The Story of Suzanne
November 20, 2003 8:52 PM   Subscribe

Now Suzanne takes your hand
and she leads you to the river

The Story of Suzanne
posted by y2karl (32 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Great link, y2karl.
posted by denbot at 9:01 PM on November 20, 2003

Karl - is this a marriage proposal? Because your Blonde On Blonde post and now this... ;)

Thanks a million once more!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:21 PM on November 20, 2003

Saunders: Do you at all resent the fact that he, if you like, milked you for all the artistic inspiration and then moved on, having created this lovely thing from you? You can almost be said to have created this song yourself.

God, to her credit, at least she doesn't respond (too much) to this shameless fishing for controversy.

Now will someone tell me the story behind these:

I heard of a saint who had loved you
So I studied all night in his school
He taught that the duty of lovers
Is to tarnish the golden rule,
And just when I was sure that his teachings were pure
He drowned himself in the pool,
His body is gone, but back here on the lawn
His spirit continues to drool.

* * *

Some girls wander by mistake into the mess that scalpels make
Are you the teachers of my heart? We teach old hearts to break

(etc. etc.)

Some people disdain Leonard Cohen of this vintage—on the surface it is embarrassing, and it is understandable to want to say you've outgrown it—but, call it pseudo-profound or what you will, this is the medium in which he really created something whose quality lasts.
posted by Zurishaddai at 9:28 PM on November 20, 2003

My first instinct was to click on the link, but I love this song, and I'd rather not know any more about it than I should. Will it change my conception of the song?

And by that I mean: does the song seem less universal after reading the link? I know the song is extremely personal - like most of Leonard Cohen's music - but there are still elements to all his songs that I can personally relate to.
posted by interrobang at 9:29 PM on November 20, 2003

Strange Personal Story #537:
At a Presbyterian Church in the San Fernando Valley when I was a kid, a 'very hip' Sunday School teacher based an entire class session on that song (mostly the second "Jesus was a sailor" verse, she wasn't that hip...).
posted by wendell at 9:46 PM on November 20, 2003

I like Nina Simone's version of it better (is that heresy?)
posted by amberglow at 9:51 PM on November 20, 2003

Wait a minute. If that's Leonard Cohen's Suzanne, then who is James Taylor's Suzanne?

...Oh. Never mind.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:06 PM on November 20, 2003


One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong

from Diamonds In The Lines

Which is from:

The French Leonard Cohen Database

And for you and Miguel:

From Speaking Cohen:

Comme Un Guerrier
(Translated: Come on Gorilla)

By Christian Fevret
Translated by Sophie Miller
posted by y2karl at 10:37 PM on November 20, 2003

Well said, Zurishaddai!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:38 PM on November 20, 2003

According to Richie Unterberger's Eight Miles High: Folk-Rock's Flight from Haight-Ashbury to Woodstock, Suzanne featured back-up vocals from Nancy Priddy, the mother of Christina Applegate.
posted by jonp72 at 10:54 PM on November 20, 2003

y2karl -- Official chronicler of my record collection since yesterday.

Best piece of Cohen criticism ever, though, is still one of his own poems:

So you're the kind of vegetarian who only eats roses
Is that what you mean by your 'Beautiful Losers'?

posted by arto at 11:43 PM on November 20, 2003

Click away, interrobang

/My vote

Thanks a bunch, y2karl
posted by magullo at 3:20 AM on November 21, 2003

So what's the history of the The Famous Blue Raincoat?

And Buffy Sainte-Marie's God is Alive, Magic is Afoot is one of my faves.
posted by emf at 4:28 AM on November 21, 2003

What a woman!
posted by nofundy at 4:41 AM on November 21, 2003

Peter Gabriel also did a good cover.

I was a little surprised to learn all the stuff about Suzanne in the song was literal. She really fed him tea and oranges that come all the way from China!
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:00 AM on November 21, 2003

This is wonderful. Thanks, y2karl!

When I was in high school in the late 1970's, my first girlfriend was into this song. I spent weekends at her house. She lit candles and turned down the lights and put on Leonard Cohen. Very sweet memories.

Recently I had the strange pleasure of visiting that same apartment, or one in the same block. It's now a condo, and was for sale for some outrageous amount of money. My wife and I passed by and went in and when I realized where we were I started to get dizzy, it brought back so much.

Great link.
posted by alms at 6:51 AM on November 21, 2003

R.E.M. and "Suzanne"
posted by delapohl at 7:13 AM on November 21, 2003

All the suzanne's and sueanne's I either have known or loved or both have been unhinged.

But to be fair, the same could be said of me, of Cohen, of his Suzanne.......

I blame art, and I blame society.

But to be touched is to be touched by what?
posted by troutfishing at 7:40 AM on November 21, 2003

I too had a H.S. girlfriend in the Sixties who loved that song. I still play the song in clubs, occasionally, on the piano. I hope it brings back some of that youthful bohemian sweetness for other fifty-somethings in the room.
posted by kozad at 7:41 AM on November 21, 2003

I've been searching for reference to a news story I heard three or four years ago. It concerned a Catholic Priest hiking in the mountains on the west coast somewhere who was caught in a freak snowstorm.

The priest built a snow cave and survived for three days, until he was rescued, by singing all of the songs of Leonard Cohen (which he knew by heart) to "keep his spirits up".

Also - on reflection - the real suzannes in my life were not named suzanne.
posted by troutfishing at 7:49 AM on November 21, 2003

A different down and out Suzanne.
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:30 AM on November 21, 2003

When I was 19, I was playing the first Cohen lp in the yard of my mother's house (I still lived there). This was at the beach, and my mom thought that the music was depressing, especially given the surroundings of a S. Cal. beachtown. She expressed worry for my emotional balance.

Segue to recently. My 14 yo daughter is heavily into Lucinda Williams, PJ Harvey and other pretty deep female artists. My wife expressed concern about the darkness of this music so she encouraged me to find her some uplifting music by women. In the CD store, I asked this question, and gave the context of my wife's concern. . .I just wanted some tips from the people who worked there. . and the guy behind me in line said, "my parents used to say that about be because I was into Leonard Cohen."
posted by Danf at 8:57 AM on November 21, 2003

Danf: One of my favourite Cohen songs is "Dress Rehearsal Rag". That might indicate a problem. :)
posted by denbot at 9:05 AM on November 21, 2003

Thanks for scratching an itch I kinda didn't know I had, y2karl. But who was Barbara Ann?
posted by squirrel at 9:13 AM on November 21, 2003

I've always wondered about the story behind "Suzanne". I think if I just sit here long enough Karl will answer all the questions I've ever had about life, the universe, and everything. And then instead of "y2karl", we'll just call him "42".
posted by taz at 9:25 AM on November 21, 2003

The Story of Barbara Ann
posted by y2karl at 10:04 AM on November 21, 2003

y2karl, you are truly the Master and Commander of the College of Musical Knowledge.
*salaams deeply*
Will somebody get this man a damn radio show?
posted by languagehat at 10:33 AM on November 21, 2003

Very interesting interview, karl. Always wondered about Suzanne.
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:04 PM on November 21, 2003

No, languagehat, I'm actually over here, behind the curtain Toto's tugged aside: the story of Suzanne I found while researching the Blonde On Blonde post--it was news to me--and I knew that the Beach Boys' Barbara Ann was a cover of a Doo Wop song. That was just shooting fish in a barrel of Google.
posted by y2karl at 3:09 PM on November 21, 2003

Wow... you know, I had read SO MUCH more into Barbara Ann. The world is so much... flatter now.
posted by squirrel at 11:10 PM on November 21, 2003

Such was the song's popularity that it even made number 1 in the Philippines and was translated into French and German for cover versions in Europe...

It had something going on.
posted by y2karl at 11:22 PM on November 21, 2003

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