The late Canadian folk musician Leonard Cohen was many things - singer, poet, painter, novelist. But he was no casanova - well, at least he wasn't on a bitter-cold Canadian night in 1967. However, he did find a way to turn sexual frustration into art in the form of the song, Sisters of Mercy, as Blank on Blank revealed in a cartoon created to honor the singer who died last week.

Blank on Blank is a PBS Digital Studios production featuring artist journalists who give life to old interviews by animating the stories told by famous subjects such as Cohen. "The future of journalism is remixing the past," according to the bio for the group's YouTube channel. To honor Cohen, they animated a rare 1974 interview that Cohen gave on New York City's WBAI FM. 

“I don’t feel any compulsion just to stand under the spotlight night after night unless I have something to say,“ the modest artist said of his attitude toward fame.

But luckily for us, he felt compelled to open up about the origins of one of his best songs during that interview.

"I was walking along one of the main streets of Edmonton [in 1967]. It was bitter cold. And I knew no one. And I passed these two girls in a doorway. And they invited me to stand in the doorway with them. And of course I did. Sometime later we found ourselves in my little hotel room in Edmonton, and the three of us were going to go to sleep together."

And that got the young musician's hopes up.

"Of course I had all kinds of erotic fantasies of what the evening might bring," he said. "[But] it became clear that that wasn't the purpose of the evening at all."

So Cohen channeled that disappointment into creativity.

"At one point in the night, I found myself unable to sleep. I got up, and by the moonlight, it was very, very bright. The moon was being reflected off the snow. And I wrote [Sisters of Mercy] by the ice-reflected moonlight, while these women were sleeping. And it was one of the few songs I ever wrote from top to bottom without a line of revision. The words flowed, and the melody flowed. And by the time they woke up the next morning, it was dawn, and I had this completed song to sing for them."

The tune is a moving tribute to those women - not the sort of musical screed that you might expect from a singer who got shot down twice at once. Cohen had class.

Check out the full interview (the story about his encounter with the women begins around the 3:10 mark), followed by the song, below.

Banner image: wikipedia.org