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Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Sisters of Mercy

The Sisters of Mercy is my favourite Leonard Cohen song - and there are plenty of others competing with it. Listen to it here
A notorious perfectionist: Leonard Cohen Photo: Clara Molden
I think the test of a good song is when virtually any cover version of it has some (and sometimes much) merit.
Emmy Lou Harris and Linda Ronstadt recorded it here
Although I couldn't find it on You Tube there is great version by Dion if you happen to have Spotify. There is, of course, a great difference between lyrics and poetry but Leonard Cohen's lyrics can often be read as poetry:
Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone. 
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can't go on. 
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song. 
Oh I hope you run into them, you who've been travelling so long. 
Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control. 
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul. 
Well I've been where you're hanging, I think I can see how you're pinned: 
When you're not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you've sinned. 

Well they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them. 
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem. 
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn 
they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem. 

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon. 
Don't turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon. 
And you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night: 
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right, 
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.

The story, according to Leonard Cohen, is that he let a couple of girl hitch-hikers use his double-bed in a motel on a cold winter's night in Canada and, while they slept, he wrote the song in one go. He said that was the only time he wrote in that way.


John said...

Hi Bazza,
I always thought that the Sisters of Mercy were a group (which I have seen live back in the day!). Thank you for yet again increasing my knowledge!

Dixie@dcrelief said...

Bazza: One of my favorite artists, if not #1, in my life. Every other day I lean to listening, not only to the poetical lyrics, message, but also the melodies. Each contributes. As you can read, I have so much passion because Cohen says it so well; a talent that blesses me continuously. (PTL-baby!)
Also watched his London concert via videos; lucky Brits!!!

bazza said...

Hi John. Guess where that group got their name from! They actually sang a lot of Cohen's song but I'm not sure if they covered this one.

bazza said...

Dixie: 'Live in London' is a wonderful CD. And he's back again this Summer but he is continually touring the US as well; he may well be coming to Charlotte!

Alicia said...

Oh, dear, Bazza. I don't often disagree with you, but when I do ...

I know we're speaking of favorites, so there is no right or wrong, but have you ever watched this video of "Dance Me to the End of Love"?

Maybe it's just because I'm a widow that this song, this version resonates so deeply.

klahanie said...

Hi bazza,

Ah yes, Leonard Cohen. Very familiar with his music and poetry. In fact, in the high school I went to in Vancouver, he was part of our Social Studies curriculum course.

All the best.


bazza said...

Alicia: You are quite free to disagree with my choice! I went to look at that You Tube video but for some reason it's 'Not Available in the UK'! However, I saw it from the 2009 London Concert here:
Although I did know the song I never really took it on board but I must say I enjoyed it this time round. But I still prefer my choice :)
I'm also very fond of Bird on a Wire.

bazza said...

Hi Gary. Did that school experience put you off or do you like his work?

Kelly said...

Wow. I checked out the video clip of Linda Ronstadt and Emmy Lou Harris singing that song and it was really moving. I read the lyrics and you can feel the passion with which he wrote the words with in this song.

Enjoyed it very much, Bazza. The post and the song.

bazza said...

Hi Kez-man! It's pleasing to me that you like this song because, believe it or not, when I posted this I remember thinking that it would not be the kind of music you'd go for.
That's me put in my place!