“The song was begun, and the chord pattern was developed, before a woman’s name entered the song. And I knew it was a song about Montreal, it seemed to come out of that landscape that I loved very much in Montreal, which was the harbour, and the waterfront, and the sailors’ church there, called Notre Dame de Bon Secour, which stood out over the river, and I knew that there’re ships going by, I knew that there was a harbour, I knew that there was Our Lady of the Harbour, which was the virgin on the church which stretched out her arms towards the seamen, and you can climb up to the tower and look out over the river, so the song came from that vision, from that view of the river. At a certain point, I bumped into Suzanne 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.”Leonard Cohen (266)
“[With the phrase “heroes in the seaweed” – Ed] I was meaning that there’s heroism in the most unexpected and lowly places.”Leonard Cohen (512)
“It was never about a particular woman. For me it was more about the beginning of a different life for me. My life in Montreal, and my life wandering alone in those parts of Montreal that are now very beautifully done up and in those days, it was the waterfront. I used to wander around down there and I used to go to that church a lot.”Leonard Cohen (547)
“Suzanne is the mother of my two children but I had written the song before I met this particular lady. I guess I summoned her. It was another Suzanne.”Leonard Cohen (940)


“There is a line in Democracy that referred specifically to the Dylan song “Everybody is Broken.” The line is “The singer says it’s broken and the painter says it’s gray”.”Leonard Cohen (267)
“I addressed almost everything that was going on in America. This was when the Berlin Wall came down and everyone was saying democracy is coming to the East. I was the gloomy fellow who always turns up at a party to ruin the orgy or something. And I said, “I don’t think it’s going to happen that way. I don’t think this is such a good idea. I think a lot of suffering will be a consequence of this wall coming down.” But then I asked myself, “Where is democracy really coming?” And it was the USA. The USA is really where the experiment is unfolding. This is really where races confront one another, where the classes, where the genders, where even the sexual orientations confront one another. This is the real laboratory of democracy.”Leonard Cohen (268)
“I began to write it when the events in Eastern Europe began to indicate there was a democratic resurrection, and the Berlin Wall came down and people were saying, democracy is coming to the East. I was one of those people who weren’t entirely convinced that this was going to happen, and that it wasn’t going to come about without a tremendous amount of suffering. I was not unaware of the ironic impact of saying, ‘Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.,’ but the song is affirmative. I just can’t keep my tongue in my cheek that long. I’m Canadian, and we watch America very carefully. Everybody in the world watches America. And regardless of the skepticism and irony, [wiseguy] superiority that most intellectual circles have about America, it is acknowledged that this is where the experiment is taking place, where the races are confronting one another, where the rich and poor are confronting one another, where men and women, the classes…this is the great laboratory of democracy.”Leonard Cohen (522)

Chelsea Hotel No. 2

“I wrote this for Janis Joplin but it was very indiscreet of me to let the news out. I don’t know when I did but looking back I’m sorry I did because there are some lines in it that are extremely intimate.”Leonard Cohen (269)

First We Take Manhattan

“I felt for some time that the motivating energy, or the captivating energy, or the engrossing energy available to us today is the energy coming from the extremes. So this song, what is it? Is he serious? And who is we? And what is this constituency that he’s addressing? Well, it’s that constituency that shares the sense of titillation with extremist positions. I’d rather do that with an appetite for extremism than blow up a bus full of schoolchildren.”Leonard Cohen (270)
“This song is a direct response to the boredom, to the anxiety, to the sense of weightlessness, that I feel in my daily life. I don’t know whether anybody else feels this way. I suspect some people do feel this way – that the world has disappeared, that the catastrophe has already taken place, that the flood has already come, that we don’t have to wait for the nuclear holocaust, that the world has been destroyed somehow. But you can’t take these ideas with you on the street.”Leonard Cohen (513)

Bird On A Wire

“It was begun in Greece because there were no wires on the island where I was living to a certain moment. There were no telephone wires. There were no telephones. There was no electricity. So at a certain point they put in these telephone poles, and you wouldn’t notice them now, but when they first went in, it was about all I did – stare out of the window at these telephone wires and think how civilization had caught up with me and I wasn’t going to be able to escape after all. So that was the beginning. The, of course, I noticed that birds came to the wires and that was how the song began. “Like a drunk in a midnight choir,” that’s also set on the island. Where drinkers, me included, would come up the stairs. There was great tolerance among the people for that because it could be in the middle of the night.”Leonard Cohen (271)

Seems So Long Ago, Nancy

“She slept with everyone. Everyone. She had a child, but it was taken away. So she shot herself in the bathroom. [Nancy was a friend of Leonard’s in Canada in 1961. Her father was an important judge – Ed.]”Leonard Cohen (504)

Famous Blue Raincoat

“The line “Did you ever go ‘clear’?” is a reference to Scientology. I looked into lots of things when I was a young man. Scientology was one of them. It didn’t last long.”Leonard Cohen (520)