Tonight Leonard Cohen will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. (The other inductees, both people and songs, are listed here.) k.d. lang will sing Cohen's "Hallelujah," and Cohen himself, known to shun the spotlight, will be there to accept his award.

The CBC has been running a "where are they now" segment about the woman who - at least in name - inspired Cohen's most famous song, "Suzanne". It asks, "Why the split between artist and muse?" Seems kind of silly to me. Cohen wrote "Suzanne" in 1966; most relationships don't last 40 years. Also, a song is a work of art, not an autobiography. Songs may contain glimpses of a writer's life, but they're not diaries. It doesn't really matter who Suzanne was when Cohen wrote the song. What matters is whatever each of us thinks of when we hear it. Oh well, I guess it was a slow news day.

Cohen is a great songwriter, his troubles well documented, so I hope this helps him out.


noone said...

Oh I read about what happened to him. It's terrible. To reach the age of 70 (they said 75 in the article I read somewhere but regardless, the man is a senior now!), have all that accomplishment behind you and then not be able to relax and retire is frightening.

Knowing that someone took advantage of him, such a great talent, is utterly disgusting.

barefoot hiker said...

Suzanne is a wonderful song. Though I have to admit, I think's best in its Neil Diamond version. Leonard Cohen, for me, is a great songwriter, but he's got a voice like a coffin lid opening. There's a reason Bernie Taupin lets Elton John sing his songs. :)

Of course, not all his lyrics are gems. When I was in grade 12, we had to do a report on a Canadian poet for English class, and I close Cohen. I played one of his songs to the class, and when he sang the lyric, "Even in your arms, I know I'll never get it right", 35 17-year-olds erupted in laughter. It's hard not to think back on that line without an immature smile. Keeps me young. :)

laura k said...

Leonard Cohen, for me, is a great songwriter, but he's got a voice like a coffin lid opening

I don't like listening to him either - although I like many singers with odd voices, like Tom Waits. But not Cohen.

Funny you mention Neil Diamond. I just saw this.

Granny said...

Suzanne - Judy Collins or Joan Baez. My age is showing. I like Neil too and have all three.

I've heard Leonard Cohen sing it once. That was enough.

Then I like Bob Dylan's stuff better when almost anyone else sings it.

James Redekop said...

I think Cohen's voice is good for some of his songs -- generally, the dark, sarcastic ones. "Democracy is Coming (to the USA)" and "The Future", for example.

M@ said...

Actually, I don't mind Cohen's voice -- the problem is that he couldn't arrange a song to save his life.

Ever hear his original version of "Hallelujah"? Choirs, overproduced lead vocals, all kinds of mushy layers of instrumentation... ugh. Listen to Rufus Wainright sing it, plain and simple, with the piano. Intense lyrics and plaintive vocals and mournful piano. Perfect. Most of his songs are like that.*

I like Cohen's early stuff, where it was him and the guitar, but the first I heard it was in the early 90s (Cohen was a bit before my time). His first songs -- the "Suzanne" period -- are far more enjoyable to me.

* Exception: "Everybody Knows". Cohen's rumbling, threatening vocals fit the song perfect. Johnette Napolitano's version, while good, was inferior.