Nina Simone :: Suzanne (Leonard Cohen) – Alternate Version

Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” is a strange, haunting thing. Largely carried by Cohen’s monotone, yet slightly lilting voice and sparse guitar accompaniment, the song evokes a dark, ambiguous feeling. The angelic backing vocals and seraphic strings that periodically emerge give the song a heavenly relief - a bittersweet release of giving yourself into a formless and transient love. A joy you know is fleeting.

Nina Simone :: Suzanne

What makes Nina Simone’s rendition so interesting is her arrangement’s total embrace of the beauty of this strange affair. Light and floating -- with the piano, drums, guitar and Nina’s free-flowing vocals all working in perfect unison to give the song a brightness and buoyancy. It’s a spirited and optimistic rendition, all while adding further mystique, and allure, to Cohen’s words.

“And just when you mean to tell herThat you have no love to give herShe gets you on her wavelengthAnd she lets the river answerThat you’ve always been her lover”

A mysterious song about a mysterious lover, "Suzanne" evokes the kind of romance that you do not, and cannot, fully understand, yet one you allow yourself be taken away by, no matter how temporary, or sorrowful. It is Simone’s alternate version, found on the 2012 reissue of her 1969 lp To Love Somebody, that fully embodies this sentiment. Here, the arrangement is sparse: some cloudy, fluttering piano, a subtle, metronomic drumbeat, and a meandering, noodling groove. Simone sings slower and, more importantly, deeper. She’s not approaching the subject so freely and brightly in this performance.

Nina Simone :: Suzanne (alternate version)

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