The Marianne Variations Supplement: Leonard Cohen’s 4/4 Version of So Long, Marianne

slm-sjohn2008Note: Originally posted July 20, 2014 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen’s Recurring Revisions Of So Long, Marianne

This is a Supplement to The Marianne Variations, a series of posts devoted to the major recurring variations of Leonard Cohen’s “So Long, Marianne” that significantly differ from the versions found on the Songs Of Leonard Cohen and Field Commander Cohen albums. An introduction and links to all published posts in this series as well as the inclusion criteria and the original version of “So Long, Marianne” from the Songs Of Leonard Cohen album can be found at The Marianne Variations Summary Page.

As noted in an earlier post, even before the official completion of The Marianne Variations series, Lennard Torbijn of the Netherlands had astutely identified a Leonard Cohen rendition of “So Long, Marianne” that meets criteria as a distinct version although it does not fit the characteristic pattern of the other members of The Marianne Variations collection.

The 2008 So Long, Marianne Time Shift

Leonard Cohen has performed “So Long, Marianne” hundreds of times in 3/4 time. Twice, however, he has played it in 4/4:1 once on May 23, 2008 in Moncton and again on May 26, 2008 in St. John’s.

As Lennard observes, this rendition fulfills the standards for a major variation of “So Long, Marianne;” i.e., the time signature shift is clearly a significant, planned deviation from the original that alters the listening experience. On the other hand, the Moncton-St. John’s version does not feature any changes in the lyrics, the sine qua non of the other Marianne Variations. Consequently, I am arbitrarily ruling that the 4/4 version of “So Long, Marianne” meets my arbitrary criteria as an entry in The Marianne Variations with the qualification that it is a “time signature variant” rather than a “lyrics variant.”2

Leonard Cohen – So Long, Marianne
St. John’s, Newfoundland: May 26, 2008
Video by StacksMaxwell

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  1. Leonard Cohen spoke about his process for transforming another song written in 3/4 time into one performed in 4/4: “[‘Always’] by Irving Berlin was originally in ¾ time, and I turned it into a 4/4 song, and I always loved it. It’s very beautifully constructed as a song, and I think the lyric is very touching. So, I went in there with Steve Lindsey, a producer, and some really excellent musicians, and we prepared a drink that I had invented called the “Red Needle.” It’s basically, Tequila, Cranberry juice, and lime, and some other elements. And after I had distributed this drink, and people had sampled it, we produced this track.” Source: Interview With Leonard Cohen by by Chris Doritos. KCRW, Los Angeles: February 18, 1997. Retrieved 09 July 2014 from LeonardCohenFiles []
  2. Consider it a Roger Maris asterisk []

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