When Julia Jacklin released her stunning debut album Don’t Let The Kid’s Win, her native Australia was having a bit of a moment. Boasting the likes of Tame Impala, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, and Hiatus Kaiyote, it seemed as though the nation was pumping out era-defining anthems faster than it could keep up with. Jacklin’s lilting melancholia was a reminder of the slow pace of life in Australia’s suburbs, offering a welcome contrast to the pulsating churn of Impala’s dancefloor-geared psychedelia.
Jacklin grew up in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney. At this time, she was fixated on the Top 40 artists of the day. Britney Spears, Avril Lavinge: all the usual 2000s stuff. Teen fanaticism was coupled with a reverence for her parent’s record collection, which comprised everything from Billy Bragg to Doris Day. Shortly after the release of her 2019 album Crushing, Jacklin was invited to name some of the tracks that have made the biggest impact throughout her life. Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, the singer-songwriter named Leonard Cohen’s 1967 track ‘Suzanne’ a song she couldn’t live without.
“This is my favourite song of all time and it has been for about eight years,” Jacklin began. “There’s a line in it where he says, ‘And she feeds me tea and oranges that came all the way from China’, and there’s something about the way that he sings it – it sounds like he’s got a bubble in his throat, or like he’s about to burp or something? I don’t know what it is but, to me, that line made me really appreciate and understand how important imperfections in recordings are. I have a classical singing background, and it was always about ironing out any individuality. When I heard this song and this line, there was something about it that clicked to me – that it’s actually about capturing a feeling.”
At the time of its release on The Songs of Leonard Cohen, there was much speculation as to the true identity of the titular Suzanne. It was eventually revealed that the song was written in 1966 about a woman called Suzanne Verdal, with whom Cohen had a memorable if short-lived affair. In the liner notes to his 1975 Greatest Hits album, Cohen explains: “I wrote this in 1966, Suzanne had a room on a waterfront sheet in the port of Montreal. Everything happened just as it was put down. She was the wife of a man I knew. Her hospitality was immaculate. Some months later, I sang it to Judy Collins over the telephone. The publishing rights pilfered in New York City but it is probably appropriate that I don’t own this song. Just the other day I heard some people singing it on a ship in the Caspian Sea.”
Today ‘Suzanne’ is one of Cohen’s most beloved hits. With its serpentine chord progressions and finely honed images, the track is the perfect representation of everything that made Cohen such a good songwriter. You can revisit the song below.