Marc Cohn

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Marc Cohn
File:Marc Cohn in Saratoga.jpg
Marc Cohn performing in Saratoga, New York
Background information
Birth name Marc Craig Cohn
Born (1959-07-05) July 5, 1959 (age 59)
Origin Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Genres Rock, folk rock, alternative country, soft rock[1]
Instruments Vocals, guitar, piano
Years active 1991–present

Marc Craig Cohn (born July 5, 1959) is a Grammy Award-winning American folk rock singer-songwriter and musician best known for his song "Walking in Memphis" from his eponymous 1991 album.[2]


Early life and education

Cohn was born on July 5, 1959, in Cleveland, Ohio. He graduated from Beachwood High School in Beachwood, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb. Cohn learned to play guitar and started writing songs when he was in junior high school, playing and singing with a local band called Doanbrook Hotel. While attending Oberlin College, he taught himself to play the piano. He transferred to UCLA and began to perform in Los Angeles-area coffeehouses.


Cohn then moved to New York City and embarked on demoing songs for various writers, including Jimmy Webb, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Working initially as a backup artist in recording sessions, he established secure professional footing after assembling the Supreme Court, a 14-piece cover band, who played at Caroline Kennedy's wedding in 1986. In 1987, Cohn performed two songs ("One Rock and Roll Too Many" and "Pumping Iron") on the Phil Ramone-produced concept album of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express, Music and Songs from Starlight Express.

In 1989, Cohn was a backing pianist for singer Tracy Chapman on her second album. The job led to a contract with Atlantic Records in the early 1990s after label executives heard a demo disc featuring Cohn on piano and vocals. Working initially with Chapman producer David Kershenbaum, and collaborating later with engineer Ben Wisch and producer John Leventhal, Cohn released his debut solo album, Marc Cohn, in February 1991.[3] The album was hugely successful, thanks to Cohn's hit song "Walking in Memphis", which was nominated for Song of the Year and Best Pop Vocal at the 34th Annual Grammy Awards. The album was certified Gold by the RIAA in February 1992 and certified Platinum in 1996. Another cornerstone was "True Companion", a popular lovers song, which became the soundtrack to a marriage proposal aired on US television's The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Cohn won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, besting the notable debuts of Boyz II Men and Seal, among others.

In May 1992, English dance music duo Shut Up and Dance released the single "Raving I'm Raving" which reached No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart. Their song borrowed heavily from Cohn's hit "Walking in Memphis". German dance group Scooter reached No. 33 in 1996 when they covered the track as "I'm Raving".

In May 1993, Cohn released his second studio album, The Rainy Season, which included notable guest appearances by David Crosby, Graham Nash and Bonnie Raitt. The album peaked at number 63 on the album charts. He toured extensively in the early 1990s, including a trip to Australia with headliner Bonnie Raitt, and recommitted himself to find poetry in his life and bring it to his art. Cohn wrote the song "My Great Escape" for the 1995 Peter Horton film The Cure. The song can be heard during the film's opening sequence but was not released on the Dave Grusin soundtrack album.

Cohn was quiet for several years, returning in 1998 with the release of his third solo effort Burning the Daze. For that album, Cohn worked largely with his old colleague Leventhal, adding some cuts coordinated with producer Malcolm Burn. He was joined on the album once again by popular artists, including country music's Rosanne Cash. Following the release of Burning Daze, Cohn went on spring and summer tours in 1998. The following year he contributed to Kris Kristofferson's highly collaborative Austin Sessions. He has added vocals to recordings by Roseanne Cash, Shawn Colvin, and Rodney Crowell, and in 2002 was heard on Jackson Browne's "Naked Ride Home". Cohn's original tunes have been recorded by many popular singers, including Susan Anton and John Tesh. In 2005, Cohn compiled and self-released a live album, Live 04-05.

In August of the same year, Cohn was shot in the head during an attempted carjacking in Denver, Colorado,[4][5][6] following a concert with Suzanne Vega.[citation needed] Amazingly, the bullet "barely missed Cohn's eye and lodged near his skull;" Cohn was hospitalized for observation but released after 8 hours, and is quoted as saying, "doctors told me I was the luckiest unlucky guy they had met in a long, long time."[7] Cohn is reported to have experienced post-traumatic stress following the event, and the question "Why did I come that close?" and the events of Hurricane Katrina contributed to the emotion that he introduced in the track "Dance Back from the Grave," in Join the Parade (October 2007),[8] his fourth studio album.[citation needed] In the interim, the compilation The Very Best of Marc Cohn (June 2006) was also released.[citation needed]

In 2010, Cohn returned with Listening Booth: 1970, a collection of cover songs that were originally released during the titular year. The album peaked at number 28 on the Billboard 200 album chart. In addition to crossing genres from rock to soul to folk and pop, it features vocal performances from India.Arie, Jim Lauderdale, Aimee Mann and Kristina Train on a third of the album's 12 tracks.[9][10][11][12]

Personal life

Cohn was married to ABC News journalist Elizabeth Vargas, whom he met at the 1999 U.S. Open after Vargas sought an interview with Cohn's friend, Andre Agassi.[7] They have two sons, Zachary and Samuel[7] (born, respectively, January 31, 2003, and August 16, 2006).[citation needed] Cohn has two children from his first marriage: a son, Max, born 1991, and a daughter, Emily, born 1994.[7][13][better source needed] As of December 2014, Cohn and Vargas were reportedly in the midst of a divorce mediation process.[14]




Title Album details Peak chart
(sales thresholds)
Marc Cohn 38 15 14 27
The Rainy Season
  • Release date: May 25, 1993
  • Label: Atlantic Records
63 46 60 24
Burning the Daze
  • Release date: March 17, 1998
  • Label: Atlantic Records
114 64 153
Marc Cohn Live 04/05
  • Release date: 2005
  • Label: United Musicians
The Very Best of Marc Cohn
  • Release date: June 20, 2006
  • Label: Atlantic/WEA
Join the Parade
Listening Booth: 1970
  • Release date: July 20, 2010
  • Label: Saguaro Road Records
28 81 86
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
1986 "The Heart of the City" single-only
1991 "Walking in Memphis" 13 12 7 74 3 5 25 22 Marc Cohn
"Silver Thunderbird" 63 22 31 18 87 54
"True Companion" 80 24
"29 Ways"
1992 "Ghost Train" 74
"Strangers in a Car"
1993 "Walk Through the World" 121 28 26 20 51 37 The Rainy Season
"Paper Walls"
"The Rainy Season"
1995 "Turn on Your Radio" For Love of Harry: Everybody Sings Nilsson
1998 "Already Home" Burning the Daze
"Healing Hands"
"Lost You in the Canyon"
2007 "Listening to Levon" Join the Parade
2010 "Look At Me" Listening Booth: 1970
"Wild World"
2014 "The Coldest Corner in the World" single-only
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


  • "Marc Cohn Live: Limited Edition EP" (2005)
  • "Rhino Hi-Five: Marc Cohn" (2005)
  • "Join the Parade Live EP" (2008)


  1. Mark Stock. "Bonnie Raitt, Marc Cohn | Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall | Portland, Oregon". Retrieved 2014-04-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Marc Cohn". Retrieved April 12, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Kelly McCartney (July 5, 1959). "Marc Cohn | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-08-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Marc Cohn shot in head during car jacking – today > entertainment – Music". August 8, 2005. Retrieved 2014-04-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Marc Cohn Shooter Gets 36 Years in Prison". Billboard. Retrieved 2014-04-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Singer Marc Cohn Shot in Denver Carjack Attempt – 7NEWS Denver". August 9, 2005. Retrieved 2014-04-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Dyball, Rennie (2007). "Singer's Second Chance". People (online and print, November 12, archived). Vol. 68 (20A). Retrieved 2 December 2015. [Subtitle: He Had a Huge Hit with 'Walking in Memphis,' but Marc Cohn Nearly Lost It All When a Carjacker Shot Him at Close Range.] 'After playing a show in Denver on Aug. 7, 2005, Cohn climbed into a van with his band and noticed "somebody off in the distance, running very fast," he recalls, "and about five seconds later this figure just stands in front of the van. I think I was the only person who [saw] the gun." In a failed carjacking attempt, the gunman (Joseph Yacteen, who was sentenced to 36 years in prison for attempted first-degree murder) fired one shot through the windshield; the bullet hit the singer's left temple. "The first sensation I felt was just blood," he says. At the hospital, "doctors told me I was the luckiest unlucky guy they had met in a long, long time." The bullet barely missed Cohn's eye and lodged near his skull. After it was removed, he was kept under observation for just eight hours before being released... It's a question that dogged him in the weeks that followed—which coincided with Hurricane Katrina. Watching TV coverage of the storm, Cohn—who hails not from Memphis but Cleveland—was struck by a line from an essay by writer Rick Bragg about the people of New Orleans: "But I have seen these people dance, laughing, to the edge of the grave. I believe that, now, they will dance back from it." And with that, his creativity surged. "I thought, that's a song I can write. 'Dance Back from the Grave.' It would be a story to tell about New Orleans,"<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Marc Cohn: Join the Parade Video (now on YouTube) Video on YouTube
  9. "Marc Cohn Biography". Retrieved April 13, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Marc Cohn Biography". Retrieved April 13, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Marc Cohn Biography". Retrieved April 13, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Marc Cohn Biography". Retrieved April 13, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. The birth years offered are based on the ages appearing in the preceding citation.
  14. Smith, Emily (2014). "Elizabeth Vargas Leans on Coworker Through Sobriety, Divorce". New York Post / Page Six (online, December 14). Retrieved 2 December 2015. [Cohn] and Vargas are going through divorce mediation, but papers have not yet been signed.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 186. ISBN 0-89820-188-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Mariah Carey
Grammy Award for Best New Artist
Succeeded by
Arrested Development