About the Song
Cohen first published the lyrics as a poem ("Suzanne Takes You Down") in his 1966 book of poetry Parasites of Heaven. Judy Collins released the first recoding of the song as a single in 1966 & on her 5th studio album "In My Life" in 1967. Cohen first recorded it on his December1967 debut "Songs of Leonard Cohen" LP.
Collins changed the melody slightly when she recorded the song. Most people are more familiar with Collins' cover version. You can find the alternate chords for each version in Rise Up Singing.
"Suzanne" was inspired by Cohen's friendship with a Canadian dancer named Suzanne Verdal. The lyrics describe the rituals they enjoyed when they met: Verdal would invite Cohen to visit her apartment by the harbour in Montreal, where she would serve him Constant Comment tea. They would walk around Old Montreal past the church of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, where sailors were blessed before heading out to sea. You can read an interview with Verdal about the history of the song.
Cohen says he never made any royalties on the song because he signed them away inadvertently when he signed a legal document deceptively presented to him.