The Reason Leonard Cohen Apologized To Janis Joplin After Her Death

Many of the most iconic songs of all time came about what artists were going through at the time. Any life experience, such as relationships, breakups, friendships, family, or mental health struggles, all served as inspirations for the artists. They have taken the challenges in their lives and turned them into music that speaks to millions of people listening to it in some corner of the world.

While artists sometimes choose to reveal the inspiration behind their works, they may also leave the song open to interpretation by the listeners. Many of our favorite songs tend to have some pretty unexpected backstories. Now let’s look at the inspiration behind Leonard Cohen‘s ‘Chelsea Hotel #2’ and also why he apologized to Janis Joplin about it after her death.

Leonard Cohen Released ‘Chelsea Hotel #2’ In 1974

‘Chelsea Hotel #2’ appeared on Leonard Cohen’s fourth studio album, ‘New Skin for the Old Ceremony,’ released in 1974. When introducing this song in his concerts, Leonard Cohen revealed its story. He admitted that the song was about a brief affair he had with Janis Joplin at the time. Their encounter happened at the home of numerous prominent names, the Chelsea Hotel, where Cohen stayed.

Janis Joplin was also there at the same time as him. The two ran into each other in the elevator and then started a conversation. They spent the night together but met only a few times after that. Although it was a brief affair, it became a big inspiration for Cohen to write ‘Chelsea Hotel #2.’ He would repeatedly tell this story in his concerts for years, yet he regretted doing that later on.

Why Did Leonard Cohen Apologize To Janis Joplin After Her Death?

The song’s original title was ‘Chelsea Hotel,’ but Leonard Cohen reworked the lyrics and turned them into a more profound piece. He named it ‘Chelsea Hotel #2’ to distinguish it from the previous version. In his concerts, Cohen made it clear that the person he referred to in the song was Janis Joplin, but he began to feel remorse for telling that story over the years.

During a BBC broadcast in 1994, Leonard Cohen explained that he deeply regretted it since he openly gave Janis Joplin’s name and revealed the very personal story behind the two. The singer said he didn’t like doing these things, yet he somehow associated Joplin’s name with the song, and he felt terrible after. Thus, he apologized to Janis Joplin years after her death for having made known what happened between them publicly.

Leonard Cohen’s words on his regret about Janis Joplin:

“There was the sole indiscretion, in my professional life, that I deeply regret because I associated a woman’s name with a song, and in the song I mentioned, I used the line ‘Giving me head on an unmade bed while the limousines wait in the street,’ and I’ve always disliked the locker-room approach to these matters.

I’ve never spoken in any concrete terms of a woman with whom I’ve had any intimate relationships, and I named Janis Joplin in that song. I don’t know when it started, but I connected her name with the song, and I’ve been feeling very bad about that ever since. It’s an indiscretion for which I’m very sorry, and if there is some way of apologizing to the ghost, I want to apologize now for having committed that indiscretion.”

You can listen to the song below.