Pen To Paper: A Love Letter To Suzanne 

Pen To Paper: A Love Letter To Suzanne 

It was first released by Judy Collins, who was playing in New York in 1967.

Zaid KhusroUpdated: Saturday, April 13, 2024, 06:24 PM IST
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Zaid Khusro | Special Arrangement

There are few words that can describe the emotions that this song evokes in the listener. Suzanne is a beautiful song about love, a pure dreamy piece sung by a young Cohen in his golden voice which had not completely dispatched the husky melancholy that the Prince of Brokenness is known for. At its heart, Suzanne is about a lady that was loved, and unfortunately, maybe inevitably, was left behind. Suzanne was a friend of Leonard, and he was in love with her, but couldn't have her because she was a wife of a friend of his. 

It was first released by Judy Collins, who was playing in New York in 1967. She introduced Leonard Cohen in the middle of her set where he tried to sing "Suzanne"; got stage-fright, walked off, and was persuaded by Judy in the wings to return on stage. He did, and sang the song from start to finish. It opens with a sparse and hypnotic guitar playing, which is merged seamlessly when Cohen first utters her name, which you can hear he was accustomed to calling; the words sung subsequently delineates Suzanne in a sharp and tender way which makes you think that you know her just as it makes you believe that knowing her benefits you. But here, Suzanne is just a person, what the song is about is that special mystery that brings people together and moves them apart. The bittersweet poignant words hold you prisoner of the temple of this masterpiece. You can’t help but fall in love with Suzanne. I couldn’t at least. 

The Suzanne I am writing this letter to is not just Suzanne from the song, it is also to somebody who, just like Cohen, I long for. This hunger two gifted and beautiful people have for one another illuminates the allure of the Suzanne I know and the one the Cohen did, just as it illuminates the lyrics, giving them a spark that seems to resonate from the inside; it is a glowing consolation that is underscored by a lilting female chorus and Cohen’s own subtle, insistent guitar playing — a consolation that even if we aren’t lovers like that, it is still alright. Suzanne gently brings you closer to the light, reads your palm and helps you to find safety you crave in her calm waters of wisdom that you sink beneath like a stone. 

Cohen’s sentiments are plain to see, and so is Suzanne’s compassionate attention, which is all that you look to receive from someone. This song isn’t an outburst, it is the dust of love in a man’s cup that speaks to a romantic longing that remains unfulfilled. And so, if you find yourself working behind the thought of toiling at the seduction of somebody like Suzanne, make a cup of black tea with orange rind and sweet spice, kill the lights and erase the final wisps of pain with Cohen’s music of soothing burdens.

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