February 25, 2016

Boomer Ballads: Suzanne


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 you maybe you'll trust him
For he's touched your perfect body with her mind


" "Suzanne" was inspired by Cohen's platonic relationship with Suzanne Verdal, the then-girlfriend of sculptor Armand Vaillancourt. 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 recognize her). Verdal never benefited financially from the song's enormous commercial success.
Cohen has stated that he was duped into giving up the rights for the song, but stated that he was glad it happened, as it would be wrong to write a song that was so well-loved and to get rich for it also." -- La Wik

Suzanne then:


Suzanne now:


Suzanne was a well-known and respected dancer and choreographer in Canada, and came to Los Angeles with big dreams.

Just as her Hollywood career was about to take off, she had a tragic fall from a ladder onto concrete, breaking her back and both wrists. Her dreams of dance were over. Now subsisting on a small monthly disability check, she was forced to move into her truck when her landlord evicted her to do a renovation and she could no longer afford rent in L.A. She presently shares her truck, which has been transformed into a funky wooden art house on wheels, with four beloved adopted cats. Suzanne's Angels: Suzanne: mythical muse or human being?

Posted by gerardvanderleun at February 25, 2016 11:02 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Someone said bittersweet.

Posted by: Casey Klahn at February 25, 2016 1:22 PM

I'd have folded it up like a step ladder, back then.

Posted by: ghostsniper at February 25, 2016 1:34 PM

Well, Suzanne appears to have weathered the years a whole lot better than Cohen, even if she's down on her luck just now.

Posted by: BillH at February 25, 2016 1:34 PM

Thanks. That was real nice.

Posted by: tonynoboloney at February 25, 2016 10:07 PM

beautiful song...

Posted by: Spr√°vca at February 26, 2016 2:57 AM

Ah, it's always nice to see a child of the Wild Blue Yonder succeed.
The Sixties produced some fine examples of do-my-thingers reaching out to capture the moment. Jerry Garcia and Ruben Hoffman come to mind.
Buckminster Fuller and Tim Leary so iconic.

and, after all these years still living in a van. Right on.

Posted by: chasmatic at February 26, 2016 5:48 AM

She's a lot more interesting than Lenny.

Posted by: Jack at February 26, 2016 7:59 AM

I recognized Jennifer Warnes as one of the backup singers.


Posted by: Don Rodrigo at February 26, 2016 11:41 AM