Leonard Cohen pays tribute to his former muse, Marianne Ihlen

She died last week

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Leonard Cohen has paid tribute to his former muse, Marianne Ihlen, who died last week.

According to her friend, the filmmaker Jan Christian Mollestad, Ihlen passed away on July 28 at Diakonhjemmets Hospital in Oslo, reportedly less than a week after being diagnosed with leukaemia.

Cohen’s Facebook page reports that the singer asked that a letter to him from Mollestad, informing Cohen of her passing, be used in his memorial:


“Dear Leonard

Marianne slept slowly out of this life yesterday evening. Totally at ease, surrounded by close friends.

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.


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 deep gratitude for replying so fast and with such love and compassion.

In her last hour I held her hand and hummed Bird on a Wire, while she was breathing so lightly. And when we left he room, after her soul had flown out of the window for new adventures, we kissed her head and whispered your everlasting words

So long, Marianne”

Born in Norway, Ihlen ran away to the Greek island of Hydra with her boyfriend, Norwegian author Axel Jensen, when she was 22. After giving birth to a son – known as ‘Little Axel’ – she and Jensen broke up. Ihlen met Cohen on Hydra in the early Sixties and the pair began a relationship.

During their first years together, Ihlen inspired several of Cohen’s songs – including “So Long, Marianne” and “Bird On A Wire” – and he dedicated his poetry collection, Flowers For Hitler, to her.

“Oh, those years were really good,” Ihlen told author Kari Hesthamar. “Very good. We sat in the sun and we lay in the sun, we walked in the sun, we listened to music, we bathed, we played, we drank, we discussed. There was writing and lovemaking and…It was absolutely fabulous, you know, to have it like that. During five years I didn’t have shoes on my feet, you know…And I met many beautiful people. Now they are cast to the winds. Some are dead. Many are dead.”

The September 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Tom Waits, plus Tom Petty, Teenage Fanclub, Pink Floyd, Aaron Neville, Bat For Lashes, De La Soul, Chet Baker, Cass McCombs, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Ryley Walker, Kendrick Lamar, Lord Buckley, Sex Pistols, Brexit and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

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