“I got wiped out in some kind of way and that just meant that I had to work harder to get the same results” Leonard Cohen on Juggling With 1 Ball, Making Shoes With 1 Arm, & Writing Suzanne

In the early days, did a song such as Suzanne come easy to you?

No, no, I worked months and months on Suzanne. It’s just a matter of intensity. I was still able to juggle stuff: a life, a woman, a dream, other ambitions, other tangents. At a certain point I realized I only had one ball in my hand, and that was The Song. Everything else had been wrecked or compromised and I couldn’t go back, and I was a one-ball juggler. I’d do incredible things with that ball to justify the absurdity of the presentation.

Because what are you going to do with that ball? You don’t have three anymore. You’ve just got one. And maybe only one arm. What are you going to do? You can flip it off your wrist, or bounce it off your head. You have to come up with some pretty good moves. You have to learn them from scratch. And that’s what I learned, that you have to learn them from scratch.

There is some continuity between Suzanne and Waiting For A Miracle [sic]. Of course there is; it’s the same guy. Maybe it’s like you lose your arm, you’re a shoemaker. You’re a pretty good shoemaker, maybe not the best but one of the top ten. You lose your arm and nobody knows. All they know is that your shoes keep on being pretty good. But in your workshop, you’re holding onto the edge of the shoe with your teeth, you’re holding it down and hammering with your other hand. It’s quite an acrobatic presentation to get that shoe together. It may be the same shoe, it’s just a lot harder to come by and you don’t want to complain about it.

So maybe that’s all that happened, is that I got wiped out in some kind of way and that just meant that I had to work harder to get the same results. I don’t have any estimation or evaluation. I just know that the work got really hard.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


From a 1992 interview with Leonard Cohen published in Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo. Da Capo Press: 1997. Photo by Paul Zollo.