"Suzanne" is a song written by Canadian poet and musician Leonard Cohen in the 1960s, and often heard in a recording by Judy Collins. It has become one of the most-covered songs in Cohen's catalogue.
In 2006, Pitchfork Media listed the song #41 on their list of 'The Top Songs of the 1960s'.
Leonard 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).
The song "Suzanne" was first recorded by Judy Collins the same year, and appeared on her 1966 album In My Life. It was later released by Cohen himself on his debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen.
The song was also performed and recorded by Nina Simone in several occasions. It appears in her album Tell It Like It Is, in a live version at the Philarmonic Hall New York in 1969. It also appears in her album Just Like A Woman, where she sings classic songs of the '60s.
Other notable early versions were by Noel Harrison (whose recording was a minor hit) and seminal British folk-rock group Fairport Convention. In fact Fairport Convention were among Cohen's earliest admirers, and their take on "Suzanne" was sung as a duet between Sandy Denny and Iain Matthews for the BBC in August 1968; the recording was released on their BBC sessions compilation Heyday.
It has since been covered by many other artists. Early versions of "Suzanne" included those by Pearls Before Swine, Françoise Hardy, and Harry Belafonte. The song was recorded by Joan Baez on her 1975 double album, From Every Stage. Bruce Springsteen supposedly performed the song at least once early in his career as a member of The Castiles. Some foreign remakes of the song include the Dutch version by Herman van Veen in 1969 (there also exists a Dutch song called "Suzanne" by VOF de Kunst from 1983, but that is a different song) and the Italian version by Fabrizio de André in 1984. The British experimental rock group The Flying Lizards released a version with detached, cold vocals sung over dark samples on their 1984 LP Top Ten. Peter Gabriel recorded a syncopated version of "Suzanne" for the Leonard Cohen tribute album Tower of Song, and Geoffrey Oryema performed it on the earlier tribute I'm Your Fan. Tori Amos performed this song during her Original Sinsuality Tour in 2005. James Taylor took his own approach onto it as part of his 2008 album Covers.
The song forms the theme for the final scene of Cohen's short movie I Am a Hotel released in 1983.
It's also used in one of the intermezzos in Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves.
Nick Cave performed the song in the film "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man".
The song is featured in the Werner Herzog movie "Fata Morgana".
Songs Of Leonard Cohen
The Best Of Leonard Cohen
More Best Of Leonard Cohen
The Essential Leonard Cohen
Live In London
Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970