So Long, Marianne

Album: Songs Of Leonard Cohen (1967)
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Songfacts®:

  • "Marianne" in this song is Marianne Ihlen, who met and lived with Leonard Cohen and her son on the Greek island of Hydra. Later, all three moved to Montreal. Marianne's son, Axel, was from a former marriage with the Norwegian novelist Axel Jensen, who also lived on Hydra at that time.

    Cohen wrote this song when they split up, but they got back together and lived together on and off until 1973, even after Cohen had a son, Adam, with another woman in 1972. Marianne left a lasting impression on Cohen, who had several other passionate relationships that informed his songs.
  • The Marianne this song is about was Norwegian and pronounced her name "Ma-ri-AN-ah." Cohen used a standard English pronunciation (like "Mary-Ann") for the song because the extra syllable wouldn't fit.
  • Judy Scott, who met Marianne on Hydra in 1973 and became very close with her, told Songfacts what she was like: "My first impression was of a lovely, tall, tanned blonde woman of about 35. I came to know her better.

    She mentioned the song 'So Long, Marianne' and told me it was originally titled 'Come On, Marianne' but later Leonard changed it. She loved the song, even if it did evoke the evolving nature of their relationship.

    When I visited her in Oslo she played the song on her small stereo, and looking out the window, she said to me, 'The thing with Leonard is, he actually did what he set out to do. He succeeded where many others failed. It makes him almost inescapable in my life.'"
  • Want to see a photo of Marianne? On the back cover of Cohen's 1969 album Songs From A Room there is a shot of her sitting in front of Cohen's typewriter. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Thomas - Oslo, Norway
  • Marianne Ihlen and Leonard Cohen both died of cancer in 2016; Ihlen in July and Cohen in November. When Cohen learned that she was sick, he wrote her a letter that read:

    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.
  • Leonard Cohen's original title for the song was "Come On Marianne." When Uncut magazine's Sylvie Simmons asked him why he'd changed it, he replied: "I am more of a writer of elegies."
  • I see you've gone and changed your name again

    Marianne was born Marianne Ihlen. She became Marianne Jensen after marrying Axel Jensen. She and Cohen never married, but she sometimes used the name Marianne Cohen when they were together, and other times used her maiden name, Ihlen.
  • Norwegian Broadcasting aired the first interview with Marianne Ihlen on January 22, 2006. She described Cohen as a man of "enormous compassion."

Comments: 5

  • Robert Campion from Galway, IrelandThis song was written in Montreal, Canada...always thought there might be some connection between the title and Marianne Street on Montreal.
  • Leo from Ny , Nythis song is so beautiful. i got it from my girl friend. and i been listening to it for past 2 month have 100o tmes n over n over,
    craig you wrote it so precise
  • Thomas Gabrielsen from Oslo, NorwayFor those who understand Norwegian can go to www.nrk.no and search for it in the archive, it is freely available for everybody. Next saturday they broadcast an interview with Leonard Cohen where he will tell his story, and I really looking forward to it.
  • Craig from Dunedin, New ZealandA NewZealand band called the "Straitjacket Fits" did a really cool interpretation in the late '80s . The result was that my friends and i checked out the Cohen catalogue. Well into the millenium and continue to listen and be intrigued!
  • Craig from Madison, Wi"She held on to me like I was a crucifix." Absolutely amazing. No lyricist has such a clear and precise sense of metaphor--song length or one-line.
see more comments

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