So Long, Marianne

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"So Long, Marianne"
Song by Leonard Cohen
from the album Songs of Leonard Cohen
GenreFolk rock
Songwriter(s)Leonard Cohen

"So Long, Marianne" is a song written by Canadian poet and musician Leonard Cohen. It was featured on his debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen. Pitchfork Media placed it at number 190 on their list of "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s."[1]


The song was inspired by Marianne Jensen, born Marianne Ihlen, whom Cohen met on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960.[2] She had recently been left by her husband,[3] the Norwegian writer Axel Jensen, leaving her and their six-month-old son alone on the island. The two hit it off, and Cohen ultimately took her from Hydra back to her home in Oslo, Norway. He later invited her and her son to live with him in Montreal, an offer which she accepted.[2] The two lived together throughout the 1960s, commuting between New York, Montreal, and Hydra.

To quote Leonard Cohen (backcover of “Greatest Hits”, 1976):

"I began this on Aylmer Street in Montreal and finished it a year or so later at the Chelsea Hotel in New York. I didn’t think I was saying goodbye but I guess I was. She gave me many songs, and she has given songs to others too. She is a Muse. A lot of people I know think that there is nothing more important than making a song. Fortunately, this belief arises infrequently in their conversation."

Cohen dedicated his third volume of poetry, Flowers for Hitler, to her, and she directly inspired many of his other songs and poems. A photo of her appears on the back cover of his second album, Songs from a Room.

Marianne Ihlen died in hospital in Oslo on July 28, 2016, aged 81.[4][5] Cohen wrote to her shortly before her death, saying: "I’m just a little behind you, close enough to take your hand. [...] I’ve never forgotten your love and your beauty. But you know that. [...] Safe travels old friend. See you down the road. Love and gratitude."[6] He died three months later, on November 7.

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by Beck, Noel Harrison, John Cale with Suzanne Vega, Straitjacket Fits, Brian Hyland, James, Bill Callahan, Russian Red, Courtney Barnett, and others, including Cohen's own son, Adam Cohen. In 1984 it became a hit in the Dutch Top 40 sung by José Hoebee, ex-singer of Luv' and TV host Ron Brandsteder.

Adam Cohen and The Webb Sisters performed the song at the 2017 Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen concert.[7] Courtney Barnett performed the song in her 2019 MTV Unplugged performance.[8]


Chart (2016) Peak
France (SNEP)[9] 28
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[10] 38
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[11] 50


  1. ^ Pitchfork Media Staff (August 14, 2006). "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s". Retrieved April 13, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "So Long Marianne – A Love Story by Kari Hesthamar". Retrieved April 13, 2010.
  3. ^ "Marianne and Leonard: Interview with Marianne Ihlen by Kari Hesthamar, Norway, 2005", Retrieved August 6, 2016
  4. ^ Leonard Cohen official Facebook page. Retrieved July 29, 2016
  5. ^ Octavio Lopes, "Marianne Ihlen (1935-2016)", Correio de Manha, 6 August 2016. Retrieved August 6, 2016
  6. ^ Tanya Dalziell, Paul Genoni, "Mythmaking, social media and the truth about Leonard Cohen’s last letter to Marianne Ihlen", The Conversation, 5 December 2018. Retrieved November 16, 2019
  7. ^ "Watch Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen on Wednesday, January 3 on CBC". CBC Arts, December 29, 2017.
  8. ^ Vozick-Levinson, Simon (December 9, 2019). "Courtney Barnett's Unplugged Leonard Cohen Cover is an Understated Gem". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  9. ^ "Le Top de la semaine : Top Singles Téléchargés - SNEP (Week 46, 2016)" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved November 19, 2016.
  10. ^ "Leonard Cohen – So Long, Marianne" Canciones Top 50. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  11. ^ "Leonard Cohen – So Long, Marianne". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 21 November 2016.