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Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: The Early Years

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The extraordinary life of one of the world’s greatest music and literary icons, in the words of those who knew him best.

Poet, novelist, singer-songwriter, artist, prophet, icon—there has never been a figure like Leonard Cohen. He was a true giant in contemporary western culture, entertaining and inspiring people everywhere with his work. From his groundbreaking and bestselling novels, The Favourite Game and Beautiful Losers, to timeless songs such as “Suzanne,” “Dance Me to the End of Love,” and “Hallelujah,” Cohen is a cherished artist. His death in 2016 was felt around the world by the many fans and followers who would miss his warmth, humour, intellect, and piercing insights.

Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories chronicles the full breadth of his extraordinary life. The first of three volumes—The Early Years—follows him from his boyhood in Montreal to university, and his burgeoning literary career to the world of music, culminating with his first international tour in 1970.

Through the voices of those who knew him best—family and friends, colleagues and contemporaries, rivals, business partners, and his many lovers—the book probes deeply into both Cohen’s public and private life. It also paints a portrait of an era, the social, cultural, and political revolutions that shook the 1960s.

In this revealing and entertaining first volume, bestselling author and biographer Michael Posner draws on hundreds of interviews to reach beyond the Cohen of myth and reveal the unique, complex, and compelling figure of the real man.

Michael Posner is an award-winning writer, playwright, and journalist, and the author or coauthor of eight previous books. These include the bestselling Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: The Early Years, Vol. 1, as well as the Mordecai Richler biography The Last Honest Man, and the Anne Murray autobiography All of Me, both of which were national bestsellers. He was Washington Bureau Chief for Maclean’s magazine and also managing editor of the Financial Times of Canada. He later spent sixteen years as a senior writer with The Globe and Mail.

A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of 2020

“Posner undertook dozens and dozens of interviews . . . creating a unique oral history, as if they’re in a room together, sharing memories and stories. . . . They’re linked together with a light narrative voice that gives this biography a very intimate and personal feel.”
— Toronto Star

“The life of Leonard Cohen—poet, novelist, artist, Zen monk, and oh, yes, singer-songwriter—is too vast to be contained within one book. Thankfully, Posner is giving us three. . . . Posner draws on hundreds of interviews to explore Cohen’s private and public lives, his complexities and contradictions, and, of course, his inarguable charisma. Serve yourself some tea and oranges and settle in.”
— Zoomer

“Through these stories, a unique portrait of a young Leonard Cohen is revealed, with insights into not only his extraordinary life but also his timeless poetry and music.”
— ANNE MURRAY, Grammy Award–winning singer

“Posner masterfully weaves an abundance of interviews with Cohen’s family, friends, and myriad lovers to create an intricate tapestry and, ultimately, produces the most revealing portrait of the legendary songwriter and wordsmith to date.”
— NICHOLAS JENNINGS, journalist and bestselling author of Lightfoot

“Out of a welter of stories—from those who encountered Leonard Cohen as associate, friend, or lover—Michael Posner has shaped a fascinating multi-faceted portrait. Posner is indeed Cohen’s Boswell, no doubt about it.”
— SEYMOUR MAYNE, poet, editor, and translator

“Offers an impressively thorough excavation of stories, including some gems and, well, dirt. Together, [Posner’s] various positions and perspectives create a cubist portrait of the Montreal-born icon as a young man—and simultaneously an artist, intellectual, prankster, bon vivant, workaholic, and dabbler in everything . . . If Cohen’s your man and you’re his fan, you’ll want this book.”
— Maclean’s

“Posner masterfully weaves the story of the iconic musician’s life through hundreds of interviews with the people who knew him best, including family members, business partners, and lovers alike.”
— Chatelaine

“Leonard Cohen’s posthumous album in 2019 proved he still had something profound to say, even in death. This book likewise confirms that hundreds of others have their own tales to tell about the master songwriter. The first of three volumes, it covers his early life via a myriad of fascinating interviewees, from rabbis to lovers. . . . Give it to anyone who misses Cohen.”
— Evening Standard

“As the anecdotes accumulate up until 1970, they build a compelling picture of the worlds around [Cohen]—affluent Montreal suburbia, Canadian Jewish summer camps, beatnik coffeehouses, jetset bohemia—grounding his myth in solid context, enriching it with casual detail. . . . As with any good oral history, the stories and opinions slowly coalesce like pointillist dots, shifting into a complex portrait of a man stepping into his myth, becoming brilliant.”
— MOJO Magazine

“Sex, drugs, and poetry permeate this oral history of Leonard Cohen. . . . This book offers a seductive blend of sometimes contradictory insights.”
— Library Journal

“A detailed account of Cohen’s fascinating early life and career. For serious Cohen fans, it’s a page-tuner.”
— Canadian Jewish Record

“[The] multiple perspectives capture man and myth in tandem. For all of his gift for words, Cohen would have struggled to tell his story better himself.”
— Uncut Magazine

More books from this author: Michael Posner

More books in this series: Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories series