Sunday, 23 August 2015

'Deep in the Green Lilac Park' (Leonard Cohen, Marianne Ihlen and the story of So Long, Marianne)

'We met when we were almost young
Deep in the green lilac park
You held onto me like I was a crucifix
As we went kneeling through the dark'

So long, Marianne
Leonard Cohen

Marianne is my blogging name.  I borrowed it from the beautiful Leonard Cohen Song 'So Long Marianne' when I started writing this blog quite a few years ago now when I was putting my life back together again following the devastating breakdown of my marriage, which left me a single mother of three young boys. Not an easy time.  It seemed appropriate.

I had never really considered that the song might be based on a real Marianne until my new husband, who is inured to my lifelong love affair with Leonard Cohen and his music, bought me a copy of  Kari Hesthamar's eponymous book recently.  The book is based on interviews with Marianne about her life and particularly about her long relationship with Leonard with whom she lived off and on for the best part of a decade and which took place mostly on the beautiful Greek island of Hydra, and which I found quite fascinating.  A more contemporary version of the Bloomsbury Group as it turns out! 

Marianne was only 23 years old when she left her native Oslo to live on Hydra with her then boyfriend, the Norwegian writer Axel Jensen, and they joined an artists' and writers' community there. She married Axel and gave birth to his son back in Norway but on her return to Hydra she was abandoned by him and left to raise her son alone.  Leonard introduced himself to her at the local cafe and she became his muse and the inspiration for some of his earlier poems and songs.  

My musical tastes were formed in the late 60's and early 70's when North American and Canadian Folk/Rock were part of the sound track of my life.  Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan were constantly being played in my student house in Leeds and I was lucky enough to see some of these talented artists, including Leonard Cohen, live in the early 70s.   

Leonard Cohen wrote some stunningly beautiful and thoughtful contemporary poetry and prose but did not achieve recognition until he turned his poetry into songs and developed his talents as a singer/songwriter and became the voice of a generation.  He has continued to write and record music and to perform his music live all around the world.  His style has matured and somehow both lightened and deepened, and some of his lines are exquisite.  As a performer, he is mesmerising.  I still enjoy listening to his music which I find timeless and evocative.  His is the one voice that has stayed with me through the decades.

I found this unusual version of 'So Long Marianne' on YouTube recently and wanted to share it. 

25 comments:

  1. A beautiful poignant song. I love all Leonard Cohen's work. It's only when you look back over your life that you can see the path. You made it through and survived. Thank you for sharing your story.

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    1. It is special I think and so pleased you love Leonard Cohen's work too,Mollie. Yes, the path only becomes clear when you have enough distance to put it into perspective.

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  2. Thank you for sharing this particular version of Marianne. I have not heard this version before. The story is also new to me and I shall now listen to it with greater interest knowing the connection in real life with Leonard Cohen. I have fond memories of the folk scene in the early 1970's when I lived in Toronto's Yorkville area.
    A great post.
    Helenxx

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    1. Thank you Helen - glad you enjoyed it. Like you I knew very little about the background to his work but am now busy reading about this fascinating time. Toronto in the 70's must have been an interesting experience. I was in Leeds in the very early 70's and then London.

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  3. Marianne, I am very glad that you have shared this post with us. I think that our musical eras and influences might be quite similar.

    Should we ever be able to meet in person, I imagine that we'd have much to discuss.

    I moved to New York after my 1967 college graduation and was so fortunate to have access to all sorts of music and other arts during those early years in the City. A lovely memory is my first opportunity to see Joni Mitchell perform. It was in an auditorium of Hunter College. She was the opening act for another group, Blood, Sweat and Tears. It was Joni, we'd come to hear, and its funny to see her wandering around the auditorium's lobby before showtime. I've seen her perform at other, larger venues, but that evening was rather wonderful.

    Let's wish her well.

    As another senior citizen now, I also wish Mr Cohen well. Isn't it awful to know of how his financial matters were so mis-handled?

    xo

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    1. I'm sure we would, Frances and so glad we have shared the sound track of our lives. I saw Joni in London and it was so special - another incredibly talented writer/singer/songwriter. I probably know every word of her early albums and they all carry a meaning for me.

      The silver lining for Leonard (and for us) is that his financial problems were behind his recent live concerts where I think his music shines brighter than ever.

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  4. How very interesting. I always liked that song. I was a teen in the 70's, but have very eclectic tastes.

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    1. I'm so enjoying having the time to find out more about this very special time and the people who were a part of that - happy to share it too!

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  5. I love the music of Leonard Cohen, but knew nothing of his life story. I have eclectic musical tastes. I especially enjoy our local music scene. I am a singer/songwriter on a very small amateur scale, and always appreciate the skill and artistry of other musicians. Music is a beautiful way to communicate, isn't it?

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    1. That's interesting, Aisling and must be very satisfying - yes, music is a beautiful way to communicate.

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  6. That is a different and beautiful version of one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite artists. My music tastes are similar to yours and the folk scene of the 60's and 70's has a special place in my heart. It was sweet, meaningful music that shaped many of my political and spiritual beliefs. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Isn't it very special - I was so pleased to find it and it is lovely that the story is told in old photos too. Leonard looks so very young and in love at the time. It's also interesting how music binds us together, across the continents and the decades.

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  7. The late 60s, early 70s were a big influence for me as well, although over the years I've moved more toward Blues than Folk. In general, my tastes in music are pretty eclectic, but I haven't taken as much time as I'd like, in recent years, to listen to music, particularly to expand into new territory. Hoping that will change with retirement.

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    1. I think many things change with retirement, once you begin to see the benefit of having the time and space to pursue interests that perhaps you never knew you had. I am certainly enjoying having the time to read more deeply. Like so many of you, my music and literary tastes are varied but this is a snapshot of a particular time and place and is very evocative for so many of us.

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  8. I am not that familiar with the music of LC - maybe I am a generation after that era as my brother-in-law is a big fan. However, I do know what you mean about music almost being the soundtrack to our lives. My musical tastes are wide and I am enjoying some of the oldies like Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone - easy listening, I suppose for summer evenings.

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    1. Easy listening for summer evenings sounds perfect - let's hope there are more of them to come! Music is such an important part of life and holds so many of our memories. At the moment, I'm just in this particular groove and enjoying exploring it from a different perspective.

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  9. This has always been my favourite Leonard Cohen song.. but I had never heard this version.. or some of these verses. Thank you. He and I share the same native city.. Montreal. You can't not love his music if you're a Montrealer.

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    1. So pleased to see you again Hilary, but sorry to see you are not blogging at the moment - hope all is going well with you. I love this version of 'So Long Marianne' especially as it tells her story in photos and glad you enjoyed it too.

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  10. What an intriguing post! Yes, I can certainly see why you'd connect yourself with Leonard Cohen's muse, the beautiful Marianne. I, on the other hand, feel connected to the musician, since both he and I are Canadians who have spent a lot of time, on a mystical and gorgeous Greek island! You can't imagine how inspiring such a place can be - mountains and valleys and orchards and brightly coloured houses all floating effortlessly in the depths of the serene and marine magic of the Mediterranean - oh, how I miss it!

    Mr. Cohen, poet, songwriter, singer, storyteller, soulful human being, is one of my favourite people, for many reasons that go beyond his talent, love for his family, and for women. After all the ups and downs of fame and fortune, (most recently losing the latter, but never the former), the man behind the much-lived, melancholic voice, always manages to make me feel like we've shared a glass of wine, and a few ideas, philosophizing about life's many mysteries through his signature music and lyrics.

    Thank you for sharing your own 'musings'.

    So long, Marianne. Have a perfect weekend!

    Poppy

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    1. I knew you would like this one, Poppy and what a wonderful comment - almost a blog post in it's own right! So glad you share my appreciation of Mr Cohen and his copious work. He has such a special gift of intimacy which reaches straight to the heart and I do agree that you feel you know him as a friend. I should love to visit the Greek islands and plan to do so one day soon. When do you go back to Crete I wonder?

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  11. Hello Marianne, what an interesting post. I am not familiar with Leonard Cohen at all, he somehow passed me by. He sounds to have had a very interesting life. I enjoyed the story of Marianne and your connection with it.
    My musical taste is quite eclectic too. I seem to have been very influenced by what my parents liked and so would quite frequently play Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington and other music of that period.I like a bit of folk music, traditional jazz and Irish music. I tend to have the radio on quite a lot too.
    Thank you for your recent visit and kind comments, they are greatly appreciated. Love Linda xx

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Linda! It's a fascinating story and I am really getting into that period again now, but at a different level - as is so often the case in life. Nice to see you here again x

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  12. It must be a strange feeling, now that you have made "Marianne" your own, to suddenly discover that your hero was in love with her. There must be some kind of a little story to be written about that if I was into writing short stories...

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    1. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to write short stories, any story! Blogging is as far as I go though. What is interesting is how little background I had about the people who populated my youth - it's only now that I have a perspective and can take a deeper interest in what was actually behind the songs.

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    2. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to write short stories, any story! Blogging is as far as I go though. What is interesting is how little background I had about the people who populated my youth - it's only now that I have a perspective and can take a deeper interest in what was actually behind the songs.

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