One day in 1984, Leonard Cohen played his latest album to Walter Yetnikoff, the head of the music division of Cohen’s record label, Columbia. Yetnikoff listened to the album, and then said, ‘Leonard, we know you’re great, we just don’t know if you are any good.’ Columbia subsequently decided against releasing the album, Various Positions (1985), in the United States, the lucrative market that Cohen had failed to crack since his début album, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967). Columbia failed to foresee that Various Positions contained the song that would become Cohen’s most famous, ‘Hallelujah’, which Sylvie Simmons describes as an ‘all-purpose, ecumenical/secular hymn for the New Millennium’. It’s been covered by countless singers and X Factor contestants.
David McCooey reviews the new biography of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons
I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen
by Sylvie Simmons
Jonathan Cape, $35 pb, 564 pp, 9780224090643
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David McCooey is a prize-winning poet and critic. His latest collection of poems, Outside (2011), was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards, and was a finalist for the 2012 Melbourne Prize for Literature's 'Best Writing Award'. His first collection, Blister Pack (2005), won the Mary Gilmore Award and was shortlisted for four major national literary awards. McCooey is the deputy general editor of the prize-winning Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature (2009). His album of 'poetry soundtracks', Outside Broadcast, was released in 2013 as a digital download. He is a professor of literature and writing at Deakin University in Geelong, where he lives. His forthcoming poetry collection, Star Struck, will be published in late 2016 by UWA Publishing. His website is: www.davidmccooey.com
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