Fans who find themselves keenly missing Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen may find some solace in the latest episode of PBS’ Digital Studios animated webseries Blank On Blank. “Leonard Cohen On Moonlight” brings new life to a largely forgotten interview Cohen granted in December of 1974 to the New York noncommercial station WBAI. Cohen was 40 then and only seven years into his recording career, but he’d already established a sizable cult following in North America and Europe, and his songs had been covered by the likes of Judy Collins and James Taylor. “I’m always pleased when somebody sings a song of mine,” Cohen says here. “In fact, I never get over that initial rush of happiness when someone says they’re going to sing a song of mine.” He singles Collins out for praise, but admits he is almost never completely satisfied by performances of his work, not even his own.
The bulk of the five-and-a-half-minute video is devoted to the famously deep-voiced Cohen sonorously reading his own poem, “Two Went To Sleep,” misidentified by the interviewer as “Two Slept Together.” The dreamy images evoked by Cohen’s free association (“One tasted pencils / One was a child”) are rendered very literally through animation. Once this is concluded, the host asks Cohen to tell the story behind “Sisters Of Mercy,” a track from his 1967 debut album Songs Of Leonard Cohen. The singer said he was a lonesome stranger in the city of Edmonton one bitterly cold night when he encountered two friendly young women. The three spent a cozy night in Cohen’s hotel room, though nothing sexual occurred. The singer, unable to sleep, started writing a song about what had happened. By the next morning, “Sisters Of Mercy” was completed. “It’s one of the few songs I ever wrote from top to bottom without a line of revision,” he says.