Jonathon Van Maren

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Sexual Revolution left music great Leonard Cohen bitter, with a dead child

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July 26, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — About a month before he died, I wrote a column on the primitive power of Montreal troubadour Leonard Cohen’s poetry and the strong anti-abortion sentiment that coursed through much of his writing. Especially as he grew older, Cohen also seemed to grow disillusioned with the sexual revolution and the broken hearts and emotional rubble it left behind. Cohen, like so many of the literary elites who came of age in the 1960s, gorged himself on the forbidden fruit with gusto, and so he knew of what he wrote. Free love, as one writer noted, is generally the enemy of true love.

I wondered at the time whether Cohen had any personal experiences with abortion —  his lines on the subject are in many places too visceral to be speculative, especially the blunt position laid out in the lyrics of The Future, released in 1992:

Destroy another fetus now 
We don't like children anyhow 
I've seen the future, baby: 
it is murder. 

The answer to my question has now been revealed with the release of a documentary by filmmaker Nick Broomfield on Leonard Cohen and his muse, the blonde Norwegian Marianne Ihlen. Ihlen and Cohen met in Greece in the 1960s and embarked on a relationship that sparked and sputtered on and off for six decades, with Cohen writing some of his most memorable lines about her (“your hair upon the pillow, like a sleepy golden storm”). Ihlen even followed him to Manhattan to be close to him in the early days as his career began to soar but became suicidal as Cohen proved faithless as well as romantic.

In many ways, the relationships of the generation that first embraced free love highlight the destructiveness of the Sexual Revolution as powerfully as a sermon. Ihlen grew frustrated with Cohen’s wandering: “I wanted to put him in a cage and swallow the key. It hurt me so much it destroyed me. I was on the verge of killing myself.” She headed to England, where she took up with the much younger filmmaker Nick Broomfield. Soon thereafter, she asked Broomfield to drive her to nearby Bath. She wanted to get an abortion, because she was pregnant with Leonard Cohen’s child.

The aborted child of Leonard Cohen and the young woman he made famous through his music has gone unmentioned until now. “The abortion was difficult for her,” Broomfield recounted. “She didn’t complain. We never discussed whether Leonard had wanted the abortion.” Cohen himself remained silent on the subject, although whenever abortion surfaced in his work, it was nearly always condemned harshly. I wonder if Cohen knew about the child he never met, the little boy or girl who was part him, part Marianne, who died at the hands of an abortionist in Bath. I wonder if the mentions of abortion in his work are about their baby. I wonder if that is why he found so much to hate about the Sexual Revolution, especially as the years wore on and his youth wore off.

They are both gone now — Marianne passed away a few months before Leonard in 2016. Cohen left behind a daughter and a son, whom he’d conceived with Suzanne Elrod. (They eventually split, with Cohen admitting that it was “cowardice” that prevented him from marrying her.) Ihlen left behind one son from the marriage that predated her relationship with Cohen. The child they had conceived together predeceased them by decades, leaving only a hole and the unanswerable questions that the missing casualties of the Sexual Revolution always leave behind.

Free love, after all, isn’t really free. Someone has to pay the price.

Jonathon’s new podcast, The Van Maren Show, is dedicated to telling the stories of the pro-life and pro-family movement. In his latest episode, he interviews former porn star Deanna Spangler, who shares how she rose to fame in the pornography industry and why she finally got out. You can subscribe here and listen to the episode below: 

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Jonathon Van Maren

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Jonathon Van Maren is a public speaker, writer, and pro-life activist. His commentary has been translated into more than eight languages and published widely online as well as print newspapers such as the Jewish Independent, the National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and others. He has received an award for combating anti-Semitism in print from the Jewish organization B’nai Brith. His commentary has been featured on CTV Primetime, Global News, EWTN, and the CBC as well as dozens of radio stations and news outlets in Canada and the United States.

He speaks on a wide variety of cultural topics across North America at universities, high schools, churches, and other functions. Some of these topics include abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution, and euthanasia. Jonathon holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in history from Simon Fraser University, and is the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Jonathon’s first book, The Culture War, was released in 2016.