Marc Cohn to lead ‘Parade’ in Ann ArborWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Marc Cohn knows the healing powers of music.
“This may sound like a bit of hyperbole, but I believe it kind of saved my life a long, long time ago,” the singer-songwriter said. “I grew up in Cleveland and I lost my mom when I was 2, and I lost my dad when I was 12.
“The one thing I remember that got me through that early trauma and loss was the music I listened to and ultimately learned how to play.”
Music was there again for him in 2005 after being shot in the head during a carjacking following a concert in Denver. “Join the Parade,” released Oct. 9, is his first new disc since 1998.
Cohn will perform at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5, at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor with special guest Amy Correia. Tickets are $51, $36 and $26.
The man best known for the 1991 hit, “Walking in Memphis,” for which he earned a Best New Artist Grammy, answered a few questions last week from his New York City home.
Toledo Free Press: Did you find writing and recording “Join the Parade” to be therapeutic or cathartic?
Marc Cohn: The writing was completely cathartic and therapeutic. I was in the throes of some pretty difficult post-traumatic stress, and the writing was one of the biggest parts of my eventual healing. Sometimes it’s hard to view recording as therapeutic because it can be so frustrating because you’re trying to get on tape what you hear in your head. But, overall, it was an extremely healing process to just be able to finish an album, which is something I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do again, frankly.
TFP: You suffered writer’s block until you heard lines by writer Rick Bragg that inspired you to write “Dance Back From the Grave.” When did you hear those lines?
Cohn: I had just been shot a few weeks before Katrina hit and I think it was only a few days after Katrina hit that I heard these lines over a newscast. And the only lines I heard were the lines I used for the title, which had something to do with the people of New Orleans, whoever this writer was, I later found out it was Rick Bragg; he had always seen the people of New Orleans dance right up to the edge of the grave, which was a very clear image of the jazz parade, and this time the people of New Orleans would have to learn to dance back from the grave. And that immediately struck me as a fantastic song title. I started writing about New Orleans and then I realized this was a song about me, too. They were going to have to learn to dance back from near death and destruction, and so was I.
TFP: Would you indulge an older question and talk about the chance encounter with Muriel Davis Wilkins?
Cohn: It was at this old roadside catfish eatery on the border of Arkansas, and she was playing piano at this place called the Hollywood. And I was there visiting some friends in Memphis and sort of seeing the sights and, as a musician, just trying to soak up as much of the beauty of that place that I could. Muriel was the unexpected muse that I met at the end of the trip. We had a long conversation with each other even though she was a complete stranger. I told her I was a singer. She was a part-time schoolteacher when she wasn’t playing piano and singing gospel music and standards. She asked me up on the stage to sing with her and she became not only a very good, meaningful friend to me, but became my muse. She was the reason I wrote “Walking in Memphis” and probably many of the other songs that came after that that made up my first record.
TFP: What do you want fans to take from your music?
Cohn: I suppose ultimately what made me want to be a songwriter and a record maker was to try to move the listener in the same way I was moved as a listener when I was growing up. And if it helps people through some hard times like Van Morrison, Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell helped me, then that would be great. I’ve found over the years some of my songs sort of seem to play a role in some really important parts of people’s lives. I’m very grateful that seems to be happening. I just want people to be moved in some way, realizing, at the same time, that music is a very, very subjective thing. People who are supposed to find it will.