I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen
Jonathan Cape, $35 pb, 564 pp
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.