Singer penned a letter to his former lover shortly before her death
Leonard Cohen wrote to Marianne Ihlen, the woman who inspired his song ‘So Long Marianne’, shortly before her death, it has been revealed.
Ihlen passed away late last month (July 29) in Norway, aged 81. Her funeral was held in Oslo on Friday (August 5).
Speaking to Canada’s CBC Radio, Ihlen’s friend and documentary maker Jan Christian Mollestad said that he had informed Cohen of his former lover’s ill health and that the singer quickly sent a letter to be read to her.
“It took only two hours and in came this beautiful letter from Leonard to Marianne. We brought it to her the next day and she was fully conscious and she was so happy that he had already written something for her.”
“It said ‘Well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.'”
Mollestad went on to say: “Only two days later she lost consciousness and slipped into death. I wrote a letter back to Leonard saying in her final moments I hummed ‘Bird on a Wire’ because that was the song she felt closest to. And then I kissed her on the head and left the room, and said ‘So long, Marianne.'”
Cohen and Ihlen met on the Greek island of Hydra during the 1960s, becoming lovers. The song she inspired – ‘So Long, Marianne’ – featured on his 1967 debut album ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’.
Last week, Leonard Cohen’s Facebook page marked Ihlen’s death with the following statement: “The death last week of Marianne Ihlen, the woman immortalized in ‘So Long, Marianne’, has evoked an overwhelming response from those who knew Marianne well, those who knew her only as Leonard Cohen’s muse, and even those who previously didn’t know there was a real Marianne.”