When Cohen decided to go down to Nashville in 1968, he was initially opposed to Suzanne [Elrod] coming with him. She spent the night before his departure carousing with several men, an unsubtle message. Cohen was upset but slightly overpowered. He was in thrall and it was decided that she would go with him. They stayed briefly in the Noel Hotel but decided to move to a small cabin in Franklin, Tennessee, a rural town twenty-five miles southwest of Nashville.
It was their home for the next two years. Producer Bob Johnston rented the place from Boudleaux Bryant, songwriter of “Bye, Bye Love” and other hits for the Everly Brothers, but let Cohen have it for seventy-five dollars a month. It came with twelve hundred acres of virgin forest filled with hickory, chestnut, oak, beech, and black ash trees. It also had a stream. Wild peacocks roamed the area and Cohen would amuse his occasional guests by imitating their cry.
He and Suzanne led a quiet rural life, driving in to Nashville only to record or to meet friends. Suzanne made long dresses, worked at her loom and dabbled with pottery. Guests to the farm found it isolated and Cohen’s life there simple. At the time he was continuing with his macrobiotic diet (between 1965 and 1968 he was a vegetarian1 ). Cohen often had nothing to offer guests but soy tea…
For the most part, Suzanne felt comfortable in Tennessee, although she made regular trips back to New York or Florida. “Diamonds in the Mine,” from Cohen’s third album, refers to her failure to write to him and his disappointment at not finding any letters from her in his mailbox on the farm. But in composing, recording, and living far from the pressures of Montreal or the intensity of Hydra, he was content: “I moved there. I had a house, a jeep, a carbine, a pair of cowboy boots, a girlfriend… A typewriter, a guitar. Everything I needed.” Suzanne’s view of their life there, however, was touched with cynicism: “As long as someone like him [Cohen] was in the universe, it was okay for me to be here. I was walking on tiptoe—anything for the poet. Our relationship was like a spider web. Very complicated.”
Excerpt from Various Positions: A Life Of Leonard Cohen by Ira B. Nadel (Random House of Canada: 1996). Photo of Noel Hotel by Andrew Jameson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia.
I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Jan 25, 2018.