The rock and roll canon is filled with songs about great passions and unrequited feelings. Here, a few of the muses that inspired some of rock's greatest songs.
Have you ever listened to a song and wonder "who inspired that?" We've compiled the stories behind some of the most famous songs of all time.
Songs: "So Long, Marianne" (1967) and "Bird on the Wire" (1969)
Artist: Leonard Cohen
Muse: Marianne Ihlen
When Marianne Ihlen passed away from leukemia at the age of 81 in 2016, Leonard Cohen's most devoted fans went back and revisited the Canadian troubadour's love songs, "So Long, Marianne" and "Bird on the Wire" in her honour. Ihlen's death was announced on Cohen's Facebook page and the outpouring of support from the public was immediate.
The Norwegian beauty first met Cohen in 1960 on the Greek island of Hydra. Recently divorced and a single mom to her young son, Axel, Ihlen and Cohen instantly formed a bond, taking day trips to the beach and sharing poetry readings at night. When Cohen returned home to Montreal he sent Ihlen a telegram that read: "Have house, all I need is my woman and her son. Love Leonard." Ihlen and Axel immigrated to Montreal shortly after and the couple remained together for seven years.
Despite the breakup, the two kept in contact over the years. In a 1992 interview, Cohen reflected on the relationship. "When I hear her voice on the telephone, I know something is completely intact even though our lives have separated," he said. "I feel that love never dies and that when there is an emotion strong enough to gather a song around it, that there is something about that emotion that is indestructible."
Only days before her death, Cohen penned a final letter to his dying muse that read, in part: "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...I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road."
Cohen died a few months later, on November 7, 2016.
Pass the tissues, please.
Next: The muse behind "Homeward Bound" and "Kathy's Song"
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