This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 16 °C Friday 7 August, 2020

"I think I will follow you very soon": Leonard Cohen's moving letter to his dying muse

The singer-songwriter penned a letter to Marianne Ihlen as she was approaching death, earlier this year.

FANS OF LEONARD Cohen have been sharing a letter the late singer-songwriter penned to Marianne Ihlen, the woman who inspired his songs ‘So Long, Marianne’ and ‘Bird on a Wire’ days before her death last July.

Cohen passed away overnight aged 82. He and Ihlen met in the sixties and remained together for the next seven years.

Speaking in August, Jan Christian Mollestad, a friend of Ihlen, told Canada’s CBC that he had told Cohen his former muse was approaching death, and received a “beautiful” letter from the singer within a few hours.

Mollestad then read the letter to his friend.

Here’s what the letter 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 told the interviewer:

“When I read the lines ‘stretch out your hand,’ she stretched out her hand. 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 ‘A 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’.

marianne Marianne Ihlen on the sleeve of Cohen's 1969 album, Songs from a Room.

Speaking to The New Yorker recently, Cohen, who was already suffering from a number of health problems, said he was “ready to die”.

“At a certain point, if you still have your marbles and are not faced with serious financial challenges, you have a chance to put your house in order.

It’s a cliché, but it’s underestimated as an analgesic on all levels. Putting your house in order, if you can do it, is one of the most comforting activities, and the benefits of it are incalculable.

Source: carybhou/YouTube

The singer released his final album, ‘You Want It Darker’, just last month.

“My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records,” Cohen’s son Adam told Rolling Stone.

He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humour.

Read: “A true visionary”: Tributes to Leonard Cohen, following legendary singer-songwriter’s death >

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

About the author:

Read next: