Cohen returns to stage after 'losing $5m'

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The Independent Culture

For decades, Leonard Cohen has been a solitary, almost reclusive, figure - a Jewish Canadian version of a French chansonnier, described by one biographer as "the infamous lover who lives alone". But Cohen delighted his fans with a rare public appearance in Toronto this weekend.

Dressed in a charcoal suit, he recited a short poem in his signature baritone and performed two of his most famous songs, "So Long, Marianne" and "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye". He was greeted by a throng of fans that shut down a normally busy city street to sing along with the music.

However, the motives of the brief show, to promote his first book since 1984, were at least as much financial as artistic - to recoup some of the money he claims was lost by his former management.

The poet-balladeer, 71, is believed to have won a US$9m (£4.8m) lawsuit in March against his former manager, who Cohen blames for losing $5m of his savings, leaving him about $150,000 to retire on. His lawyers say that despite his victory, he may never see the money.

Book of Longing is Cohen's 12th publication since his first book, Let Us Compare Mythologies, in 1956, and has been mostly well reviewed. The Globe and Mail in Toronto described it as "not so much an illustrated collection of poems as a shaped autobiography". Many of the poems were written during Cohen's stay at the Zen Centre on Mount Baldy, near Los Angeles, where he was ordained as a monk under the name Jikan.

His music includes classics such as "Suzanne", "Famous Blue Raincoat" and "Bird on the Wire". Love, sex, religion and depression are constant themes. The often bleak tone of his songs and writing has led him to be called "the poet laureate of pessimism". Perhaps for that reason, he has generally been far more popular in Europe and Canada than the United States.

The singer is said to be planning a tour this autumn and is working on a new album, a follow-up to 2004's Dear Heather.