Sunday, February 6, 2011

Leonard Cohen -- "Suzanne" (1967)

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.

"Suzanne" was one of those songs that every girl I knew in high school who had an acoustic guitar loved to play.  You had to pretend to like the song if you had hopes of getting anywhere with one of those girls.  

I pretended to like "Suzanne" when one of those girls was playing it, but secretly loathed it.  Or to tell the truth, I pretended to myself that I loathed it when I actually liked it a lot.  

The same was true of "Both Sides Now" and "Sounds of Silence," and was especially true of the New Christy Minstrels song, "Today":

Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine
I'll taste your strawberries, I'll drink your sweet wine

I still get major douche chills just thinking about listening to a guitar-playing high-school girl singing that song.  Who knows why?  Some weird adolescent guy thing, I suppose -- which I haven't completely outgrown, it seems.

The lyrics to "Suzanne" first appeared in Leonard Cohen's 1966 book of poetry, Parasites of Heaven.  It appears that Cohen was a little short of material for that book, so he took some of the songs he was planning to record on his debut record album and included their lyrics in his book.

The song is about a real Suzanne who (like Cohen) lived in Montreal at the time: Suzanne Verdal.

Verdal later told an interviewer that she and Cohen had never had sex, although the song may imply that they did.  Cohen admitted that he had only imagined having sex with her.  (A-w-k-w-a-r-d!)

Verdal said she saw Cohen many years after he wrote the song but that he did not speak to her -- she suspects he did not recognize her.  (Double a-w-k-w-a-r-d!)

(I'll have more to say about Suzanne Verdal in a future 2 or 3 lines post.)

"Suzanne" has been covered by just about everyone.  Judy Collins recorded an album that contained the song the year before Cohen's version of the song was released.

Francoise Hardy did a cover version in French:

Some people think Fairport Convention's version was the best of all the cover versions:

Here's Cohen's version of "Suzanne":

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from iTunes:

Suzanne - The Essential Leonard Cohen

Here's a link to use if you prefer Amazon:

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