So long Marianne: Cohen sends final letter to dying muse who inspired his famous song


Leonard Cohen sent a touching final letter to his dying muse Marianne Ihlen, the subject of his song So Long Marianne.

Marianne, who was also the inspiration behind Bird On The Wire, died in Norway on July 29 at the age of 81.

Leonard met Marianne Ihlen - then Marianne Jensen - in Hydra, Greece in the 1960s. They became lovers, staying together for a decade.

Her close friend Jan Christian Mollestad told Canada's CBC radio that he had contacted Leonard, 81, to tell him Ihlen was dying of leukaemia and had only a few days to live.

He recalled: "It took only two hours and in came this beautiful letter from Leonard to Marianne.

Yesterday evening at 3, after only a... - Jan Christian Mollestad | Facebook

"We brought this letter in to her the next day and she was fully conscious and she was so happy that he had already written something for her."

Jan Christian, a documentary filmmaker, read the letter to Marianne before she died.

He recalled: "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.

Leonard Cohen in 1995
Leonard Cohen in 1995 (Dennis Keeley/AP)

"And you know that I've always loved you for your beauty and for 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.'"

Jan Christian told host Rosemary Barton that when he read the line "stretch out your hand", Marianne had stretched out her hand.

"It was a very nice gesture from both of them," he said.

"Only two days after, she lost consciousness and slipped into death. And when she died, I wrote a letter back to him saying in her final moments I hummed A Bird On The 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.'"

Reflecting on Leonard and Marianne's relationship over the years, Jan Christian recalled: "What Marianne said, was Leonard was the one who loved her for herself, who opened her up and let her feel that she was worth loving, not only because she was beautiful outside, but he really was interested in her."

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