When Leonard Cohen’s ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ Was Stolen from 179 Stanton Street

Posted on: September 24th, 2014 at 9:19 am by
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New York is cold, but I like where I’m living / There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening.

-Leonard Cohen, “Famous Blue Raincoat”

This softly-spoken lyrical couplet opens the classic Leonard Cohen ballad, “Famous Blue Raincoat,” which originally appeared on his third effort, Songs of Love and Hate (1971). But why is the storied Canadian-born songwriter – who turned 80 years-old on Sunday – name-checking the beloved Clinton Street? Simply put, in the late-1960s, he and his then-flame Marianne Jensen (yes, that Marianne) briefly shared a loft at 179 Stanton, a tenement building near the southeast corner.

Cohen told filmmaker/author Harry Rasky in 1979 that he wrote the melody for the song in 1968, but that the lyric didn’t arrive until a few years later – “The lyric developed somewhat later. I think it was in the early 70s, maybe. I was living with Marianne in a loft on Stanton St.”

Even though “Famous Blue Raincoat” reveals that the outer garment belongs to someone else, the liner notes of his 1975 greatest hits collection tell the truth. The famous raincoat did indeed belong to Cohen, and it was eventually stolen from the loft at 179 Stanton sometime around 1970.

I had a good raincoat then, a Burberry I got in London in 1959. Elizabeth thought I looked like a spider in it. That was probably why she wouldn’t go to Greece with me. It hung more heroically when I took out the lining, and achieved glory when the frayed sleeves were repaired with a little leather. Things were clear. I knew how to dress in those days. It was stolen from Marianne’s loft in New York sometime during the early seventies. I wasn’t wearing it very much toward the end.

179 Stanton Street shares its celebrity history with another legend, though. Marlon Brando also lived here.

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Photo: IMDB

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