Sep 212018

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Leonard Cohen

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.

Leonard Cohen wrote this moving letter to Marianne Ihlen just a few days before she died, and less than four months later, he followed. Today would be his 84th birthday, and it seemed appropriate to pay our own farewell wishes to the two of them in his honor.

Marianne Ihlen, of course, was the subject of the song “So Long Marianne.” She also inspired “Bird on a Wire” and appeared on the back of his Songs from a Room album, and she is regularly referred to as Cohen’s muse. Of course, there’s more to her than someone else’s inspiration – this Montreal Gazette article reminds us of that. It also includes five good covers of “So Long, Marianne.” Here are five more.

Bell and Arc – So Long, Marianne (Leonard Cohen cover)

“YOUR PERFORMANCE OF SO LONG MARIANNE IS GREAT STOP THANK YOU STOP.” So read the telegram that Cohen sent the band Bell & Arc in 1971. Their sole, self-titled record (produced by Cohen producer Bob Johnston) included a cover of “Marianne” that featured Graham Bell doing his best Joe Cocker to a slow, white-soulful backing.

Beck – So Long, Marianne (Leonard Cohen cover)

Remember Beck’s Record Club? That was Beck and friends getting together in the studio to cover an entire album in one day. They chose Songs of Leonard Cohen for their second album, and Devendra Banhart sang lead on their “So Long, Marianne” cover.

La Nouvelle Frontiere – So Long, Marianne (Leonard Cohen cover)

The website Canuckistan Music describes La Nouvelle Frontiere as “unknown outside Quebec, and virtually forgotten within.” Their eponymous album from 1970 featured a cover of fellow Canadian Cohen’s “So Long, Marianne” that brings Fairport Convention to mind – and not in a “they’re no Fairport Convention” kind of way.

Ada Van – So Long, Marianne (Leonard Cohen cover)

According to their (translated) Bandcamp page, “Ada Van has never known who her father is: Joy Division, Nacho Vegas or an impossible trio between the brothers Auserón and Claudia Cardinale.” The Barcelonians may not list Leonard Cohen as part of their heritage, but their cover of “So Long, Marianne” shows that they could.

Tanger – The New So Long Marianne (Leonard Cohen cover)

The ColoradoFrance-based trio Tanger have every right to add that extra adjective to “So Long, Marianne.” It’s a whole new melody, a whole different sound, and a whole other feel. There’s a clinical groove to this song, crossed with being lost in the woods – an awfully rare combo, that. This is not your father’s Leonard Cohen, or your grandfather’s… but in another way, this absolutely is.

Check out our Leonard Cohen archives. We even talk about “Hallelujah” once or twice.

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  9 Responses to “Five Good Covers: “So Long, Marianne” (Leonard Cohen)”

Comments (9)
  1. Hi, excellent article as usual, altough this Tanger is not from Colorado, but from France! Unfortunately there is very little information in English about this band on internet. But you can check their page on discogs:
    I was lucky enough to see them live twice and I really like their albums, especially their first “Tanger”, “La Mémoire Insoluble” and “Le Détroit”.

    • Thank you for the correction – one of these days I’ll learn to get confirmation from two internet sources. I envy you getting to see them live; this cover really makes me want to learn more about them (and not just so I can get it right)!

  2. Glen Hansard – So Long Marianne
    The best version on youtube for sure

  3. Also check his son Adam Cohen sing a great version

    Song start at 1:22min

  4. You left out the best version – Straightjacket Fits

  5. Courtney Barnett’s version is great, it’s on the MTV Unplugged album, plus she’s been doing it live

  6. You can’t beat BELL @ ARC.

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