Atop this post is a photo of Suzanne Elrod, Leonard Cohen’s romantic companion in the 1970s and the mother of his children, Lorca and Adam Cohen. She and Leonard were never married although he did sometimes refer to her as his wife. Elrod, under the name Valentina, shot the cover photograph of Cohen’s Live Songs album and is pictured on the cover of the Death of a Ladies’ Man album (she is on the viewer’s right). She was also the subject of the song “My Gypsy Wife.”
Suzanne Elrod is not the Suzanne of Leonard Cohen’s song, “Suzanne.” That erroneous assumption, however, is common enough that Leonard developed a stock response, which Adam Cohen co-opted in this instance:
Q: Is your mom Suzanne, the same Suzanne from the song?
Adam Cohen: My father actually wrote the song before meeting my mother, but says he wrote it to summon her.1
Leonard Cohen’s song, “Suzanne,” is named after Suzanne Verdal.
I bumped into Suzanne [Verdal] Vaillancourt, who was the wife of a friend of mine, they were a stunning couple around Montreal at the time, physically stunning, both of them, a handsome man and woman, everyone was in love with Suzanne Vaillancourt, and every woman was in love with Armand Vaillancourt. But there was no… well, there was thought, but there was no possibility, one would not allow oneself to think of toiling at the seduction of Armand Vaillancourt’s wife. First of all he was a friend, and second of all as a couple they were inviolate, you just didn’t intrude into that kind of shared glory that they manifested. I bumped into her one evening, and she invited me down to her place near the river. She had a loft, at a time when lofts were… the word wasn’t used. She had a space in a warehouse down there, and she invited me down, and I went with her, and she served me Constant Comment tea, which has little bits of oranges in it. And the boats were going by, and I touched her perfect body with my mind, because there was no other opportunity. There was no other way that you could touch her perfect body under those circumstances. So she provided the name in the song.2
While one can find several photos of Suzanne Verdal taken since 2000 (see three at Spoonfilm), shots of her in the 1960s (i.e., during the period when Leonard was touching her perfect body with his mind) are rare. And, most of the half-dozen or so online photos that I’ve come across over the years are no longer viewable. The only currently available images I’ve discovered are these two dramatically posed photos at jayhawksfanpage: here and here.
2021 Update: The Spoonfilm and jayhawksfanpage photos are no longer online. The only contemporaneous photos of Suzanne Verdal I find online now are included within the Leonard Cohen’s Muse Suzanne Verdal video.
Suzanne Vega is a singer-songwriter who has long admired Leonard Cohen (Leonard was also a fan of her work) and has worked with and opened shows for him.
Credit Due Department: Suzanne Vega photo by Richard Huber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Note: I am republishing selected posts from Cohencentric, my former Leonard Cohen site, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Oct 13, 2017.