Days in Greece / Leonard Cohen & Marianne Ihlen | Photos by James Burke, Hydra 1960

Days in Greece / Leonard Cohen & Marianne Ihlen | photos by James Burke, Hydra 1960
Hydra 1
Hydra, Greece, 1950s
Marianne Ihlen (also known as Jensen) holds her son, Axel Jensen Jr, on her lap as friends watch, Hydra, Greece, October 1960. Pictured are, from second left, Canadian poet, author, and musician Leonard Cohen, unidentified, and married Australian authors George Johnston and Charmian Clift. Cohen had bought a house on the island earlier in the year, while the others were established residents. Marianne Ihlen inspired a number of Cohen’s songs and poems.
Hydra, Greece, October 1960.

Days of Kindness

Greece is a good place
To look at the moon, isn t it
You can read by moonlight
You can read on the terrace
You can see a face
As you saw it when you were young
There was good light then
Oil lamps and candles
And those little flames
That floated on a cork in olive oil
What I loved in my old life
I haven t forgotten
It lives in my spine
Marianne and the child
The days of kindness
It rises in my spine
And it manifests as tears
I pray that a loving memory
Exists for them too
The precious ones I overthrew
For an education in the world

Hydra, 1985


 Hydra, Greece, October 1960

Leonard Cohen described his home to his mother:

It has a huge terrace with a view of dramatic mountain and shining white houses. The rooms are large and cool with deep windows set in thick walls. I suppose it’s about 200 years old and many generations of must have lived here. I will do a little work on it every year and in a few years it will be a mansion… I live on a hill and life has been going on here exactly the same for hundreds of years. All through the day you hear the calls of the street vendors and they are really rather musical… I get up around 7 generally and work till about noon. Early morning is coolest and therefore best, but I love the heat anyhow, especially when the Aegean Sea is 10 minutes from my door.

 Marianne Ihlen, Leonard Cohen’s house, Hydra, 1960
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Leonard Cohen, Marianne, 1960                                             Leonard Cohen, Objects, Hydra 1977
 Marianne Ihlen, Leonard Cohen’s house, Hydra, 1960

Leonard Cohen, So Long, Marianne, 1967

The song was inspired by Marianne Ihlen, whom Cohen met on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960. The two lived together throughout the 1960s, commuting between New York, Montreal, and Hydra.


Norwegian expatriate Marianne Ihlen (aka Jensen) right, Canadian poet, author, and musician Leonard Cohen, center, and others ride donkeys during a trek around Hydra, Greece, October 1960.


Leonard Cohen with friends in Hydra, Greece, October 1960

Leonard Cohen plays guitar under a tree as Charles W. Heckstall (with glasses) and Australian author Charmian Clift listen, Hydra, Greece, October 1960

Leonard Cohen plays guitar under a tree, Hydra, 1960                                        Marianne Ihlen

Leonard Cohen, Bird on the Wire, Songs From a Room, 1969
Bird on the Wire began in Greece, when Cohen first arrived in Hydra, there were no wires on the island, no telephones and no regular electricity. But soon telephone poles appeared, and then the wires. I would stare out the window at these telephone wires and think, how civilization had caught up with me and I wasn’t going to be able to escape after all. I wasn’t going to be able to live this eleventh-century life that I had thought I had found for myself. So that was the beginning. Then he noticed that the birds came to the wires. The next line referred to the many evenings Cohen and friends climbed the endless stairs up from the port of Hydra, drunk and singing. Often you see: three guys with the arms around each other , stumbling up the stairs and singing these impeccable thirds. He finished the song in a Hollywood motel on Sunset Boulevard in 1969. (…)
As their son Jason Johnston crawls in the sand, married Australian authors George Johnston (left) and Charmian Clift (second left) speak with Marianne Ihlen (aka Jensen) and Canadian poet, author, and musician Leonard Cohen at the beach, Hydra, Greece, October 1960.
Marianne Ihlen (aka Jensen) bottom right, in polka dot bikini, and Canadian poet, author, and musician Leonard Cohen on her left, along with other sunbathers, on a rocky beach, Hydra, Greece, October 1960
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Leonard Cohen & Nancy Bacal, Hydra 1964

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