“Writing [Suzanne] was a sheer act of desperation — of a desperado” Leonard Cohen


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Had I not written ‘Suzanne’ presumably I would be broke and starving, as I was then. At thirty-two or thirty-four, whichever I was when I wrote it, I couldn’t pay my grocery bills, I couldn’t pay the rent, and I had a woman and child to support. Writing that song was a sheer act of desperation — of a desperado.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From “Yakety Yak” by Scott Cohen (1994). Originally posted Dec 2, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen 101: Suzanne Identification Guide – Suzanne Elrod, Suzanne Verdal, & Suzanne Vega

 

Suzanne Elrod

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

Suzanne Verdal

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

707px-Suzanne_Vega_mit_GitarreSuzanne 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

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  1. Adam Cohen charts his own path with homage to dad Leonard by Mike Benhaim. Toronto Metro: Oct 11 2012 []

Now Appearing At Clocktower Quay in Montreal: Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne

Cité Mémoire presents a video commemoration of Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne every night at Clocktower Quay in Montreal. Clips are shown in the video below. More information at Cité Mémoire

Thanks to Mimi Lela, who alerted me to this event and contributed the photo atop this post.

“If the thing is authentic you tune into it immediately. You embrace it immediately. It includes you.” Leonard Cohen On Instinctively Resonating With Songs

I used to listen to that song [Suzanne] all the time. I didn’t fathom it at all but you’re saying I understood it simply because I enjoyed it instinctively.

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Yes. If the thing is authentic you tune into it immediately. You embrace it immediately. It includes you. That’s what I mean to say. The song also includes you because it’s really authentic. Afterwards you can say why it included you, but that’s not so important.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Interview / Leonard Cohen By Alan Twigg. Essay Date: 1979, 1984, 1985. ABC Bookworld.

Best Of 2008-2010 Leonard Cohen Tour: Avalanche & Suzanne – Hannover 2010

Gripping Black And White Video Of “Avalanche” And “Suzanne” From 2010 Hannover Concert

Those two songs alone would make this video significant. “Suzanne” is arguably the most representative work in Leonard Cohen’s repertoire, dating back to the beginning of his career as a singer-songwriter, and “Avalanche” is a favorite of many fans, especially those who have admired Cohen over the years, but was rarely played during the World Tour until the 2010 leg of the Tour.

The stark clarity of the black and white recording fits seamlessly with the tone, lyrical content, lighting,1 and the staging which revolves around on Cohen alone, accompanying himself on guitar.

From my perspective, the black and white videography significantly enhances the focus of and emotional impact on the viewer.

Leonard Cohen – Suzanne and Avalanche
Hannover; Sept 27, 2010
Video from anniesnake

Note: Originally posted July 27, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
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  1. The lighting for the Cohen Concerts is an often overlooked aspect of the presentation. In this context, it is particularly notable because the same dramatic effects that are most compelling for the live audience can prove insurmountable obstacles to still photographers and videographers. []

Leonard Cohen On The Role Poetry Played In Writing Suzanne: “that’s the method with which you can get the accuracy”

So where did the poetry come in [in writing Suzanne]?

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That’s my trade. That’s what I know how to do. And it’s not that I choose to do it but it seems that’s the method with which you can get the accuracy. Sometimes you hit it, all too rarely, but sometimes you hit it.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Cohen Down The Road By Karl Dallas, Melody Maker, May 22, 1976. Found at Reality Now!

Note: Originally posted Jan 21, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric