chrono about
The Nina Simone Database
1966 Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen specified, notably in a BBC interview, that the song was about encountering Suzanne Verdal, the then wife of sculptor Armand Vaillancourt, in a Montreal setting. Indeed, many lines describe different elements of the city, including its river (the Saint Lawrence) and a little chapel near the harbour, called Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours (literally Our Lady of Good Help), which sits on the side of the harbour that faces the rising sun in the morning, as it is described in the song.
The song was first recorded by Judy Collins the same year, and appeared on her 1966 album In My Life.

Recording sessions
1969 January 8-27: New York RCA Manhattan B alternate track
1969 March 5: New York RCA Manhattan B
Suzanne takes you down
To her place by the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night forever
And you know that she's half crazy
And that's why you wanna 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
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 yeah

Now 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
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
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
Cos you think maybe you can trust Him
Cos He's touched your perfect body
With His mind yeah

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 harbor
And she shows you where to look
Between the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They're leaning 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
Cos you think maybe you can trust her
She's touched your perfect body
With her mind

(Lyrics transcription by Roger Nupie)
1969 October 4: Amherst (US-MA) UMass Bowker Auditorium
2007 [5:08] DVD 5 College Concerts and Interviews Andy Stroud (US)
1969 October 26: New York Philarmonic Hall
1969 November 3: Roma (IT) Teatro Sistina
1971 January 8: Amsterdam (NL) Concertgebouw