“Chelsea Hotel #2” isn’t exactly a romantic song although the first two lines give you an impression that it could be one. But a few seconds into it and you’ll understand why it’s called “Chelsea Hotel No. 2.” And you’ll be like, “Well that escalated quickly.” Now the ultimate question is, who is this written for?
Leonard Cohen didn’t keep it a secret because for his live performances, he didn’t shy away from telling the audience this was about his sexual encounter with Janis Joplin. And he eventually realized his mistake since he said in a 1994 interview with BBC that what he did was “an indiscretion for which I’m very sorry, and if there is some way of apologising to the ghost, I want to apologise now, for having committed that indiscretion.”
It was true what happened – Cohen was at a low point in his life and Janis Joplin was in town to record “Cheap Thrills.”
“My lungs gathered my courage. I said to her, ‘Are you looking for someone?’ She said ‘Yes, I’m looking for Kris Kristofferson.’ I said, ‘Little lady, you’re in luck, I am Kris Kristofferson.’ Those were generous times. Even though she knew that I was someone shorter than Kris Kristofferson, she never let on. Great generosity prevailed in those doom decades.”
“She wasn’t looking for me, she was looking for Kris Kristofferson; I wasn’t looking for her, I was looking for Brigitte Bardot. But we fell into each other’s arms through some process of elimination.”
“The last time I saw her was on 23rd Street. She said, ‘Hey man, you in town to read poetry for old ladies?’ That was her view of my career.” – Leonard Cohen
Her untimely death shook him because he admired her work. And we totally understand him.