The Story Behind Leonard Cohen’s “Sister of Mercy”

Cohen is known for his amazing songwriting abilities and he proved that many times. One of the first times he did that was when he wrote the song “Sisters of Mercy.” Believe it or not, Cohen finished the song in one sitting, lyrics and guitar chords.

To come up with fresh lyrics that tell a unique story is a challenge and to even come up with an amazing chord progression is not a simple thing to do in one sitting, but yet, Cohen did it.

Many artists who later covered and sampled the song all did it with an acoustic guitar to never diminish the melody Cohen created.

Cohen recalled one day he found met two young hitchhiking women during a snowstorm. Cohen invited the two to rest for the night at his hotel room and they accepted. Upon arrival at the room, the two went to bed instantly and rested for the night.

Cohen, on the other hand, stayed up and started writing a song about the entire experience.

In the song, Cohen told the story that the sisters were actually waiting for Cohen to meet them. Upon meeting them, he felt a strong sense of comfort and then afterwards this beautiful song.

Cohen also shared that the morning after, he finished the song and played it for the two women. The song was featured in the drama action film “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” directed by Robert Altman and released in 1971. Also, the song title even became an inspiration for a goth band “The Sisters of Mercy.”

Grammy-winning artist Sting even performed the song in 2017 during the Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen.  Several artists in the mainstream or not performed covers of this song.

The Sisters of Mercy” served as an inspiration for many songwriters throughout history. The entire composition of the song is truly a story worth telling for many years to come by.

Cohen is definitely one of the best songwriters in the world for all generations.

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