Suzanne (Leonard Cohen song)

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"Suzanne"
Suzanne by Leonard Cohen Netherlands vinyl.jpg
Dutch vinyl single
Single by Leonard Cohen
from the album Songs of Leonard Cohen
B-side
Released1967
RecordedColumbia Studio E, New York City
GenreFolk
Length3:48
LabelColumbia
Songwriter(s)Leonard Cohen
Producer(s)John Simon
Alternative release
"Hall of Fame" vinyl rerelease, circa 1970–71 (Canadian edition pictured)
"Hall of Fame" vinyl rerelease, circa 1970–71 (Canadian edition pictured)

"Suzanne" is a song written by Canadian poet and musician Leonard Cohen in the 1960s. First published as a poem in 1966, it was recorded as a song by Judy Collins in the same year, and Cohen performed it as his debut single, from his 1967 album Songs of Leonard Cohen. Many other artists have recorded versions, and it has become one of the most-covered songs in Cohen's catalogue.[1]

In 2006, Pitchfork Media listed the song No. 41 on their list of "The Top Songs of the 1960s".[2]

Background[edit]

"Suzanne" was inspired by Cohen's platonic relationship with Suzanne Verdal, the then-girlfriend of sculptor Armand Vaillancourt. Its lyrics describe the rituals that they enjoyed when they met: Suzanne would invite Cohen to visit her apartment by the harbour in Montreal, where she would serve him Constant Comment[3] tea, and they would walk around Old Montreal past the church of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, where sailors were blessed before heading out to sea.[4]

Verdal was interviewed by CBC News's The National in 2006 about the song. Verdal says that she and Cohen never had a sexual relationship,[5] contrary to what some interpretations of the song suggest. Cohen stated in a 1994 BBC interview that he only imagined having sex with her, as there was neither the opportunity nor inclination to actually go through with it.[6] She says she has met Cohen twice since the song's initial popularity; once after a concert Cohen performed in the 1970s and once in passing in the 1990s when she danced for him, but Cohen did not speak to her (and possibly did not recognise her). Verdal never benefited financially from the song's enormous commercial success.[7] In introducing the song during his 1968 performance on the BBC, Cohen said he benefited only from his own performances of "Suzanne," having signed away his rights to the song itself in a legal document deceptively presented to him which he did not read.

Its lyrics first appeared as the poem "Suzanne Takes You Down" in Cohen's 1966 book of poetry Parasites of Heaven, admittedly because of lack of new material. Lyrics to a few other songs from his subsequent 1967 debut album were also printed in the book.

Notable recordings[edit]

The song "Suzanne" was first performed by The Stormy Clovers in 1966 and then recorded by Judy Collins, appearing on her 1966 album In My Life. It was later released by Cohen on his debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen. Cohen's recording did not reach music charts.[8]

A-side label of Noel Harrison recording (US release pictured)

In 1967, Noel Harrison's version—the second cover of the song[9]—reached number 125 in the Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart on the week ending September 30.[10] Harrison's version entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart at number 86 on October 28[11] and peaked at number 56 on November 25, 1967.[12][13][14] In 1969, Herman van Veen's Dutch version[15] entered the Dutch Top 40 list at number 39 on April 26[16] and reached fourth place on May 31.[17]

It has since been covered by many other artists,[1] including a young Bruce Springsteen in his band the Castiles.[18] Joan Baez's version is notable for the modifications of the lyrics.

The band R.E.M. gave Cohen a joint songwriting credit for their song "Hope" (on their 1998 album Up), in light of the similarity between the two songs. R.E.M. describe themselves as realising that similarity only after completing the song.

In popular culture[edit]

Film[edit]

Suzanne has appeared in many films, including Suzanne (1996) a Slovakian drama about the fatal love of two young drug-addicts,[19] The Second Coming of Suzanne (1974), Susanna (2000), Breaking the Waves (1996), Fata Morgana (1971), Portrait d’une jeune fille de la fin des années 60 á Bruxelles (1993), A Home at the End of the World (2004), Wild (2014), Fire Will Come (2019), and McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971).

The song forms the theme for the final scene of Cohen's short movie I Am a Hotel, released in 1983.

A live performance of the song was used in the documentary Message to Love.

Nick Cave performed the song in the film Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man.[20]

Other[edit]

Martin Sharp wrote the lyrics for Cream's "Tales of Brave Ulysses" to the melody of this song, specifically the Judy Collins version. Eric Clapton later set Sharp's lyrics to his own music.[21]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2016) Peak
position
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[22] 39
France (SNEP)[23] 3
Germany (Official German Charts)[24] 61
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[25] 79
Scotland (OCC)[26] 56
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[27] 9
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[28] 14

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Arjatsalo, J., Riise, A., & Kurzweil, K. (July 11, 2009). A Thousand Covers Deep: Leonard Cohen Covered by Other Artists Archived August 28, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. The Leonard Cohen Files. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  2. ^ "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s". Archived from the original on May 24, 2009. Retrieved May 12, 2009.
  3. ^ Martyris, Nina (November 15, 2016). "The Story Behind The 'Tea And Oranges' In Leonard Cohen's Song 'Suzanne'". The Salt: what's on your plate. NPR. Archived from the original on November 19, 2016. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  4. ^ Simmons, Sylvie. I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen. New York: HarperCollins, 2012, p. 124-7.
  5. ^ Simmons, Sylvie. I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen. New York: HarperCollins, 2012, p. 126.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 7, 2009. Retrieved October 30, 2004.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet. "Searching the Soul of a Soulful Poet." The New York Times. September 14, 2012, C1.
  8. ^ Nadel, Ira B. (1996–2010s). Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen. ISBN 9780307367020.
  9. ^ Simmons, Sylvie (2012). "The Dust of a Long Sleepless Night". I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen. McClelland & Stewart. ISBN 9780771080425.
  10. ^ "Bubbling Under the Hot 100". Billboard. September 30, 1967. p. 29.
  11. ^ "The Hot 100: The Week of October 28, 1967". Billboard. Archived from the original on November 5, 2016. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
  12. ^ Dean, Maury (2003). Rock 'n' Roll Gold Rush: A Singles Un-cyclopedia. New York City: Algora Publishing. p. 352. ISBN 9780875862071.
  13. ^ Leszczak, Bob (2015). "Noel Harrison". From Small Screen to Vinyl: A Guide to Television Stars Who Made Records, 1950–2000. p. 150. ISBN 9781442242746.
  14. ^ "Noel Harrison". Billboard. Archived from the original on February 6, 2017. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
  15. ^ "Herman Van Veen – Suzanne". Media Markt Top 40. Archived from the original on November 11, 2016. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
  16. ^ "week 17 (26 april 1969)". Media Markt Top 40. Archived from the original on November 11, 2016. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
  17. ^ "week 22 (31 mei 1969)". Media Markt Top 40. Archived from the original on November 11, 2016. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
  18. ^ "Cover Song Spotlight: "Suzanne" by the Castiles". Legends of Springsteen. Archived from the original on December 7, 2015. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  19. ^ "Suzanne". IMDb. September 13, 1996. Archived from the original on February 9, 2017. Retrieved July 1, 2018.
  20. ^ Trendell, Andrew (November 11, 2016). "Nick Cave pays tribute to Leonard Cohen: 'The greatest of them all'". NME. Archived from the original on October 1, 2017. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 21, 2016. Retrieved September 15, 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Leonard Cohen – Suzanne" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  23. ^ "Le Top de la semaine : Top Singles Téléchargés – SNEP (Week 46, 2016)" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Archived from the original on November 18, 2016. Retrieved November 19, 2016.
  24. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Leonard Cohen – Suzanne". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  25. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Leonard Cohen – Suzanne" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  26. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  27. ^ "Spanishcharts.com – Leonard Cohen – Suzanne" Canciones Top 50. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  28. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Leonard Cohen – Suzanne". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 21 November 2016.

External links[edit]