Leonard Cohen wrote to his long time muse Marianne Ilhen just before her recent death, a friend has claimed on Canadian radio.
The songwriter met Marianne on the Greek island of Hydra, and the pair became closely intertwined. Friends and lovers, Marianne Ilhen helped prompt some of Cohen's finest early work – notably 'So Long, Marianne' and 'Bird On A Wire'.
Marianne Ilhen died in Norway last month, but just before she died close friend Jan Christian Mollestad got in touch with Leonard Cohen.
Jan explains: “It took only two hours and in came this beautiful letter from Leonard to Marianne. We brought it to her the next day and she was fully conscious and she was so happy that he had already written something for her.”
“It 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.”
Jan explains that when the line 'stretch out your hand...' was read Marianne reached 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 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.”
Leonard Cohen's Facebook page also supplied a tribute to Marianne Ilhen. “The death last week of Marianne Ihlen, the woman immortalized in “So Long, Marianne,” has evoked an overwhelming response from those who knew Marianne well, those who knew her only as Leonard Cohen's muse, and even those who previously didn't know there was a "real Marianne.”