Suzanne and A Boy Named Sue

Long before People Magazine created the “Sexiest man alive” cover, there was Leonard Cohen. At 16 years old, bubbling with hormones that kinked my hair tighter than ever, his song “Suzanne” and its intertwining of sex and love and Jesus was my poetic unbuttoning. I traveled blind with him into my high school library and let him touch my mind with his perfect words. Thank you, Leonard Cohen. (1934-2016)


My name is Susanne and for years Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, and Shel Silverstein taunted me because of my name. Cohen wannabes stalked me through high school corridors mimicking his edgy baritone –

“Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy…”

I smiled and tried to look mysterious and worldly, like a woman from Montréal, Cohen’s hometown, might look. With hair like the top of a teased cotton swab, this effect was hard to achieve. Jimi Hendrix had hair like mine but it didn’t work so well on a gangly white girl with fishbowl glasses. Still, I was pleased to be thought of as that kind of Suzanne – alluring and half crazy. It sounded tragically romantic.

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