“It raised the standard of what I wanted to write.” Joni Mitchell Talks About Hearing Leonard Cohen Sing “Suzanne” At The 1967 Newport Festival

At the [1967] Newport Folk Festival … Leonard did Suzanne. I’d met him and I went, ‘I love that song. What a great song.’ Really. Suzanne was one of the greatest songs I ever heard. So I was proud to meet an artist. He made me feel humble, because I looked at that song and I went, ‘Woah. All my songs seem so naive by comparison.’ It raised the standard of what I wanted to write.quotedown2

Joni Mitchell

From Joni Mitchell In Her Own Words by Malka Marom. ECW Press: September 9, 2014. Originally posted Sep 2, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Best Videos Of 2013 Leonard Cohen Tour: Suzanne – Vienna

sukkzSuzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy
But that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China

Best 2013 Leonard Cohen Videos: Cohencentric.com is featuring selections from the current Best Of 2013 Leonard Cohen Tour Video Setlist, which comprises the best available video of each of the songs performed during the 2013 Leonard Cohen Old Ideas World Tour

Leonard Cohen – Suzanne
Vienna: July 27, 2013
Video by glauxath

Best Videos Of 2012 Leonard Cohen Tour: Suzanne – Helsinki


Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror

Best 2012 Leonard Cohen Videos: Cohencentric.com features selections from the Best Of 2012 Leonard Cohen Tour Video Setlist, which comprises the best available video of each of the songs performed during the 2012 Leonard Cohen World Tour.

Leonard Cohen – Suzanne
Helsinki: Sept 2, 2012
Video by (Marie Nolan)

Leonard Cohen As Model Mandarin Orange Marketer

orangesA few months after publishing Cohensubstantiation – Commonplace Tea Becomes Sacramental Repast In Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne, I came across this post from a marketing blog which also focused on Leonard Cohen’s transformation of the Constant Comment tea Suzanne served him into “tea and oranges all the way from China.” In this case, the author was moved to present the Canadian singer-songwriter’s classic song as a model for storytelling in advertising.

The following is excerpted from Storytelling 2.0: Think Leonard Cohen by Alice Germanetti (Content Market Insider: Oct 25, 2013)

47 years ago, Leonard Cohen wrote “Suzanne,” a song about an engaging young woman who “feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China.” In those few words he painted a picture of an exotic, mysterious, romantic and desirable creature, just by having her serve him a light snack.

Every woman I knew went out and bought a can of those sweet little Geisha oranges. And you had to really look for them, too. I bought several. Along with a flowery blue kimono. I was, after all, an Italian girl from New Jersey…

Every few months I bought a fresh can. After my 11th can in two years, I assumed Leonard was in on the deal. He had singlehandedly created awareness and desire for those little oranges in our culture. He was responsible for putting Mandarin oranges on the map and in the Mayfair Market. He had to be getting a cut…

Decades later, I heard LC interviewed about “Suzanne.” He said she was a rare beauty who served him Constant Comment Tea. My heart sank. My mother drank Constant Comment. It wasn’t from China. It wasn’t exotic. It wasn’t the tea AND oranges I pictured, it was a tea bag WITH slivers of dried up orange rinds…

But I thank you, Leonard, for giving me 40 years of believing I could be somewhat magical and mysterious and exotic. And I sincerely hope the world appreciates what you did for the marketing of Mandarin oranges.

For more about Leonard Cohen changing Constant Comment from grocery to sacrament, see Cohensubstantiation – Commonplace Tea Becomes Sacramental Repast In Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne

Note: Originally posted October 25, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Cohensubstantiation – Commonplace Tea Becomes Sacramental Repast In Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne


And She Feeds You Constant Comment

And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China

Today’s post examines these two well-known lines from Leonard Cohen’s classic, Suzanne, to offer  insight into Cohen’s songwriting methodology,

Origin: In The Beginning …

Leonard Cohen’s songwriting process is an inversion of premise set forth in the opening verses of the Gospel of John.  John 1:1 begins

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

There follows an elaboration of the creation of all things by God through the Word. Then, verse 14 identifies this Word:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

The Cohen creation mythology, however, has the flesh becoming the Word. The content of Suzanne, like much of Cohen’s oeuvre, is grounded in the Canadian singer-songwriter’s personal experience, as Cohen himself points out in these two excerpts:

From a 1994 Leonard Cohen interview on BBC Radio:1

She [Suzanne Verdal]  had a space in a warehouse down there, and she invited me down, and I went with her, and she served me Constant Comment tea, which has little bits of oranges in it.

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  1. Transcript of BBC Radio 1 programme about Leonard Cohen, broadcast Sunday August 7, 1994, found at Speaking Cohen (no longer online)  []

Leonard Cohen “Couldn’t Care Less” That Joan Baez “Brutally Violated” His Song Suzanne

len-joanAnd you want to travel with Him,
And you want to travel blind.
And you think you’ll maybe trust Him
‘Cause He’s touched you
And He’s moved you,
And He’s kind.

Joan Baez version of Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne (1983)

Cohen Confident His Songs “Can Take Care Of Themselves”

In a 1992 video interview Leonard Cohen declares

I don’t give my songs any instructions when they are presented to the public. They are completely on their own. I really feel they can take care of themselves – even when they are brutally violated as Joan Baez did to the song “Suzanne.”1 [emphasis mine]

Cohen explains that, for ideological reasons, Joan Baez rejected the line, “For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind,” as mystical and drug-induced. His recall of her replacement lyrics is faulty (his best guess is that she sang  “I touched your perfect body with my thumb”). There are a few other changes in her version of the song as well (see comparison of lyrics below).

Cohen’s point, however, is that, even with the radical change in the words he wrote for his song,

I still loved the song. … I couldn’t care less that she couldn’t accept that line.

One notes, however, that Cohen goes on to report that when he met her backstage during the Rolling Thunder Revue,2  she sang it with his original lyrics and told him, “I finally got it right, Leonard.” “She had, Cohen summarizes, “come around.”
Not that Leonard Cohen cares.

Mary Martin, Cohen’s manager at the time was certainly less sanguine, as noted in this excerpt from Louise Scruggs Memorial Forum: Mary Martin by Michael McCall (Country Music Hall of Fame: November 17, 2009):

As an example of how fiercely protective Martin could be of Cohen’s songs, she recalled a story about hearing that Joan Baez had been performing “Suzanne,” a song first recorded by Collins. Only Baez changed some of the lyrics when she performed the song. Martin sent her a terse letter demanding she stop changing the song, explaining, “I don’t think you would take another brush to Andrew Wyeth and his paintings. Therefore, do not alter Leonard Cohen’s poetry.”

Suzanne – The Leonard Cohen And Joan Baez Lyrics

Click on image below to enlarge lyrics.

Videos – Joan Baez Sings Two Versions Of “Suzanne” By Leonard Cohen

Joan Baez – Suzanne: Joan Baez Rewrite Of Lyrics
Paris: 1983


Joan Baez – Suzanne: Original Leonard Cohen Lyrics
France: 2010


Credit Due Department: A reasonable facsimile of Leonard Cohen’s fedora is herewith symbolically doffed in thanks to Maarten Massa, who found and shared this tasty tidbit. Photo of Joan Baez by Heinrich Klaffs [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Leonard Cohen by Roland Godefroy (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Note: Originally posted March 8, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. Yes, that’s what Leonard Cohen said; no, this is not another DrHGuy joke. Check the video []
  2. See Leonard Cohen Declines Bob Dylan’s Invitation To Play In Rolling Thunder Revue and Leonard Cohen Hosts Joni Mitchell & Ratso At Home For Barbequed Ribs []

On Location At The King Edward Hotel – Film Site Of Leonard Cohen’s “I Am A Hotel”


The King Eddy Ballroom Of Leonard Cohen’s Memories

While I was gamboling on the beach enjoying vacation, Sally Hunter was diligently examining a Toronto landmark with a special connection to Leonard Cohen. Sally writes:

Every year Toronto has an event called “Doors Open”. For a weekend, many places are opened to the public – everything from the subway yards, boardrooms, historic buildings, and even the oldest Jewish Cemetery, which usually has it’s doors locked. Among those on the list this year was the King Edward Hotel – one of the last old grand hotels remaining. The King Eddy has a long and illustrious history, hosting many celebrities and dignitaries – the Beatles did a bed in here, scandalously Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton shared a suite, though they were not married, etc. The Hotel opened the Crystal Ballroom, on the 17th floor, up to the public. The Hotel is where “I am a Hotel” was filmed, and the Crystal Ballroom was featured as Cohen sang “Memories”. The Crystal Ballroom was used from the early 20’s to the 50’s when it was shut down due to changing fire regulations. It was stripped of it’s chandeliers, fixtures and even the hardwood flooring. This will be the last time the room is opened to the public, as it looks now. The Hotel has now been purchased by another investor who plans to revamp the hotel, refurbish rooms and add luxury condos (the cheapest begin at $400,000). I am sending you a link to several of the pictures, in case you are interested. http://www.flickr.com/photos/gingermadd … 168146900/

All of Sally’s photos are interesting and worth viewing. One of those, a shot of the ballroom, is displayed below a screen capture from the “Memories” performance in “I Am A Hotel” that was filmed in the same spot.

Screen capture of "Memories" from I Am A Hotel

Screen capture of “Memories” from I Am A Hotel


I Am A Hotel

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Our Lady Of The Harbour – The Montreal Church Embedded In Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne


“And the sun pours down like honey / On our lady of the harbour”

Sally Hunter writes,

I was sorting though my camera data cards today, as I am accompanying 160 Grade 7’s to Quebec City tomorrow, and wanted to make sure I had lots of memory. I found these pictures taken last year in Montreal. I did two trips last year, one to Quebec City and the other to Montreal and Quebec City. These trips are lots of noise and hustle and bustle. On my last day in Montreal, I had a little bit of time to myself before we once again rallied the troops. I stole away for some peace and quiet to Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours, better known to you as the Church where “… the sun pours down like honey, On our lady of the harbour…” The Lady of the Harbour faces the St. Lawrence River, and blesses the men in the boats who travel along the river. I am enclosing a shot of the interior of the Church. It is a most remarkable colour of blue and small ships hang from the ceiling.

The photos are among the best that I’ve seen of  The Lady of the Harbour, especially in their display of detail. (Note, for example, the starry halo over her head.) I hadn’t noticed the angels, one of Cohen’s favorite allusions, that are easily seen around the pedestal in the photo below.


And, until Sally called it to my attention with this superb photo, I was completely unaware of the gorgeous interior of the church.


Cohencentric appreciates not only the quality of these outstanding photos and Sally’s generosity in sharing them but also the courage and resilience demonstrated in her continuing willingness to brave the rigors inherent in accompanying a horde of seventh graders on those field trips.  A prayer or two in Sally’s behalf might not be out of place.

Note: Originally posted May 2, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, the predecessor to Cohencentric.