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Leonard Cohen: On A Wire

Leonard Cohen: On A Wire

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By Phillippe Girard. Published by Drawn & Quarterly. 

Hardcover, 120 pages, Colour, 2021

A captivating, revealing biography of the legendary musician and poet

Leonard Cohen
 opens in Los Angeles on the last night of the man’s life in 2016. Alone in his final hours, the beloved writer and musician ponders his existence in a series of flashbacks that reveal the ups and downs of a storied career.

A young Cohen traded in the promise of steady employment in his family’s Montreal garment business for the unlikely path of a literary poet. His life took another sharp turn when, already in his thirties, he recorded his first album to widespread international acclaim. Along the way he encountered a who’s who of musical luminaries, including Lou Reed, Nico, Janis Joplin, and Joni Mitchell. And then there’s Phil Spector, the notorious music impresario who held a gun to Cohen’s head during a coke-fueled, all-night recording session.

Later in Cohen’s life, there’s the story of "Hallelujah," one of his most famous songs, and its slow rise from relative obscurity when first recorded in the 1980s to its iconic status a decade later with covers by John Cale and Jeff Buckley. And the period when Cohen went broke after his manager embezzled his lifetime savings, which ironically sparked an unlikely career resurgence and several worldwide tours in the 2000s.

Written with careful attention to detail and drawn with a palette of warm, lush colors by the Quebec-based cartoonist Philippe Girard, Leonard Cohen is an engaging portrait of a cultural icon.

Translated by Helge Dascher and Karen Houle.

"Presented as a series of flashbacks from Cohen’s deathbed, this biography recounts highlights from the life of the legendary songwriter." —New York Times

"Leonard Cohen: On a Wire illuminates the tumultuous life and career of the musician and poet, from his upbringing in Montreal, literary and musical rise to fame, downfalls, and comeback career." —Publishers Weekly

"Leonard Cohen was a great man, and Canada is rightly proud of him. 'On A Wire' might make us even more proud. His was a great life and this great book reflects it." —The Toronto Star

"Girard offers a portrait of the artist as a young and not-so-young man, drawing on Cohen’s creative inspirations, frustrations and personal tragedies." —The Forward

"[On a Wire] captures Cohen’s essence with insight, sensitivity, narrative innovation and visual flair. [It] can take its place among the front rank of Cohen studies." —The Montreal Gazette

"Written with details and drawn with rich colours by cartoonist Philippe Girard, Leonard Cohen is an engaging portrait of a cultural icon." —CBC Books

"Philippe Girard's Leonard Cohen: On a Wire is a finely illustrated graphic novel that captures the essence of the Montreal singer-songwriter and man of the people's life."—CTV News Montreal

"Quebec cartoonist Philippe Girard’s graphic novel is a satisfying and cogent biography."—Winnipeg Free Press

"Canadian cartoonist Philippe Girard presents an insightful, concise graphic biography of fellow Canadian, world-renowned musical icon Leonard Cohen."—Shelf Awareness

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