Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 140
Mon. May 28, 2012

Leonard Cohen; Ian McCulloch
1970 & 2008

“♫ 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 she’s half crazy

Yesterday, I was watching the amazing BBC documentary What Leonard Cohen Did For Me? During this star studded doc, Ian McCulloch performed his own rendition of “Suzanne” and I was floored. Because of Mac’s stellar version, I wanted to find out the history of Suzanne. One of Cohen’s most famous songs was originally a poem better known as “Suzanne Takes You Down” from Parasites of Heaven.

The original Suzanne, not his wife and mother of his children Lorca and Adam, was Suzanne Verdal, the wife of Armand, a Montreal sculptor friend of Leonard’s. Suzanne was interviewed by Kate Saunders for BBC4 FM in 1998. Suzanne described the time she spent with Cohen in the summer of 1965 when she said—

“[Leonard] was “drinking me in” more than I even recognized. I took all that moment for granted. I just would speak and I would move and I would encourage and he would just kind of like sit back and grin while soaking it all up but I felt his presence really being with me. We’d walk down the street for instance, and the click of our shoes, his boots and my shoes, would be like in synchronicity. It’s hard to describe. We’d almost hear each other thinking. It was very unique, very, very unique.”

One of the most covered songs in Cohen’s whole eclectic canon, “Suzanne” was originally released on Songs of Leonard Cohen in 1967. My favorite version is from The Isle of Wight circa 1970. Recorded with the backing band dubbed The Army, Cohen sang a plethora of what are now classics during his legendary performance at the Isle of Wight in 1970. Cohen was awakened from a nap at 2 a.m. and followed the explosive set of Jimi Hendrix with his transcendental lyrical journey in front of 600,000 friends.

Almost thirty years later, Ian McCulloch recorded his own tribute of “Suzanne” on thw Cohen Covered compilation for Mojo Magazine. Mac has always been a Cohen fan and explained the reason why he covered “Suzanne” when he said—“Leonard Cohen is my spirit guide. “Suzanne” is the most perfect song I’ve heard in my life. Every chord in that song is exactly where you want it to go, it just resolves in the end— It’s so beautiful.”

Mac was right—about his own rendition of “Suzanne” breath-taking. Somewhere Leonard Cohen is smiling with his old friend Ian McCulloch. Cohen described Ian as—“[…] a very sweet man. I’ve always been fond of him.”

That’s praise— from the mind and mouth of The Poet Lauriet of Rock—Leonard Cohen and his good friend Ian McCulloch comes “Suzanne.” Beautiful, timeless, the original, the cover—press play and let Cohen and Mac take you inside the myth, the mysterious and the magic that is—“Suzanne.”