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 Marc Cohn.
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. His mother died when he was two years old, and his father died ten years later. 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 University of California, Los Angeles and began to perform in Los Angeles-area coffeehouses.
He 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 a 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's producer, David Kershenbaum and collaborating later with engineer Ben Wisch and producer John Leventhal, Cohn released a self-titled solo album Marc Cohn in 1991, which was a huge hit, thanks to the massive success of "Walking In Memphis", that reached number 13 on the pop chart and was nominated for Song of the Year and Best Pop Vocal. Marc Cohn achieved gold-level sales by February 1992 and was certified platinum in 1996. Another cornerstone was "True Companion", a popular lovers song which even became the soundtrack to a live marriage proposal on US television's Johnny Carson Tonight Show. Cohn won the 1991 Grammy for Best New Artist award, beating out both Boyz II Men and Seal.
In May 1992, English dance music duo, Shut Up and Dance released a 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". The German dance group, Scooter reached No. 33 in 1996 when they covered the track as "I'm Raving".
In May 1993, Marc 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. However, the song, which was played during the opening sequence, was not released on the film's 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 Roseanne 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 solid live album, "Live 04-05". In August the same year, Cohn was shot in the head during an attempted carjacking in Denver, Colorado, following a concert with Suzanne Vega. The bullet struck him in the temple but did not penetrate his skull. Cohn was hospitalized and released the next day. Subsequently he released the compilation "The Very Best of Marc Cohn" in June 2006 and his 4th studio album, one of his most critically acclaimed records, "Join the Parade" in 2007 and followed it with well over 150 shows across the country.
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 album charts. 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 dozen tracks.
In 2013, Cohn is on tour opening for Bonnie Raitt.
Cohn is married to ABC News journalist Elizabeth Vargas, whom he met at the 1999 U.S. Open after being introduced by Andre Agassi. They have two sons, Zachary Raphael Cohn (born January 31, 2003) and Samuel Wyatt Cohn (born August 16, 2006). Cohn has two other children from previous relationships, a son, Max and a daughter, Emily.
1991 American Music Awards - Nominated for Favorite New Artist - Adult Contemporary
1991 Grammy Awards - Winner for Best New Artist
1992 Grammy Awards - Nominated for Pop Male Vocalist on "Walking in Memphis"