From Rolling Stone:
Leonard Cohen didn’t release his debut single, “Suzanne,” until he was 33. He spent his time up until that point writing acclaimed poems and novels, traveling the world and bedding a ridiculous amount of beautiful women. By 1967 it was apparent that there’s not exactly big money in poetry, so he decided to try his hand at singing. Columbia executive John Hammond (who’d previously signed Bob Dylan and countless other greats) gave him a record deal months into his new career.
“Suzanne” was inspired by Cohen’s encounters with Suzanne Verdal, the girlfriend of Canadian artist Armand Vaillancourt. “He got such a kick out of seeing me emerge as a young schoolgirl, I suppose, and a young artist, into becoming Armand’s lover and then wife,” Verdal said in a 1998 interview. “So he was more or less chronicling the times and seemingly got a kick out of it.”
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