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So long, Leonard: Cohen’s Muse and the island of Hydra (picts, videos)

Millions of fans around the world grieve. Legendary bard, poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen passed away at the age of 82. His death was announced on Friday morning in his official Facebook page.

Leonard Cohen

6 hours ago

It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away.
We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries.

A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date. The family requests privacy during their time of grief.

Leonard, the …Greek

Hydra and his muse Marianne

In March 1960, when he had completed his manuscripts, Cohen was free to consider his position in London, and he found it wanting. After having a wisdom tooth pulled one day, he wandered about the East End of London on yet another rainy afternoon and noticed a Bank of Greece sing on Bank Street. He entered and saw a teller with a deep tan wearing sunglasses, in protest against the dreary landscape. He asked the clerk what the weather was like in Greece. �Springtime� was the reply. Cohen made up his mind on the spot to depart, and within a day or so he was in Athens. �I said to myself that I should go somewhere completely different in order to see how they live,� he later explained.

It was actually the island of Hydra that attracted Cohen. English was spoken and an artists� colony was flourishing. He had first heard of Hydra from Jacob Rothschild, whose mother had married Ghikas (Niko Hadjikyriakos), one of modern Greece�s most important painters.

When Cohen first arrive on Hydra [in April 1960] there was limited electricity, few telephones, and virtually no plumbing. Kerosene or oil lamps lit the homes; cisterns were used to collect water, and no wires obstructed the views. One of the views disco used a battery-operated record player, since the small electrical plant generated power only from sundown to midnight. Except for the kitchen, which was heated by the stove or Turkish copper braziers, rooms were heated with a three-legged tin filled with charcoal embers. Many of the homes were run-down and in desperate need of repair. In 1960, half of the homes were uninhabited, and virtually no new homes had been built for nearly a century.

Image result for leonard cohen hydra

On September, 1960, six day after his twenty-six birthday, Cohen bought a house in Hydra for $ 1500, using a bequest from his recently deceased grandmother.

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… and there he met Norwegian Marianne Jensen, his partner for most of the 1960s and the inspiration behind So Long, Marianne, Bird on the Wire and Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.


Cohen said she was the most beautiful woman he had ever met.

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She died on 29th July 2016.

Having being informed about Marianne’s looming death from leukemia, Leonard Cohen wrote her a moving letter – some say today that he had predicted his own death.

‘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.'”

Two days later, she passed away.

Leonard Cohen died on November 7th, his death was announced three days later.

Love and Pain always inspired Leonard Cohen. However both terms were used in a broader way. Although structured as a love song, “Dance Me to the End Of Love” was in fact inspired by the Holocaust. In an interview, Cohen said of the song:

‘Dance Me to the End Of Love’ … it’s curious how songs begin because the origin of the song, every song, has a kind of grain or seed that somebody hands you or the world hands you and that’s why the process is so mysterious about writing a song. But that came from just hearing or reading or knowing that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet was pressed into performance while this horror was going on, those were the people whose fate was this horror also. And they would be playing classical music while their fellow prisoners were being killed and burnt.

So, that music, “Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin,” meaning the beauty there of being the consummation of life, the end of this existence and of the passionate element in that consummation. But, it is the same language that we use for surrender to the beloved, so that the song — it’s not important that anybody knows the genesis of it, because if the language comes from that passionate resource, it will be able to embrace all passionate activity.

About another  famous song, released in 1987, First we take Manhattan, he explained himself in a backstage interview:

“I think it means exactly what it says. It is a terrorist song. I think it’s a response to terrorism. There’s something about terrorism that I’ve always admired. The fact that there are no alibis or no compromises. That position is always very attractive. I don’t like it when it’s manifested on the physical plane – I don’t really enjoy the terrorist activities – but Psychic Terrorism. I remember there was a great poem by Irving Layton that I once read, I’ll give you a paraphrase of it. It was ‘well, you guys blow up an occasional airline and kill a few children here and there’, he says. ‘But our terrorists, Jesus, Freud, Marx, Einstein. The whole world is still quaking.'”

Leonard Cohen (21 September 1934 – 10 November 2016)

Rest in Peace

PS I am not sure whether the fans grieve over Leonard’s death or their own youth – probably both.

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