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 []

Leonard Cohen on creating The Future album: “There’s flesh and blood attached to it …”

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[The Future] involved a four-year struggle; the songs, some of them, are eight, ten years in the works. The record is there for keeps. There’s flesh and blood attached to it. I did what was necessary, and I sit here kind of wrecked.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From No Mercy – Leonard Cohen’s Tales from the Dark Side by Anthony DeCurtis. Rolling Stone: January 21, 1993. Originally posted Jan 4, 2015 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Identifies Popular Problems

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Death, disease, God, faith, war, peace, etc, just like the hassles of everyday life, never evaporate. Then, as there is no way to solve them, they are problematic. These are our Popular Problems.

Leonard Cohen, quoted in Le retour du Canadien errant [The return of the wandering Canadian] by André Péloquin (Montreal Voir: Sept 12, 2014) English via Google Translate. This article includes information from a brief private meeting between Leonard Cohen and the author at the LA Listening Event and is certainly worth reading, even in the awkwardness of automatic translation. Originally posted September 13, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen on Songwriting: “When it’s really personal everybody understands it”

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I don’t think my writing has got personal enough yet. I think it has some way to go before it gets really personal. When it’s really personal everybody understands it. There’s a middle ground which is just unzipping and self-indulgence but when you really tell the truth people immediately perceive that. Like when I wrote the lyrics for ‘I Can’t Forget’, it went through so many transformations to get it really personal. It started off as a kind of hymn and I ended up stuck sitting at this very kitchen table thinking, Where am I really? What can I really tell anyone about anything? So I thought, I’ve got to start from scratch. How am I living this day? What am I doing now? So I wrote, ‘I stumbled out of bed/Got ready for the struggle/I smoked a cigarette/And I tightened up my gut/I said, This can’t be me, must be my double/I can’t forget I don’t remember what.”quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen: Porridge? Lozenge? Syringe? Adrian Deevoy, Q, 1991.

“When it’s every man for himself the identification of race arises. I think those are very dangerous times.” Leonard Cohen on The Future

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Of course I affirm the people that are trying to save the forest and the environment but to me those are symptoms of something else. It’s an alibi to think you’re getting anywhere by doing that sort of thing. The self-righteousness and self-congratulations that go with it seems to suggest that you can’t write a song about the boredom of the rainforest, the boredom of the ozone, the boredom of recycling. Yeah, we’ve got to do all those things but let’s not ignore the fact that something is going down here. It’s like trying to tidy up on the Titanic. I wrote that song soon after the Wall came down – it had to be written. When the centre erodes and people can no longer find a centre they will seize on the most easily available form of identification. The most easily available identification is racial. We see that happening, there’s no way you can sit down and reason in that situation, reasoning depends on some sort of order. When it’s every man for himself the identification of race arises. I think those are very dangerous times. And that is the time we are in.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen: Hello! I Must Be Cohen, Gavin Martin, New Musical Express, 9 January 1993.