1966 Photos Of Suzanne Verdal – Leonard Cohen’s Muse For “Suzanne”

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By far the most common online images of Suzanne Verdal, she who inspired the classic song “Suzanne” by proffering tea and oranges to Leonard Cohen, are those captured many years after “Suzanne” was written and Cohen and his muse had gone their separate ways. (This is a simple hypothesis to confirm; just perform a Google image search for “Suzanne Verdal” – and then eliminate the photos of Suzanne Elrod, Judy Collins, and Sylvie Simmons that also turn up.) Almost all of these have been taken to illustrate human interest stories of the “Where Are They Now?” ilk (the earliest of these plus links to others can be found at Now Online: “Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne Still Loves Life and Dance”.

Having grown curious about the appearance of Suzanne Verdal during the time she and Leonard Cohen were in contact, I tracked down four photographs of her that are roughly contemporaneous, having been taken in August 1966 (“Suzanne” was first published as a poem in 1966 and released on Songs Of Leonard Cohen in 1967). While the costuming and artistic flourishes are a tad distracting, these shots do provide a picture of Suzanne as Leonard Cohen knew her.

These photos can be viewed in larger format at Four 1966 Photos Of Suzanne Verda

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Credit Due Department: This photo was taken by Jeremy Taylor in August 1966 and is archived at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography.

Now Online: “Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne Still Loves Life and Dance” – Suzanne Verdal In 1981

Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne Still Loves Life and Dance
Ottawa Citizen: Dec 5, 1981

The “Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne” of the title is, of course, Suzanne Verdal, the woman who inspired the song, “Suzanne.” Over the years, human interest stories of the “Whatever Happened To Suzanne Verdal” ilk, typically contrasting the life paths of the singer-songwriter and his muse, have become recurrent features in print periodicals and on websites. (A partial listing of such pieces is included at the end of this post.) This article is the earliest instance of this genre I’ve found thus far.

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This article is part of the Leonard Cohen Press Archive

Selected Features About The Fate Of Suzanne Verdal

 

Now Online In Original Format: Leonard Cohen By Pat Harbron – Beetle, Dec 1973

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While this classic 1973 Leonard Cohen interview is available online as text, there is something special about seeing the piece in its original format. Thanks to Dominique BOILE for providing these scans from his personal collection.

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This article is part of the Leonard Cohen Press Archive

Now Online – Cohen: In With The Best (1985) By Stuart Coupe

Cohen: In With The Best
By Stuart Coupe
Sydney Morning Herald: Apr 28, 1985

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This article is part of the Leonard Cohen Press Archive

Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel #1 Video Hits 200,000 Views

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The Video

A day or two ago, Leonard Cohen’s Elegy For Janis Joplin – Chelsea Hotel #1, a video featuring the audio recording of the first version of Chelsea Hotel from Leonard Cohen’s 1972 concert in Tel Aviv1 complemented by images of Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin (whose liaison with Cohen at the Chelsea Hotel led to the creation of the song), the Chelsea Hotel, and other people and places associated with the song, was seen by the 200,000th viewer.

This seems an appropriate time to re-post not only the video but the explanation of the significance of this version.

Leonard Cohen’s Elegy For Janis Joplin – Chelsea Hotel #1
Video by Allan Showalter

The Chelsea Hotel #1 Video, Leonard Cohen & Janis Joplin

In part, this video was developed in support of my contention that thematically Chelsea Hotel #1 is a much different song than Chelsea Hotel #2.

Chelsea Hotel #1 focuses on the death of the singer’s (i.e., Leonard Cohen’s) lover (i.e., Janis Joplin), with whom the singer identifies primarily as as an admired fellow artist and colleague and only secondarily as an object of affection or, at least, of reciprocated lust. In Chelsea Hotel #2, the situation is reversed with the key issue becoming the singer’s unambiguous examination of his own feelings for and perception of the woman at the Chelsea Hotel – even if doing so results in an ignoble self-characterization.

In the second version, the listener’s knowledge of the identity of Janis Joplin is decidedly less important to experiencing the full impact of he song, which could indeed be the reason Leonard Cohen revised Chelsea Hotel #1 – to make the music more universal and less a biographic tribute to a specific individual.

For more discussion of the significance of the differences between Chelsea Hotel #1 and Chelsea Hotel #2, including a video interview with Leonard Cohen addressing his relationship with Janis Joplin as portrayed in the songs, see How Often Did Leonard Cohen Think Of Janis Joplin’s Sweet Little Sound? – Chelsea Hotel #1 & 2

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  1. The video mistakenly lists the song as part of the April 20, 1972 concert in Jerusalem; it is actually from the April 19, 1972 concert in Tel Aviv. []

Now Online: Leonard Cohen Dies The Small Death (1978) By Richard Mortifoglio

Leonard Cohen Dies The Small Death
By Richard Mortifoglio
[Review of Death Of A Ladies’ Man]
The Village Voice: Jan 2, 1978

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This article is part of the Leonard Cohen Press Archive