Boomer Ballads: Leonard Cohen and Suzanne

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 want to 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’ve got 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 lonesome 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).. added to later versions]

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 amid 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 she will find you
For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind.

Then: suzanne-verdal-1412032468

“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 and said 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.


Suzanne was a well-known and respected dancer and choreographer in Canada, and went 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.

Boomer Ballads: Everybody Knows

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed the poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes – Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose – Everybody knows

Everybody knows that you love me baby everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful ah give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you’ve been discreet but there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes – And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows – That’s how it goes – Everybody knows
Everybody knows, everybody knows – That’s how it goes – Everybody knows …

And everybody knows that you’re in trouble everybody knows what you’ve been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary to the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it’s coming apart take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows and everybody knows …

Everybody knows, everybody knows – That’s how it goes – Everybody knows
Everybody knows, everybody knows – That’s how it goes – Everybody knows …


H/T Gerard Vanderleun and his American Digest

See also: Wikipedia Suzanne Verdal

And: Suzanne: mythical muse or human being?


Face of Jesus by Richard Hook

Soli Deo Gloria!