Leonard Cohen Claims Joan Baez Brutally Violated His Song “Suzanne”

Cohen Confident His Songs “Can Take Care Of Themselves”

In an interview soon to be posted at Heck Of A Guy,1  Leonard Cohen declares

I don’t give my songs any instructions when they are presented to the public. They are completely on their own. I really feel they can take care of themselves – even when they are brutally violated as Joan Baez did to the song “Suzanne.”2 [emphasis mine]

Cohen explains that, for ideological reasons, Joan Baez rejected the line, “For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind,” as mystical and drug-induced. His recall of her replacement lyrics is faulty (his best guess is that she sang  “I touched your perfect body with my thumb”). There are a few other changes in her version of the song as well (see comparison of lyrics below).

Cohen’s point, however, is that, even with the radical change in the words he wrote for his song,

I still loved the song. … I couldn’t care less that she couldn’t accept that line.

One notes, however, that Cohen goes on to report that when he met her backstage during the Rolling Thunder Revue,3  she sang it with his original lyrics and told him, “I finally got it right, Leonard.” “She had, Cohen summarizes, “come around.”

Not that Leonard Cohen cares.

Suzanne – The Leonard Cohen And Joan Baez Lyrics

Click on image to enlarge.

Videos – Joan Baez Sings Two Versions Of “Suzanne” By Leonard Cohen

Joan Baez – Suzanne (Paris 1983): The Joan Baez lyrics

Video from bellecourse


Joan Baez – Suzanne (France 2010): The original Leonard Cohen lyrics

Video from nemito79


Credit Due Department: A reasonable facsimile of Leonard Cohen’s fedora is herewith symbolically doffed in thanks to Maarten Massa, who found and shared this tasty tidbit.

  1. Update: For information re and the link to this video interview, see []
  2. Yes, that’s what Leonard Cohen said; no, this is not another DrHGuy joke. It’s on video; just wait a day or two for it to be posted. []
  3. See Leonard Cohen Declines Bob Dylan’s Invitation To Play In Rolling Thunder Revue and Leonard Cohen Hosts Joni Mitchell & Ratso At Home For Barbequed Ribs []

5 responses to “Leonard Cohen Claims Joan Baez Brutally Violated His Song “Suzanne”

  1. hehe, I’ve never liked Baez’s version…

  2. The difference is quite remarkable for any Leonard fan of his words and work . The effort that we all know he takes to putting a song together is nothing short of wondrous makes one feel that Joan Baez was wasting everybody’s time including her own !!!

  3. Christine Roberts

    She doesn’t even spell the name right in her lyrics and I don’t like anybody else’s version-big fan of Joan Baez but not on this occasion.

  4. “I don’t give my songs any instructions when they are given to the public.”
    Perfectly articulated sentiment from Leonard…as always.