Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "Suzanne"

Thursday, September 20: 10 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" is one of the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll

When he set his 1966 poem "Suzanne Takes You Down" to music for his 1967 debut album, The Songs of Leonard Cohen, the Canadian author-musician found a linchpin between the worlds of pop music and literature and empowered the emerging singer-songwriter sub-genre in the process. First recorded and popularized by urban folk performer Judy Collins, "Suzanne" drew melodically from cabaret and European art song, while its lyrics – inspired by a real woman (Suzanne Vidal), a real city (Montreal) and an imaginary love affair (Cohen's visionary genius) – transformed the everyday details of life into a hallucinatory religious experience. A gently arpeggiated guitar figure rolls like the cosmos around the singer as he murmurs a litany of observations – some crazy, some profound, all of them Suzanne. A contemplation of love and consciousness awash in an acoustic dreamscape, "Suzanne" stood apart from both the psychedelic hard rock and the protest songs of the late Sixties and endures, in hundreds of cover versions, as one of the most compelling songs Cohen has ever written. Cohen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. Click here to watch Lou Reed induct Leonard Cohen, Cohen's singularly poetic Hall of Fame acceptance speech and a moving tribute by Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice.

WATCH: Leonard Cohen performs "Suzanne" live at the Isle of Wight in 1970



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