Origin Of Suzanne – The CBC Video Vs Leonard Cohen’s Account

This CBC video about Leonard Cohen, Suzanne Verdal, and the song “Suzanne” does offer photos of Suzanne from the 1960s that are otherwise unavailable online and would alone justify a viewing.  The video’s focus, however, certainly varies with Leonard’s own account, and its information is, at best incomplete.

There is also a potentially (and unintentionally) misleading section. The sequence beginning with the frame below carries the legend “early ’60s” but the video clip appears to be an excerpt from the ARTE documentary “Girls in Pop Songs” shot in 2011 (see Video: Suzanne Verdal Talks About Leonard Cohen & The Song He Wrote About Her).

The screen capture below is from the same video clip and shows Suzanne Verdal in 2011 rather than in a time contemporaneous with the writing of “Suzanne.”

Made In Canada: Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne’

What Leonard Cohen Taught Me Backstage After The 2012 Austin Show

Leonard’s Lessons, The Austin Edition

At the Oct 31, 2012 Leonard Cohen Austin show, Duchess and I were invited backstage for post-concert refreshments and conversation with Leonard, his musicians, and tour crew members. Amidst the casual banter and chatting, I picked up a couple of Cohenesque concepts.

1. It turns out that The Show Must Go On isn’t just a cliche

The following description of the Oct 31, 2012 Leonard Cohen Austin Concert is from the aptly titled Leonard Cohen Kicks Off His Last Tour With Uncommon Flair by Dan Solomon:

The set, which included a 20-minute intermission and ran for three and a half hours, was vital and full of energy. Cohen sprinted to the mic at the beginning of the evening, and skipped offstage at the end, and in between, delivered a reminder of everything that has made him the icon and legend that he is.

Backstage after that same high-energy show, [Warning Be alert for dropping names ahead] Roscoe Beck called out a farewell to his boss that included “Feel better soon.”  Cleverly grasping the implications of this well-wishing, I drew upon my years of medical training and experience, to ask Leonard, “So, were you sick?”1 This brief dialog followed:

Leonard Cohen: I was under the weather

DrHGuy: But you went on anyway, of course and then went full speed for the entire show.

Leonard Cohen: [shrugging] Well, I can’t say  ‘Tell the audience I’m not going on tonight – but maybe tomorrow if I’m better’ just because I’m not feeling great.

Then, Leonard Cohen, the 78 year old veteran performer, shook his head, silently chortling over the far-fetched notion that he could do any less than “give [concert-goers] everything we got” – regardless of his health, worries, obligations, …2

 2. Clean Up After Yourself (My mom would have loved Leonard)

While it was precisely in character with everything I know about Leonard Cohen’s behavioral style, I was nonetheless taken aback – and simultaneously impressed and charmed – by the sight of the Canadian singer-songwriter-poet-novelist-icon and winner of multiple music and literature honors, who had just finished a 3 hour+ sold-out concert, after two months of similar concerts in Europe, placing his membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in jeopardy by tidying up the place, carefully picking up the trash from his own post-concert snack (he recommended the egg salad on which he chowed down) and depositing it into the waste and recycling bins.

Other Stuff I Learned Backstage From Leonard Cohen: What Leonard Cohen Told Me Backstage In Chicago

Credit Due Department: The photo of Mr Cohen, The Duchess aka Penny Showalter, and DrHGuy was taken at the Oct 31, 2012 Leonard Cohen Austin soundcheck by J.S. Carenza III, the Road Manager of the Leonard Cohen Tour. Originally posted Nov 3, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. There is no combination of words that convey the information “I was in face to face communication with Leonard Cohen” that  doesn’t come off as boasting. I know; I’ve tried them all.  (This may have something to do with the fact that I am boasting, but still …) []
  2. In fairness, I should note that my father adhered to the same principle of working despite suffering significant illness, but somehow “The used car sales must go on” doesn’t scan as heroically. []

Hear Sharon Robinson Talk About Working & Touring With Leonard Cohen And What She Learned From Him – 2014 BBC Interview

Sharon Robinson’s interview with the BBC for Leonard Cohen’s 80th birthday. With James Coomarasamy, Philippe Sands and Claire Bolderson. Topics include

  • Popular Problems
  • Leonard singing in a lower register for Ten New Songs
  • How Jennifer Warnes recruited her for the Leonard Cohen Commander Cohen Tour
  • Her collaboration with Leonard
  • Leonard’s motivation for and rewards from the 2008-2013 tours
  • What she learned from Leonard

2012 Leonard Cohen Austin Soundcheck: Viva Cohen Identifies Guy Singing Light As The Breeze – “Papou”

Duchess and I (in foreground of above photo) had been paying homage at the soundcheck prior to the Oct 31, 2012 Leonard Cohen Austin concert for a few minutes when Kezban Özcan, Cohen’s assistant, and Viva Cohen, his 20 month old granddaughter, joined us.  Noticing the man in the suit and hat on stage, Viva began excitedly pointing at him, gleefully announcing to us,”Papou, Papou.”  This small commotion, in turn, caused the Grocer Of Despair to flash the broadest of smiles and wave happily – all without missing a beat as he continued his rehearsal of these lines:

it don’t matter how you worship
as long as you’re
down on your knees.
So I knelt there at the delta,
at the alpha and the omega,
at the cradle of the river and the seas.

Yep, I suspect the Papou version of “Light As The Breeze” is going to be stuck in my head for a while.

Note: The latest entry on the Leonard Cohen Nicknames List is

227. Papou1

Credit Due Department: Photo of DrHGuy & Duchess by  Kezban Özcan. Originally posted Nov 15, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. Viva Cohen, personal communication []

Video: Sylvie Simmons Reads From, Talks About Her Leonard Cohen Bio “I’m Your Man”

Sylvie Simmons appears on  the Oct 15, 2012 edition of the Manhattan Neighborhood Network “Revolting News,” reading the description of a young Leonard Cohen hypnotizing  the family maid from her biography of the Canadian singer-songwriter, talking about the individuals she interviewed for the book, and singing “Famous Blue Raincoat.”


Also included are

  • A show and tell with old photos of Leonard Cohen and his family (such as the shot of Leonard and his mother in the above screen capture)
  • A more complete listing of individuals from Leonard Cohen’s past Sylvie interviewed and the stories they told her
  • Anecdotes about Leonard Cohen featuring Bob Dylan  Rebecca De Mornay, and others
  • A discussion of Leonard Cohen’s habit of fasting
  • His mother’s advice to him
  • Cohen’s post-Mt Baldy experience with his Indian guru
  • Insight into Sylvie Simmons’ methodology into writing the biography (e.g., allowing interviewees to rescind any portions comments about which they were uncomfortable)

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Comments From Original Post

  • Matthew John Davies Awesome. My copy is residing on the shelf waiting for that chance to indulge.
  • Scott
    Thanks Leonard for this wonderful video.Biography is quite interesting . I really enjoy it while i am reading it.
    Granger Whitelaw

Note: Originally posted Oct 19, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric