“I do not think it matters much what a writer says about his work. The work becomes independent, leads a life of its own.” Leonard Cohen On Sisters Of Mercy

Interviewer: Another story is that of Barbara and Lorraine, two girls, who provided hospitality to Cohen when he was lost in a blizzard in Edmonton, Alberta in ’66. He tells that story whenever he begins Sisters of Mercy, because he wrote that song for those girls and in their sleeping presence. I never believed that story so much. I always took the song as a song about a brothel. I tell him that.

Leonard Cohen: I always dedicate that song to those girls, because it really happened as I say – we did not make love, but I wrote while they slept. But maybe you are right. I do not think it matters much what a writer says about his work. The work becomes independent, leads a life of its own. For you this is about something else for someone else. I’ve told you what it’s all about for me.

Interviewer: In the evening at the concert in Amsterdam, Leonard recounts the story of the two girls again, but adds:

Leonard Cohen: It’s not an allegory, it’s exactly what happened.

From Leonard Cohen – All culture is nail polish by Bert van de Kamp, OOR magazine No.21, October 23,. [Via Google Translate]. Photo by Sam Gray and copyrighted by Sam Gray with all rights reserved.  Thanks to Gordana Stupar, who alerted me to this article.

“[Sisters Of Mercy] was the first and only time I’ve written a song from beginning to end without a correction. I think it’s the prettiest song I’ve written.” Leonard Cohen

I wanted to know what the truth of Sisters Of Mercy was

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I was very lonely. I only had my guitar. And suddenly I found two girls who invited me to spend the night with them. I soon realized that this had nothing to do with sex. We just went to sleep because I was very tired. I woke up during the night and they were asleep. I started writing this song and when they woke up I sang it and I think I made them very happy. I think it was the first and only time I’ve written a song from beginning to end without a correction. I think it’s the prettiest song I’ve written. quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen Words And Silences by Constantino Romero (1974). Republished in Rockdelux 356 (December 2016). Via Google Translate. Photo by Pete Purnell

Leonard Cohen’s Notes On Sisters of Mercy: “Barbara and Lorraine were sleeping on the couch …”

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[Sisters of Mercy] was written in a few hours one winter night in a hotel room in Edmonton, Alberta. Barbara and Lorraine were sleeping on the couch. The room was filled with moonlight reflected off the ice of the North Saskatchewan River. I had it ready for them when they woke up.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From “Some Notes On The Songs” on back cover of The Best of Leonard Cohen album (1975)