Suzanne
Lyrics Leonard Cohen

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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.

Song facts

"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".

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