Monday, November 25, 2019

Leonard Cohen 30-Day Tribute ... Day 3: First album - the story of "Suzanne"

Click here to hear original "Suzanne."
Songs of Leonard Cohen is the debut album by Canadian folk singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, released on December 27, 1967 on Columbia Records. Less successful in the US than in Europe, Songs of Leonard Cohen foreshadowed the kind of chart success Cohen would go on to achieve.  -- Wikipedia
"Suzanne" was one of his biggest hits and hearing his young voice takes me back a zillion years.  Here is the original version and a concert version from years later where he alludes to the incident where he had some of his copyrights stolen, saying:
"It was a song that people loved and fortunately the rights to it were stolen from me. I thought that was perfectly justified because it would be wrong to write this song and get rich from it, too.

"I'm happy for that friend who put that piece of paper in front of me and said, "Sign this." So I said, "What is this?" And he said, "Oh, it's just a standard writer's contract."

"So, I signed it, and it was gone."
Click here for"Suzanne" in concert.

Notes from the YouTube video:

Perhaps his most memorable song from Canadian poet/songwriter & performer Leonard Cohen. Cohen specified, notably in a BBC interview, that the song was about encountering Suzanne Verdal, the then wife of sculptor Armand Vaillancourt, in a Montreal setting. 
Indeed, many lines describe different elements of the city, including its river (the Saint Lawrence) and a little chapel near the harbour, called Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours (literally Our Lady of Good Help), which sits on the side of the harbour that faces the rising sun in the morning, as it is described in the song. 
Suzanne Verdal was interviewed by CBC News's The National in 2006 about the song. Verdal claims that she and Cohen never had sexual relations, contrary to what some interpretations of the song suggest. Cohen himself 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). In any case, 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).

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