Suzanne (Leonard Cohen song)
Dutch vinyl single
|Single by Leonard Cohen|
|from the album Songs of Leonard Cohen|
|Recorded||Columbia Studio E, New York City|
"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.
"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 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.
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, 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. 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. According to his on-stage comments, Cohen benefited only from his own performances, 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.
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.
In 1967, Noel Harrison's version—the second cover of the song—reached number 125 in the Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart on the week ending September 30. Harrison's version entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart at number 86 on October 28 and peaked at number 56 on November 25, 1967. In 1969, Herman van Veen's Dutch version entered the Dutch Top 40 list at number 39 on April 26 and reached fourth place on May 31. It was also covered by Nina Simone on her 1969 album To Love Somebody.[importance?] Anni-Frid Lyngstad, of Swedish group ABBA, also recorded a version of the song with Swedish lyrics by Owe Junsjö for Frida, her 1971 début album.[importance?]
Samples from "Suzanne" have also been used: Robert McKay used lines from Cohen's poem as chapter titles in his 1969 young adult novel Dave's Song. Verses of the song are played intermittently throughout the 1974 movie The Second Coming of Suzanne, starring Sondra Locke, Paul Sand, Jared Martin and Richard Dreyfuss. Rapper Plan B sampled the song for his Paint It Blacker mixtape, detailing a fictionalised account of a prostitute killed by the Camden Ripper and dumped in the river. 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.
Esther Ofarim covered the song on her 1972 album "Esther Ofarim" The Catalan singer Toti Soler also made a cover of the song translated into Catalan (entitled "Susanna") for his 1972 album Liebenslied. Francoise Hardy recorded a French cover of the song for her 1968 self-titled album. She also recorded an English Language Version for her album, One-Nine-Seven-Zero. The French singer Alain Bashung made a cover of the song translated into French for his album "Bleu pétrole" (2008).
In popular culture
Suzanne has appeared in many films, including Suzanne (1996) a Slovakian drama about the fatal love of two young drug-addicts, The Second Coming of Suzanne, Susanna (2000), Breaking the Waves, Fata Morgana (1971), A Home at the End of the World, Wild and McCabe & Mrs. Miller.
The song forms the theme for the final scene of Cohen's short movie I Am a Hotel, released in 1983.
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||39|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||61|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||79|
|Scotland (Official Charts Company)||56|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||14|
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 7, 2009. Retrieved October 30, 2004.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- Maslin, Janet. "Searching the Soul of a Soulful Poet." The New York Times. September 14, 2012, C1.
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 9, 2018. Retrieved April 11, 2018.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 20, 2018. Retrieved March 19, 2018.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "Suzanne". IMDb. September 13, 1996. Archived from the original on February 9, 2017. Retrieved July 1, 2018.
- 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.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 21, 2016. Retrieved September 15, 2017.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "Austriancharts.at – Leonard Cohen – Suzanne" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
- "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 January 29, 2017. Retrieved November 19, 2016.
- "Offiziellecharts.de – Leonard Cohen – Suzanne". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
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- "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
- "Spanishcharts.com – Leonard Cohen – Suzanne" Canciones Top 50. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
- "Swisscharts.com – Leonard Cohen – Suzanne". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
- The song lyrics, from Leonard Cohen's web site (higher graphics)
- The song lyrics, from The Leonard Cohen Files (lower graphics)
- Rear-view Mirror: Who was "Suzanne" and why did Leonard Cohen make her famous? (CBC)
- Transcripted excerpt from the BBC Radio 4 FM, June 1998 interview with Suzanne Verdal McCallister
- Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics