Video: Earliest Recording Of Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne – The Stormy Clovers 1966

In The Beginning (I.E., The Beginning Of Leonard Cohen’s Songwriting Career) Were The Stormy Clovers

A year before Leonard Cohen or Judy Collins performed his music on stage, the Stormy Clovers were playing Leonard’s songs at festivals and in clubs, coffee houses, and campuses in Toronto, Montreal, and other Canadian cities (see Introducing The Stormy Clovers – And Their Songwriter, Leonard Cohen).

This relationship between the band and Leonard Cohen was not exclusive. The Stormy Clovers were a popular group, playing not only their own material but also songs written, for example, by Gordon Lightfoot and Ian Tyson as well as those authored by Leonard. They were, however, the first to play Leonard Cohen’s songs professionally; consequently, these performances hold special significance.

I suspect many readers share my own curiosity about the experience of working with Leonard Cohen during that seminal period, so I have filched a few lines from the narrative by band member David Fougere (aka DD Fraser) that will soon be published here.

The first time I heard ‘Suzanne’ we were at Leonard and Marianne’s apartment on Aylmer Street in Montreal. … Leonard sang:

Suzanne takes you down to her place by the river
You can hear the boats go by…..

We were spellbound. When the song came to an end the room was utterly silent.

The Video & The Lyrics

This video comprises a 1966 audio recording of the Stormy Clovers performing Suzanne by Leonard Cohen supplemented with photos of the band, Cohen, and the Montreal waterfront.

Caveat: This video is presented primarily for historic interest; the audio recording is not high quality, but is listenable.

The roster of the Stormy Clovers, at the time of this performance, follows:

  • Susan Jains – vocals
  • Ray Perdue – guitar
  • DD Fraser – bass
  • Pat Patterson – drums.

The lyrics of the version of Suzanne sung by the Stormy Clovers vary from those recorded for Suzanne on his first album, Songs Of Leonard Cohen.1 While there are other minor variations, the most obvious difference is Suzanne’s 16-line second verse, beginning with “And Jesus was a sailor,” which is part of the version on the Songs Of Leonard Cohen (and all later iterations) but which is absent in this Stormy Clovers recording.2

Suzanne – Performed by Stormy Clovers (1966)
Written by Leonard Cohen


Credit Due Department: As noted in the video, it is impractical to credit individual images used in its composition, but the majority of the photos of the band were found on the Stormy Clovers Facebook Page, which is also a rich source of information and short clips of other songs performed by the group. Finally, Cohencentric extends special thank-yous to Sally Hunter who was instrumental in finding shots of the Montreal waterfront for use in the video and Adrian du Plessis, who functions as Allison Crowe’s personable manager and who first shared information about the Stormy Clovers with me that led to this video and the associated posts.

I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Apr 27, 2012 at

  1. The lyrics of Suzanne as performed on Songs Of Leonard Cohen follow:

    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
    But that’s why you want to be there
    And she feeds you tea and oranges
    That come all the way from China
    And just when you mean to tell her
    That you have no love to give her
    Then she gets you on her wavelength
    And she lets the river answer
    That you’ve always been her lover
    And you want to travel with her
    And you want to travel blind
    And you know that she will trust you
    For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.

    And Jesus was a sailor
    When he walked upon the water
    And he spent a long time watching
    From his lonely wooden tower
    And when he knew for certain
    Only drowning men could see him
    He said “All men will be sailors then
    Until the sea shall free them”
    But he himself was broken
    Long before the sky would open
    Forsaken, almost human
    He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
    And you want to travel with him
    And you want to travel blind
    And you think maybe you’ll trust him
    For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

    Now Suzanne takes your hand
    And she leads you to the river
    She is wearing rags and feathers
    From Salvation Army counters
    And the sun pours down like honey
    On our lady of the harbour
    And she shows you where to look
    Among the garbage and the flowers
    There are heroes in the seaweed
    There are children in the morning
    They are leaning out for love
    And they will lean that way forever
    While Suzanne holds the mirror
    And you want to travel with her
    And you want to travel blind
    And you know that you can trust her
    For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind. []

  2. Re the other differences in the two versions, Cohen often changes the words and lines of his songs. Compare, for example, the lyrics of Suzanne as performed on the Songs Of Leonard Cohen album with the lyrics in these videos: Judy Collins & Leonard Cohen performing Suzanne 1976 and Leonard Cohen performing Suzanne at The Isle of Wight 1970 []

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