Leonard Cohen pays tribute to woman who inspired ‘So Long Marianne’ who died last week

“Now so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began
To laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again..”

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Leonard Cohen has paid tribute to Marianne Ihlen, the woman who inspired ‘So Long Marianne’ who died last week.

Writing on Facebook, Cohen asked that this letter to him from Jan Christian Mollestad be used in his memorial. Jan Christian Mollestad is currently completing a biographical film about Marianne.

“Marianne slept slowly out of this life yesterday evening. Totally at ease, surrounded by close friends,” the letter began. “Your letter came when she still could talk and laugh in full consciousness. When we read it aloud, she smiled as only Marianne can. She lifted her hand, when you said you were right behind, close enough to reach her.”

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It continued, “It gave her deep peace of mind that you knew her condition. And your blessing for the journey gave her extra strength. Jan and her friends who saw what this message meant for her, will all thank you in…

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4 Responses to “Leonard Cohen pays tribute to woman who inspired ‘So Long Marianne’ who died last week”

  1. “So Long, Marianne” is on Leonard Cohen’s first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen”. It’s on my top-10 list.

  2. An interesting thing about Cohen is that he was 32 or whatever when his first album came out. In contrast to, say, U2, who were still teenagers. Whatever one thinks of the relative merits, there is definitely more depth in the poetry of someone who has actually lived, as Cohen did. An English-speaking resident of Montreal living on a Greek island in the 1960s with a beautiful Norwegian woman. Most people haven’t even come close.

    I saw both Cohen and U2 in 1985. At the U2 concert, someone stole some T-shirts which some people whom I was with had bought when, towards the end of the show, they left their seats. Didn’t happen at the Cohen concert, not only because there were no T-shirts. I was at the Cohen concert with a good friend of some of the people who were at the U2 concert. I was in love with her at the time, and one of her names was actually Marianne.

    In the 1985 concert programme, the names of the musicians are accompanied by their ages. This was 31 years ago, and at 50 Cohen was ancient. His girlfriend, 25, was on keyboards.

    In the programme, he writes about selling the rights to “Suzanne” for a small sum in New York because he was young and needed the money. Then he reflects that it is perhaps appropriate that he doesn’t own the song: “Just last week, I heard some people singing it in a boat on the Caspian sea”.

    Daily dose of Cohen, from “Stories of the Street”, also from the first album:

    The stories of the street are mine,the Spanish voices laugh. The Cadillacs go creeping now through the night and the poison gas, and I lean from my window sill in this old hotel I chose, yes one hand on my suicide, one hand on the rose. I know you’ve heard it’s over now and war must surely come, the cities they are broke in half and the middle men are gone. But let me ask you one more time, O children of the dusk, All these hunters who are shrieking now oh do they speak for us? And where do all these highways go, now that we are free? Why are the armies marching still that were coming home to me? O lady with your legs so fine O stranger at your wheel, You are locked into your suffering and your pleasures are the seal. The age of lust is giving birth, and both the parents ask the nurse to tell them fairy tales on both sides of the glass. And now the infant with his cord is hauled in like a kite, and one eye filled with blueprints, one eye filled with night. O come with me my little one, we will find that farm and grow us grass and apples there and keep all the animals warm. And if by chance I wake at night and I ask you who I am, O take me to the slaughterhouse, I will wait there with the lamb. With one hand on the hexagram and one hand on the girl I balance on a wishing well that all men call the world. We are so small between the stars, so large against the sky, and lost among the subway crowds I try to catch your eye.

    Cohen or Dylan for the Nobel Prize in literature? Time is running out.

    A week from now I’ll be at Fairport Convention’s annual Cropredy festival, which features a great lineup this year. It would be worth the trip just for Gryphon and Steeleye Span, though it’s also a good place to hear new musicians I otherwise wouldn’t, such as the group Clarion 25 years or so ago. (By chance I learned recently that their drummer is now an undertaker in Oxfordshire.) Though, as someone once wrote, the festival is so good it would still be worth going even if there were no music. Almost half a century ago, Fairport covered “Suzanne”.

  3. Thanks for the heads-up. I somehow missed the death of Dave Swarbrick a few weeks ago (obviously another Fairport connection) and have now been reading about Leonard and Marianne. From Bergmann’s Scenes from a Marriage to Benny Andersson talking about his ex-wife Frida to Leonard and Marianne, there is a common Scandinavian theme of staying friends even after the relationship has dissolved. By coincidence, I just re-discovered my first girlfriend a week or so ago (pre-internet girlfriends are more easily lost), and am happy that a) she is happy and b) we are still interested in each other in some sense.

    Leonard Cohen summed up his own work well at the 1985 concert when he said that it is difficult to make a personal song universal enough so that it touches other people—unless one makes it really personal. It is one thing to make others thing one’s thoughts. It is another to make others feel one’s feelings.

  4. I often learn languages where essentially everyone in the corresponding country speaks English (which is my only native language) and many speak German (I’ve lived most of my life in Germany). Why? It’s a question I’m often asked. One reason is so that I can read books like this in the original. I’ve done many translations myself, and will be doing another one soon (watch this space), and I hope that mine are good, but there is always something lost. So, thanks to Peter’s post today, I know what my next Norwegian book will be.

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