Happy Birthday Leonard Cohen: Performing With Judy Collins On ‘Soundstage’ In 1976

Watch the celebrated singer-songwriters perform "Suzanne" and more.

By Nate Todd Sep 21, 2021 1:46 pm PDT

Leonard Cohen was born in Westmount, Quebec, Canada on this date in 1934. The acclaimed singer-songwriter and poet sadly died on November 7, 2016 at the age of 82. A poet at heart, Cohen was one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time. While he felt like he couldn’t sing as he looked to a career in music, his baritone voice had a “mesmerizing” quality as longtime friend and collaborator Judy Collins described it. Cohen’s creative relationship with Collins was a symbiotic one that blossomed in the mid-1960s.

Throughout the 1950s and the better part of the ‘60s, Cohen pursued a career as a novelist and poet. In 1966 he published a poem titled “Suzanne,” which was first performed by The Stormy Clovers but most famously recorded by the already established folk singer Judy Collins and included on her 1966 album, In My Life. The song would become a hit for Collins and she returned the favor by bringing Cohen, new to the singer-songwriter game, on stage with her.

In an interview, Collins recalled doing a show in New York City after releasing “Suzanne.” Judy requested that Leonard come and sing with her on the gig. She brought Cohen out and he began singing “Suzanne” but was nervous and left the stage mid-song. This only intrigued the crowd, who went nuts, and Cohen came back out and finished the tune.

Collins would go on to bring Leonard along with her on TV appearances and a cult buzz grew around Cohen, which caught the attention of producer John Hammond, who is credited with discovering Bob Dylan. Hammond signed Cohen to Columbia Records and Leonard would cut his first record at the age of 33, Songs of Leonard Cohen, on which he included “Suzanne.”

While Cohen would go on to become a celebrated singer-songwriter, ten years after Collins first recorded “Suzanne” she once again brought Leonard out with her during a television performance on Chicago’s storied Soundstage live music program. About halfway through her set, Judy introduced Leonard and the two singer-songwriters dueted on Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye,” a song they remember “singing all night,” while at the Newport Folk Festival. “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye,” appears on Cohen’s debut as well as on Collins’ 1967 album, Wildflowers. Cohen then went it alone for “The Stranger Song,” which he prefaced with a little history about the interest Collins took in him as a burgeoning singer-songwriter. Cohen’s portion of the performance would fittingly come to an end where it all began, with “Suzanne.”

In honor of Leonard Cohen, watch him perform with Judy Collins on Soundstage in 1976 below:

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