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Thursday, November 24, 2011


Leonard Cohen - Suzanne (1967)

Arlo Guthrie does not get mention in this book. So I chose another story song by a distinctive voice released in 1967. Happy Thanksgiving 2011

Leonard Cohen is a tough man to pigeon hole. This song in the opening track off of his debut album. What style is it? The album is often classified as Folk, because it's from the 60's and it's basically one man who writes his own songs with subtle background music. But it's not folk. It's more like the singer-songwriter trend that came out of country and folk in the late 60s early 70s. But he doesn't have that country influence either. He's from Montreal; and this song was written in the early 60s, he just didn't have a record contract. Producer John Simon worked with Cohen on the entire album. They fought over Suzanne quiet a bit. Cohen remembers "He wanted a heavy piano syncopated and maybe drums and I didn't want drums on any of my songs, so that was a bone of contention". There are drums on other tracks on Songs of Leonard Cohen but it looks like Cohen got his wish on this track.

The song is all about a woman that Cohen was infatuated with. It's basically a love song. but they only really saw each other twice after the song was released. The relationship in as much as it was, was over by the time he had become a recognized artist. My favorite lyrics don't really have a connection to the love story. It's the segment that begins "And Jesus was a sailor When he walked upon the water". It makes you think about G-d without being sacrilegious or too dogmatic.

There is a female backup singer, and a string quartet. The most prominent instrument though is the quietly plucked Spanish guitar. The most interesting cover (there have been many) is a jazz performer named René Marie who, taking a cue from the Spanish guitar combines Bolero and Suzanne.

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