“So Long, Marianne” Passed Away


Marianne Ihlen, immortalized in “So Long, Marianne,” died July 28, 2016. (Photo: Leonard Cohen)

The woman who inspired Leonard Cohen to write the song “So Long, Marianne” passed away on Thursday in Oslo. She was 81 years old.

The title woman, Marianne Ihlen, was known for her relationship with the Canadian writer and artist Leonard Cohen and her marriage with the Norwegian author Axel Jensen.

Author Petter Mejlænder got to know Ihlen after he wrote the biography of Jensen.

Ihlen was often asked to tell about her life together with Leonard Cohen, but she always refused.

She first told the whole story about the years she shared with Cohen in an interview with NRK journalist Kari Hesthamar, resulting in the radio documentary titled “So long, Marianne”. It was first aired in 2005.

Strong Friendship

In 1957, Ihlen moved to Greece with her high school sweetheart Axel Jensen. They married in Athens the following year, and later had a son together.

– Marianne was an innocent, inexperienced and naive girl when she met Axel Jensen at the age of 20. They traveled to the Greek island Hydra and became a couple. At that time, he was the most renowned author in Norway, says Mejlænder to NRK.

However, life was not a bed of roses.

– Eventually, the relationship went overboard and Marianne became part of a turbulent artist community on Hydra, Mejlænder continues.

“So long, Marianne”

Later, after Ihlen and Jensen divorced, she met Cohen on the island of Hydra where they lived together much of the ’60s. Cohen’s poetry book “Flowers for Hitler” from 1964 is dedicated to Marianne Ihlen, and the song “So long, Marianne” is written about her.

– Leonard Cohen was a lifesaver for her, he was a great guy. Her love affairs with both Axel and Leonard followed her her whole life.

In 1979, Ihlen married Jan Stang. In recent decades she lived in Oslo where she spent her time painting.

Today, the website Cohencentric announced: Today’s Leonard Cohen Facebook Page is dedicated as a memorial to Marianne Ihlen. Those who wish to submit their thoughts, memories, poems, etc about Marianne – even if they have done so already at another site – are invited make those contributions here. We hope to collect these sentiments in one place in Marianne’s memory.

Based on the award-winning programs made for NRK by Kari Hesthamar, this BBC Radio 4 program was first broadcast on August 2, 2008.


Text modified by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews

Categories: Culture, Music

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