Monday, May 21, 2007

Leonard Cohen...'the song' Suzanne

I see this video is no longer available. It was the best video version online, so that's too bad. Youtube has other versions, though, if you go to their site.

Suzanne, of the song that's said to have started Leonard Cohen on the road to greatness, lives in wooden addition to the back of a truck and struggles financially now. She appears to have no regrets that what was once between them ended when he moved on to stardom. The story about Leonard and Suzanne is fascinating. She was married. They say there was no physical intimacy, but rather a strong emotional attraction they chose not to act upon.

An interview with Suzanne speaks of their relationship in terms of the song lyrics HERE. An interesting backdrop to a song any Cohen fan knows well.



Suzanne 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
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you've always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you've touched her perfect body with your mind.

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you'll trust him
For he's touched your perfect body with his mind.

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
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she's touched your perfect body with her mind.

Leonard Cohen


Pat Paulk said...

Has always been one of my favorite songs regardless of the who performs it. Didn't know the history, thanks for sharing it.

Pris said...

He's a good songwriter/performer, filled with charisma. Glad you appreciated!

tom said...

Never knew that it was based on a real person. Thanks. The interview was interesting.

Annie Wicking and Loman Austen said...

Another great singer, Thank you.


Pris said...

Tom, I only knew it recently and read she was in pretty bad straits financially and had broken her back. I wonder how she feels still hearing that song and remembering when that intensity was in her life.

Annie, thanks for stopping by!


sam of the ten thousand things said...

Cohen is amazing. I'm partial to "Famous Blue Raincoat" or "Everybody Knows" - depending on the time of day.

Mike said...

Wow. I've never heard this song. The lyrics are wonderful. Great post, Pris.

Liz said...

Time and again I don’t like ‘m (to hear him) but he sure knows how to trigger the mind.
Thanks and a hug to you, for this.


Pris said...

Hi Sam..Everybody Knows & A Thousand Kisses Deep. Two great songs.

Michael...glad to introduce you to this.

Liz, I think gravely voices are an acquired taste. My husband can't stand Tom WAits. I love his music. Joe Cocker, too, and Rod Stewart.

Thanks all of you for stopping by.

pepektheassassin said...

Cohen is fantastic! I love this by Judy Collins. Also love Tom Waits.

Pris said...

I've heard it by Judy Collins but like Cohen doing it better. Tom Waits...sigh. Great music!

pepektheassassin said...

Hey, thank you for this, pris!

Lyle Daggett said...

Pris, coming in a little late here (computer still in computer hospital) -- I found the same Suzanne interview sometime within the past couple of months, it's quite remarkable. I hadn't heard the more recent news of her current hardship.

I agree, gravelly voices are, as you said, an acquired taste (I've acquired the taste gradually from years of avid listening to Dr. John).

The Judy Collins version is obviously the great classic one, although I've also heard a reoording of Joan Baez singing it which I like at least as much as Judy Collins' version. (The Joan Baez is, if I remember correctly, on her live album "From Every Stage," and she may also have recorded it on another of her albums at some point though I'm not sure.)

In 1971-72 (my senior year in high school, in Minneapolis) I was in a poetry writing class that met every morning for two hours, five days a week, people from schools all over Minneapolis. I recall from that year the story that one of the women in the class met Suzanne (of the Leonard Cohen song) sometime during that year. It's a long time ago and I no longer entirely trust my memory of the story -- it was really just a brief piece of conversation during the class one day -- however she (the woman in the class) really liked Cohen's poetry and music, and Leonard Cohen and Suzanne were both in Minneapolis at least once, at some point (in the interview, Suzanne mentions seeing him backstage at a concert he did in Minneapolis).

That (as you know) was how it was during those years -- random encounters with the goddess (or Goddess) were everywhere, could happen any time, without warning.


Pris said...

Hi Lyle
I know. When O'hare was snowed in upon my return to champaine-urbana in my grad school years, I met a montage photographer waiting for the same commuter plane on down.

We talked and he turned out to be quite the cult figure in the underground photography movement of the day.

We met once a year for seven years, as I moved and as he had an exhibit near me. There was a magic in our connection. As he grew bigger and biger and also after we finally made love, he simply disappeared.

I read he was in Boston giving a talk the following year. Went. He looked like an animal pinned in the headlights. I don't know if he thought I expected more of him or if his increased fame had changed him....I did know by then he had women 'in every port'.

I had a letter from him some years later saying there'd never been anything between us at all. It blew me away. I still have all of his letters written on the back of his 'working images' stuck away somewhere. Everytime I think of tossing them, I look at the image and can't bring myself to part with those. I love his work.

He's still going strong. Work in the MOMA now and selling his work for hugs fees. People change and sometimes abruptly. He lost his innocence. I guess I lost some of mine with all that, too.

Pris said...

typos all in my comment..just up and can't see yet. Gads.

Brian Campbell said...

You did great work on this post. This is one of my favourite songs, and one of the reasons I'm in Montreal now. I feel I missed the boat on that sixties scene by being born a bit too late. One of my closest friends (a retired dancer, by the way) ran an alternative art gallery to which Suzanne was a frequent visitor. He described her as a remarkable, whimsical, eccentric but delightful woman... as the interview bears out. sorry to hear of her present hardship.

Pris said...

Thanks. While I wish I could subtract a few of the accumulated years I wouldn't have missed the sixties in trade. Yes , something very special about those times. It was interesting to hear another impression of Suzanne, too. I, too, wish life had been a bit kinder to her these past years.