Leonard Cohen on Suzanne “It was never about a particular woman…it was more about the beginning of a different life for me. My life in Montreal”

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It was never about a particular woman. For me it was more about the beginning of a different life for me. My life in Montreal, and my life wandering alone in those parts of Montreal that are now very beautifully done up and in those days, it was the waterfront. I used to wander around down there and I used to go to that church a lot.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Cohen Wore Earplugs to a Dylan Show? by Brian D. Johnson, Maclean’s: June 12, 2008. Photo of Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours, better known as the Church where “the sun pours down like honey, On our lady of the harbour.”  See Our Lady Of The Harbour – The Montreal Church Embedded In Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne

Videos: Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins On His Singing Debut & Suzanne

judylenHow Judy Collins Helped Leonard Cohen Start His Singer-Songwriter Career

Judy Collins – Interviewed By Bill Moyers About Leonard Cohen, “Suzanne”

Judy Collins praises Cohen’s lyricism and outlines the religious inflections of his work.  She also sings “Suzanne.”

Leonard Cohen Interviewed About Judy Collins and “Suzanne”

In this video Cohen reports on the reason for his “mad decision” to “rectify [his] economic situation” by  shifting from writing poems and novels to writing and singing songs, his first meeting with Judy Collins, and his anxiety about being a singer rather than focusing exclusively on songwriting:

I remember saying to my lawyer who was accompanying me there [NYC]. In a state of panic, I said ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here; I can’t sing,’ and he said, ‘None of you guys can sing. When I want to hear singers, I go the Metropolitan Opera.’

And I think that’s more or less the position I had anyway. I never thought we were singers. I certainly never had any musical standards to tyrannize me. I thought it was something to do with the truth, that if you told your story, that’s what the song was about.

The video also includes the account by Judy Collins on Cohen’s near-catastrophic public singing debut at New York’s Town Hall and Cohen singing “Suzanne.”

Leonard Cohen photo from York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, F0433, Photographer: John Sharp, Identifiers: ASC01707. Judy Collins photo by ABC Television – eBayfrontback, Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons

Note: Originally posted July 10, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Classic Video: Leonard Cohen & Judy Collins Perform Suzanne – 1976

lc-jcollins-suzanneAnd you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind

Leonard Cohen & Judy Collins – Suzanne
1976 Soundstage TV Broadcast: Chicago
Video by Beta Hi-Fi Archive

Note: Originally posted Feb 17, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

New Leonard Cohen Videos: Suzanne & I’m Your Man – Vancouver 2010

vacIf you want a lover
I’ll do anything you ask me to
And if you want another kind of love
I’ll wear a mask for you
If you want a partner, take my hand, or
If you want to strike me down in anger
Here I stand
I’m your man

These quality videos were uploaded only yesterday.

Leonard Cohen – Suzanne
Vancouver: December 2, 2010
Video by Marie Noonan

Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man
Vancouver: December 2, 2010
Video by Marie Noonan

Leonard Cohen On “Suzanne” – A Song Of Montreal

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The song could’ve been called by any name because I had the guitar pattern, before I had the name of the woman. But, the wife of a friend of mine is named Suzanne, and she did invite me down to her place near the river, the St. Lawrence. And she served me ~ I believe it was Constant Comment ~ tea, which is composed of tea and oranges.1 And I did enjoy her hospitality. More or less, the song is reportage in the first verse. Then, because Montreal is a religious city, and there are symbols of all the great faiths around…that verse about Jesus; and we were emerged, and we were by the river. And then, the last verse tried to sum up, somehow, the kind of compassion and attention that a man looks to receive from a woman.

The writing of “Suzanne,” like all my songs, took a long time. I wrote most of it in Montreal ~ all of it in Montreal ~ over the space of, perhaps, four or five months. I had many, many verses to it. Sometimes the song would go off on a tangent, and you’ll have perfectly respectable verses, but that have led you away from the original feel of the song. So, it’s a matter of coming back. It’s a very painful process because you have to throw away a lot of good stuff. To come back, and to get those three verses of “Suzanne,” that took me quite a long time.

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Leonard Cohen

 

The John Hammond Years: Interview with John Hammond & Leonard Cohen broadcast on BBC, Sept 20, 1986. Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles.

Credit Due Department: Photo by Sally Hunter

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  1. See Cohensubstantiation – Commonplace Tea Becomes Sacramental Repast In Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne []

Video: Judy Collins Performs Suzanne At Grammys Premiere In Honor Of Leonard Cohen

Judy Collins, whose early recordings of Leonard Cohen’s music first introduced the Canadian singer-songwriter to a wide audience, paid tribute to her fellow worker in song at the 59th GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony on Feb. 12, 2017 with a gorgeous cover of Suzanne that earned a standing ovation.