I felt that Leonard Cohen was my friend. I felt that I understood him and he understood me. [Music] was like a lifeline. It had messages of hope, of other people – you felt kindred to other people who liked the same music. It really was pretty much my whole world as a teenager.
Leonard Cohen, Jennifer Warnes, Suzanne Vega Talk About Songwriting & More
The description from BBC Radio follows:
Duration: 28 mins
Songwriter Leonard Cohen reflects on the art of songwriting with the help of collaborator Jennifer Warnes and long time fan Suzanne Vega in this Kaleidoscope special. Cohen tells the stories behind some of his most famous songs and recalls an eventful session with a gun obsessed Phil Spector. Part of Radio 4 on Music, re-releasing the best of Radio 4’s Music Archive.
Listen to this broadcast at the BBC Radio site
The interview can be played directly from the BBC Radio site (see arrow on screenshot atop this post) but downloading is allowed. Just right click on the following link, choose “save link as,” and download
Note: Originally posted Jan 31, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
CBS Records Promotional photo (1988). Contributed by Dominique BOILE. From the Leonard Cohen Promotional Photos series.
Atop this post is a photo of Suzanne Elrod, the companion of Leonard Cohen in the 1970s and the mother of his children, Lorca and Adam Cohen. (She and Leonard were never married although he did occasionally refer to her as his wife.) Elrod shot the cover photograph of Cohen’s Live Songs album (under the name “Valentina) and is pictured on the cover of the Death of a Ladies’ Man album. More information about the relationship between Leonard Cohen and Suzanne Elrod, including her role in “My Gypsy Wife,” can be found at Cohencentric: Suzanne Elrod.
Suzanne Elrod is not the subject of Leonard Cohen’s song, “Suzanne.” That erroneous presumption, however, is so common enough that Leonard developed an explanation, which Adam has co-opted in this instance:
Q: Is your mom Suzanne, the same Suzanne from the song?
Adam Cohen: My father actually wrote the song before meeting my mother, but says he wrote it to summon her.1
Leonard Cohen wrote “Suzanne” about Suzanne Verdal, who was then the wife of Cohen’s friend, sculptor Armand Vaillancourt and who actually took Leonard “down to her place near the river” where she fed him tea and oranges. Leonard’s reflections writing the song and on Suzanne Verdal herself and Suzanne Verdal’s own account of the events can be found at Cohencentric: Suzanne Verdal.
Suzanne Vega is a singer-songwriter who has long admired Leonard Cohen and has worked with and opened shows for him. More about her connection with Leonard can be found at Cohencentric: Suzanne Vega.
Suzanne Vega photo by Richard Huber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
- Adam Cohen charts his own path with homage to dad Leonard by Mike Benhaim. Toronto Metro: Oct 11 2012 [↩]
Featuring Jennifer Warnes, Suzanne Vega, Aaron Neville & Moses Znaimer
Linda Sturgess alerts us that the video of Leonard Cohen’s complete induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, including the introduction by Moses Znaimer, the tribute performances by Jennifer Warnes (Joan of Arc), Suzanne Vega (Who By Fire), and Aaron Neville (Bird on the Wire) and, of course, Leonard’s acceptance speech, is now online.
Leonard Cohen’s acceptance speech includes numerous moments of graciousness and gratitude, sparkling wit, and exquisite phrasing. A couple of examples follow:
After saluting a bevy of Hall Of Fame members, including Hank Snow, Glenn Gould, The Diamonds, The Four Lads, Neil Young, The Band, Paul Anka, and Gordon Lightfoot, Cohen ends the list with Joni Mitchell and Maureen Forrester, going on to remark,
Two women of genius among all that exuberant, masculine prominence … It’s going to be hard to get a date in the Hall of Fame.
Commenting on the timing of this honor Cohen explains
If I had been given this attention when I was 26, it would have turned my head. At 36 it might have confirmed my flight on a rather morbid spiritual path. At 46 it would have rubbed my nose in my failing powers and have prompted a plotting of a getaway and an alibi. But at 56 — hell, I’m just hitting my stride and it doesn’t hurt at all.
Leonard’s speech without the introduction or tributes can be viewed at Video: Leonard Cohen’s Witty, Touching 1991 Canadian Music Hall of Fame Induction Speech
Leonard Cohen Inducted Into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame | Junos 1991
It was the way he [Leonard Cohen] wrote about complicated things. It was very intimate and personal. Dylan took you to the far ends of the expanding universe, eight minutes of ‘one hand waving free,’ and I loved that, but it didn’t sound like anything I did or was likely to do—it wasn’t very earthly. Leonard’s songs were a combination of very real details and a sense of mystery, like prayers or spells.
Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker by David Remnick (New Yorker: October 17, 2016)
Credit Due Department: By Richard Huber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia
Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox
Biggest Influence on My Music – The jukebox. I lived beside jukeboxes all through the fifties. … I never knew who was singing. I never followed things that way. I still don’t. I wasn’t a student of music; I was a student of the restaurant I was in — and the waitresses. The music was a part of it. I knew what number the song was.
– Leonard Cohen (Yakety Yak by Scott Cohen, 1994)
Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox: Over the years, Leonard Cohen has mentioned a number of specific songs he favors. Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox is a Cohencentric feature that began collecting these tunes for the edification and entertainment of viewers on April 4, 2009. All posts in the Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox series can be found at The Original Leonard Cohen’s Jukebox Page.
Suzanne Vega “make[s] austerity extremely seductive”
In Suzanne’s interview with Leonard Cohen from 1992 (part 1 of 3), Suzanne Vega and Leonard Cohen discussed, along with many other topics (e.g., Howard Stern, Christmas gifts, politeness, the superior stylishness of wine and water compared to coke and orange juice), songs from Vega’s 99.9 album that had then just been released.
One of the songs with which Cohen is clearly taken is “If You Were (In My Movie):”
Cohen: If You Were In My Movie , in that song you seem to indicate that you would give wide allowance to anyown you fall in love with.
Vega: I don’t know if that’s true, maybe, probably. I don’t know.
Cohen: Is that what the song is about?
Vega: The song is about flirting. It’s a flirting kind of song. It’s a song looking at another person and saying these are qualities that you could be, that you could have within you. These are the things that I see.
Cohen: You could realize these things with me.
Vega: Yeah, if you wanted to. It’s putting a glamorous light on someone’s character. Saying these are the things that, when I look at you, these are the things I see. It’s like taking someone’s basic nature and making it more than it actually is.
Cohen: You have managed to make austerity extremely seductive. There is a very seductive quality about your record, although nothing is given away, nothing is thrown away, nothing is revealed.
Suzanne Vega – If You Were (In My Movie)
Video from haramist
Credit Due Department: Davido at LeonardCohenForum alerted me to Leonard Cohen’s favorable comments about Suzanne Vega’s songs made in the referenced interview.
Note: Originally posted June 15, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
Leonard talks about his platonic relationship with Suzanne Verdal, the then-girlfriend of sculptor Armand Vaillancourt and the inspiration for the song, Suzanne, his life with Marianne, his collaboration with Phil Spector, and more. Offering insights and observations are Jennifer Warnes , who sang in his live band and recorded an album of his songs, and Suzanne Vega, who was moved by his music while a teenager.
This Nov 26, 1994 BBC program can be heard at or downloaded from