I remember reading various accounts of the song ‘Sisters of Mercy.’ I also don’t remember anything, except the snowstorm in Edmonton, it was very very – and I’m used to the snow, I come from Montreal. I know a lot about snow, but this I remember as a particularly ferocious storm, and I don’t know whether it was the part of Edmonton that I was in or the way it was laid out or the way the wind would come out right down from the north, but it was so strong that I had to seek shelter from the street. And I saw a doorway of a small building and I went in there, and there were two girls there also waiting till the storm laid down a bit, and I had a little room in a hotel which was called the… I have forgotten the name of it, I have to check some other persons’ account of the story. It looked out on the Edmonton river, just a little wooden hotel, nothing fancy. I think I was playing at a coffee shop nearby. Anyway, I invited the two young women to my room, and they were happy, because they were on the road and couldn’t afford a room. And they were road weary and there was a large bed and they fell asleep immediately in this big bed. And there was an easy chair beside the radiator right next to the window, and there was moonlight or I don’t remember, but it seemed to be the ice on the river, and it was very beautiful, a very beautiful northern view. And these two young women asleep in the bed. Whatever erotic fantasy I had had about the whole situation, evaporated very very quickly – everybody had different purposes, theirs was fatigue and rest, and mine was some kind of bewilderment as usual about the whole situation. So I was sitting there in that easy chair, that stuffed old chair. That was the first time I ever wrote a lyric from beginning to end without any revision. And I had a kind of tune, and I had my guitar there and I was playing it very very softly, and when they woke up, I’d play them the song, and everyone was very happy.
Leonard Looks Back On The Past (unedited interview for Norwegian Radio) by Kari Hesthamar, Los Angeles, 2005. Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles. Photo taken in Edmonton in 1966 by Rocco Caratozzolo, contributed by Kim Solez.