• Leonard Cohen

  • The Mystical Roots of Genius
  • By: Harry Freedman
  • Narrated by: Ben Onwukwe
  • Length: 7 hrs and 27 mins
  • 3.7 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents Leonard Cohen by Harry Freedman, read by Ben Onwukwe.

Harry Freedman uncovers the spiritual traditions that lie behind Leonard Cohen's profound and unmistakable lyrics.

The singer and poet Leonard Cohen was deeply learned in Judaism and Christianity, the spiritual traditions that underpinned his self-identity and the way he made sense of the world. In this book Harry Freedman, a leading author of cultural and religious history, explores the mystical and spiritual sources Cohen drew upon, discusses their original context and the stories and ideas behind them.

Cohen’s music is studded with allusions to Jewish and Christian tradition, to stories and ideas drawn from the Bible, Talmud and Kabbalah. From his 1967 classic ‘Suzanne’, through masterpieces like ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Who by Fire’, to his final challenge to the divinity, ‘You Want It Darker’, he drew on spirituality for inspiration and as a tool to create understanding, clarity and beauty.

Born into a prominent and scholarly Jewish family in Montreal, Canada, Cohen originally aspired to become a poet, before turning to song writing and eventually recording his own compositions. Later, he became immersed in Zen Buddhism, moving in 1990 to a Zen monastery on Mount Baldy, California, where he remained for some years. He died, with immaculate timing, on the day before Donald Trump was elected in 2016, leaving behind him a legacy that will be felt for generations to come.

Leonard Cohen: The Mystical Roots of Genius looks deeply into the imagination of one of the greatest singers and lyricists of our time, providing a window on the landscape of his soul. Departing from traditional biographical approaches, Freedman explores song by song how Cohen reworked myths and prayers, legends and allegories. By the end the listener will be left with a powerful understanding of Cohen’s story, together with a far broader insight into the mystical origins of his inimitable work.

©2021 Harry Freedman (P)2021 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic Reviews

"For those who know and want to know even more, this account of Leonard Cohen’s preoccupations and what he made from his knowledge of the religious, is fascinating. A cultural story of a cultural giant." (Susie Orbach, psychotherapist and author)

"Leonard Cohen taught us that even in the midst of darkness there is light, in the midst of hatred there is love, with our dying breath we can still sing Hallelujah." (The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks)

"Among the finest volumes on Cohen’s life and lyrics.... An exploration which would have intrigued and engaged Leonard himself." (John McKenna, writer and friend of Leonard Cohen)

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What listeners say about Leonard Cohen

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    4 out of 5 stars

Narrator horrendous!!!!

When narrator mimics Leonard, I think Leonard - wherever he is in the next level- holds his ears and moans —— I certainly do. I so looked forward to this rendering, but the narrator voice, interpretations, reading is like nails on a bulletin board. A real thorough mess of narration. Read the text ; do NOT buy this audible version.

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Reader didn’t work for me

I was frustrated by mini of the readers pronunciations of Hebrew and even Manischewitz wine! He was focusing so hard on creating a deep Cohen like voice and didn’t take time to learn how to speak like a knowledgeable Jew.

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Great concept, poorly narrated.

I loved the concept and content; however, I did NOT appreciate the narrator's execution.

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Profile Image for Mrs. Francesca Diebschlag
  • Mrs. Francesca Diebschlag
  • 01-12-22

Unlistenable

I found this book rather turgid, but would have stuck with it had it not been for the unforgivably bad attempt at an American accent when quoting Cohen himself, or indeed any other Canadian or American. Very disappointing as I am a big Leonard Cohen fan!

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  • Ellen Ley
  • 01-10-22

Loved it

But scored four stars because I didn't like impersonation of Leonard Cohen's beautiful deep voice.

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  • C. Kennard
  • 01-02-22

Read by a daalek

This could have been a good book, but the narration tries to imitate Cohen; and the result is a self conscious vocal fry that is forced, and is ultimately distracting.