Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah - A New Biography

Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah - A New Biography

Release Date: 
Sunday, November 1, 2009
# of Pages: 

The book summarizes Cohen’s life from his start as Leonard Norman Cohen, a Jewish kid in Montreal Canada, to his rise to master poet, novelist, singer songwriter and ladies’ man as Leonard Cohen. The early chapters talk about what and who influenced Cohen’s work – his father’s death, various religions including Buddhism, his experiences in London, Cuba and Hydra Island, and people like Federico García Lorca, Louis Dudek and many women in his life. 


The author Tim Footman talks about Cohen’s success in Europe and some struggles in the US, and how much Leonard Cohen has influenced and inspired other artists and forever changed the world of music and literacy. It is fascinating to read Cohen’s ability to reinvent himself while music trends changed and some artists disappeared. Unfortunately, there are not too many intimate portraits of Leonard Cohen in this book. Don’t get me wrong, the author researched very well, and he uses many interesting references, quotes and recollections, but his writing is not very exciting. Furthermore, a long list of bibliography and notes make me feel like Cohen is treated more as a research project than as a man.


When I listen to Cohen’s music, it makes me think and imagine, and I often feel mesmerized, charmed and even a bit wiser. I consider Cohen to be one of the artists and storytellers who can successfully transform his feelings, personal experiences and observations into beautiful words and songs. Since this is not an autobiography, I probably should not expect the same emotional effects. When I finished the book, I wanted more. I had more questions at the end than I had at the beginning. Also, I am a little bit bothered by the fact that the author sometimes seems to put more effort on his own opinions than on facts, and that he tends to compare Cohen with other musicians, most prominently Bob Dylan. I would rather read more about Cohen’s relationships with other artists and his opinions about them, not comparisons. In summary, readers who have limited knowledge on Cohen’s career will find this book very informative and insightful. However, even though it gives me information and data, this book did not wow me as much as I had hoped.

Review by Pat Trabi