Dagafsluiter: Suzanne

“Suzanne” is geïnspireerd door Cohen’s – platonische – relatie met Suzanne Verdal, destijds de vrouw van de beeldhouwer Armand Vaillancourt. Suzanne Verdal, een buitengewoon mooie en charismatische vrouw, diende als muze voor veel kunstenaars, met name uit de Beat scene van Montreal eind jaren ’50. Cohen leerde ze pas later kennen: “With Leonard, it happened more in the beginning of the sixties.  When I was living then separated from Armand, I went and was very much interested in the waterfront.  The St. Lawrence River held a particular poetry and beauty to me and (I) decided to live there with our daughter, Julie.  Leonard heard about this place I was living, with crooked floors and a poetic view of the river, and he came to visit me many times.  We had tea together many times and mandarin oranges”.

Volgens Cohen beschrijft “Suzanne” de magische zomer van 1965, toen hij Verdal regelmatig bezocht. Alle op het eerste gezicht esoterische beelden uit de song verwijzen naar reële gebeurtenissen. Verdal kocht oude lappen stof bij het Leger des Heils om daar zelf kleren van te maken, trakteerde Cohen op thee en mandarijnen en discussieerde met hem over religie, een onderwerp dat beiden na aan het hart lag.

Nadat “Suzanne” van Cohen – tot dat moment een marginale Beatdichter – een megaster had gemaakt, dreven de twee uit elkaar, tot verdriet van Verdal: “It did change. He became a big star after the song was launched and he became a songwriter. As you may or may not know, it launched him as a songwriter, I suppose. Our relationship did change with time. I traveled, went to the U.S., and we’d see him and bump into him. In Minneapolis for instance, he did a concert there and he saw me back stage and received me very beautifully, ‘” Oh Suzanne, you gave me a beautiful song” And it was a sweet moment. But then there were some bittersweet moments that perhaps I dont wish to divulge right at this time…. I stayed true to art for art’s sake but he moved on and I stayed true to the cause, as it were. And I guess, I don’t know if that intimidated him or embarrassed him or made him uncomfortable”.

Citaten hierboven zijn afkomstig uit dit interview van de BBC met Suzanne Verdal uit 1998.

Suzanne was oorspronkelijk een gedicht, getiteld “Suzanne Takes You Down”. Judy Collins haalde Cohen over het gedicht op muziek te zetten en bracht de song in 1966 op de plaat uit. De versie van Cohen zelf is afkomstig van zijn debuutalbum “Songs of Leonard Cohen” uit 1967.

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 wanna 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.

Cohen live, vermoedelijk ergens in de vroege jaren ’70

De oerversie van Judy Collins