I’ve twice used this feature when I’m struggling for something meaningful to say or don’t have much spare time on my hands, but the last occasion was twelve months ago. I’m clearly a total windbag with far too much to say for myself.
“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.
It was inspired by Cohen’s platonic relationship with dancer Suzanne Verdal. 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).
Ian McCulloch is one of many who have covered this song over the years. In 2002, he offered this up in a feature in a UK newspaper:-
For me, the perfect song is ‘Suzanne’, by Leonard Cohen. The perfect lyric with the perfect melody. I can’t see a fault in it. The first time I heard it, I thought, ‘Whoaa.’ I was about 14 or 15 and I’d seen the Bird on a Wire documentary about him at the pictures. He was so cool and it was my kind of music and I went straight out to get his albums. Then I went back to my mum’s house and waited for it to get dark before I played them. That song is just so instant. It goes through my soul; it’s like that bit in Poltergeist when the mother’s coming down the stairs and she feels this rush of this kid’s spirit going through her. It’s great when a song just comes at you like that.
This was recorded for a CD given away with the November 2008 edition of Mojo, a monthly music magazine. I think it’s quite sublime and, thanks to Mac being a superior singer, it gets my vote as being the better of the two.
This verdict can, should you choose, be overturned on appeal via the comments section……