last for a long time, mainly because it connects with people in an emotional, powerful, way,” he added.
It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to B4real ~ me
Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy ~ me ...... The magic of art is the truth of its lies ~ me ...... Only left-handers are in their right mind!
User avatar
mat james
Posts: 1836
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Re: Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: The Early Years

Post by mat james » Sat Nov 13, 2021 3:58 am

Leonard followed the Popeye philosophy;

"I yam what I yam
and I Yiz what I Yiz!"

MatbbgJ
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
User avatar
B4real
Posts: 6917
Joined: Sun Jun 07, 2009 4:49 am
Location: Q'ld, Australia

Re: Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: The Early Years

Post by B4real » Sun Nov 14, 2021 12:32 am

Ha! Mat, You've been eating your spinach again ;-)
It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to B4real ~ me
Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy ~ me ...... The magic of art is the truth of its lies ~ me ...... Only left-handers are in their right mind!
User avatar
mat james
Posts: 1836
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Re: Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: The Early Years

Post by mat james » Sun Nov 14, 2021 1:50 am

;-)
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
User avatar
B4real
Posts: 6917
Joined: Sun Jun 07, 2009 4:49 am
Location: Q'ld, Australia

Re: Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: The Early Years

Post by B4real » Mon Nov 15, 2021 1:21 am

More info on both LC Untold Stories by Posner and another book, the Graphic novel by Girard -

Raising the bard
Cohen’s life and legacy explored in graphic novel, oral history

https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts- ... 22022.html
Five years after its benefactor’s death, the Leonard Cohen industry continues to churn out product, the latest being two Canadian-authored books that serve opposite purposes.

Quebec cartoonist Philippe Girard’s graphic novel is a satisfying and cogent biography aimed at the casual fan of the great Montreal poet and singer-songwriter.

Drawn in an impressively condensed 122 pages, Leonard Cohen: On a Wire (please forgive the dull title) touches most of the fabled moments of Cohenalia and some lesser ones as well.

At the other end of the concision spectrum is Toronto journalist (and Winnipeg native) Michael Posner’s second volume of Cohen oral history, Untold Stories: From This Broken Hill, Vol. 2.

On the heels of last year’s first volume, The Early Years, it drills down into Cohen’s exploits from 1971 to 1987. This covers his mid-30s, after his first flush of fame, until his early 50s, arguably his professional nadir.

Posner’s subtitle is a phrase from the 1984 song If It Be Your Will. He has transcribed several hundred interviews with those, famous and obscure, who knew Cohen intimately or just crossed paths with him.

He then cuts, pastes and arranges them chronologically, with bits of his own narration added to tie the pieces together.

The book is less accomplished than Girard’s artistically, because it contains so much repetitive and extraneous verbiage, and also because it buries its over-riding biographical arc amid such granular detail.

But it does deliver to Cohen obsessives and perhaps literary academics a window into Cohen’s private life — especially the seamy side of it — marked as it was by depression, substance abuse and his often predatory sex addiction.

More than 20 women have gone public with Posner to recall their extended affairs with Cohen during this period. Almost all were in their early 20s, sometimes half the age of the charismatic but commitment-phobic boulevardier, who was often sleeping with two or more other "little darlings" at the same time.

"He had really bad breath, so he had gallons of Listerine in his bathroom," notes Andreé Pelletier, daughter of the late Quebec politician Gérard Pelletier, whom Cohen seduced in 1976 when she was 25 and he was 41.

"We never talked about Suzanne or Marianne… He told me he had kids, but it was irrelevant to anything."

In the early 1980s, Cohen had a previously unpublicized five-year affair with a Costa Rican model and artist, Gabriela Valenzuela, beginning when she was 24. Fluent in Spanish, she helped him translate a Federico García Lorca poem that became his 1986 song Take This Waltz.

She also inspired the "tied to the kitchen chair" verse in Cohen’s most covered song, Hallelujah, after she gave him a home haircut that morphed into something more X-rated.

Cohen dumped Valenzuela in 1986 after she told him she was three months’ pregnant with his child, already named "September Cohen," whom she then reluctantly aborted.

"Leonard had the ability to go completely cold on a dime," observes his longtime friend, the filmmaker Barrie Wexler, "particularly when it threatened his freedom."

Unlike Posner, most of what cartoonist Girard chooses to draw has entered into the public domain: Cohen’s affluent childhood in Montreal: his early success as a poet and hipster; his expatriate years in London and on the Greek island of Hydra; and his first songs being taken up by the likes of singer Judy Collins and producer John Hammond in New York a few years later.

Needless to say, Girard also glories in Cohen’s conquests as a ladies’ man. His well-known relationships with Marianne Ihlen, Joni Mitchell, Janice Joplin, Suzanne Elrod (the mother of his two children, Adam and Lorca), Dominique Isserman and Rebecca DeMornay are lovingly and, in a couple cases, explicitly depicted. No wonder Cohen needed to rest in a Buddhist monastery for four years in the 1990s.

Presumably born into pure-laine Québécois Catholic stock, Girard deserves credit for both his understanding and portrayal of the centrality of Judaism in Cohen’s life and work.

The Jewish world view is even more pronounced in Untold Stories. But for Posner, a tribe member himself, this aspect comes naturally and is likely an important part of what attracted him to the project.

Cohen was 82 when he died in November 2016. Since then there has been no end of Cohen biographies, memoirs and documentaries. Posner’s concluding volume is a year away. A biopic, Posner predicts, will not be long in coming.

But you could argue that Girard’s heavily abridged version of the life is truer to the spirit of a poet and lyricist who agonized over paring his own lines to the bone.

Hallelujah indeed.
It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to B4real ~ me
Attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy ~ me ...... The magic of art is the truth of its lies ~ me ...... Only left-handers are in their right mind!
User avatar
vlcoats
Posts: 422
Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2017 5:25 pm
Location: Puget Sound, Washington

Re: Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: The Early Years

Post by vlcoats » Mon Nov 22, 2021 6:20 pm

Very interesting B4. I read the first of "Untold Stories" and have the second on my Kindle, but have not started it yet. I am finishing up a book about the Greco-Persian Wars first, but I am looking forward to starting the second "Untold Stories". I guess I like to read anything about Leonard, the more revealing, the better. Not because I want to look askance at his indiscretions. (Imagine if a revealing book was written about any of our own lives...Yikes!) I welcome anything that helps me understand how his life evolved. I never saw Leonard in person or was even really aware of who he was during his life, so reading Untold Stories helps keep me from deifying him, something that comes very easy to me. I look forward to the third edition of Untold Stories. That part of Leonard's life is most curious to me.

"You were born to judge the world... forgive me but I wasn't"

Vickie
User avatar
Joe Way
Posts: 1190
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2002 5:50 pm
Location: Wisconsin, USA

Re: Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: The Early Years

Post by Joe Way » Thu Dec 02, 2021 2:26 am

I finished Michael Posner's "This Broken Hill" volume 2 of his biography yesterday.

I didn't enjoy it as much as the first volume probably because much of it was spent on reports from old girl friends describing how they had slept with him (or claimed to) and a smaller number who declared their friendship was too sacred to have become physical.

I have come to appreciate the technique that Posner uses as reports from individuals. He will quote someone in an interview and then someone else will contradict it entirely. As an example, he quotes Ann Diamond frequently and then others will say, "Oh, she really stalked him." I remember her from when she posted here on the Forum and claimed to be a survivor of some terrible CIA experiment that left her quite damaged. She had written a short work about Leonard on Hydra that was very suggestive of some rather evil things that Leonard had committed. I won't mention exactly what she was implying, but it was quite disgusting. Leonard's attorneys got an order for her to remove it which she did.

The book hangs its hat on what he claims is his discovery of an important relationship with a Costa Rican gal which he says went on for 5 years. She claims through his interviews to have had a major influence on the translation of Lorca's poem which became "Take This Waltz." She also claims to have tied him to a kitchen chair and cut his hair (no mention of the broken throne).

All in all, I will always enjoy reading about Leonard. I wish that all of those old girlfriends who wrote that he was so brilliant, funny, kind etc. would have given a few more examples. It was heartening to read how much all the musicians appreciated and admired him. The discussion of the genesis of "Hallelujah" even after an entire book has been written about it, is quite interesting.

The years described in this book show Leonard so fragile, moreso than the life I was leading then. I was raising my children and establishing a career-which Leonard was as well, but we did it so differently.

I look forward to the 3rd installment hoping that it portrays Leonard as the magnificent old man that I appreciated, that mighty oak, that brilliant scholar, that kind man who treated his fans so well.
"Say a prayer for the cowboy..."
User avatar
HugoD
Posts: 439
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2009 12:33 am
Location: Haarlemmermeer /Netherlands

Re: Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: The Early Years

Post by HugoD » Thu Dec 02, 2021 11:29 pm

Thanks Joe, your review is very intresting and helpful!
Lille 2010, Dublin 2012, Mannheim 2013, Rotterdam 2013, Montréal 2017
Happiness is just the side effect of a meaningful life.
Post Reply

Return to “News”