Pop Talk

Beachwood native Marc Cohn discusses the first record he ever bought, paying tribute and why he's a fan of the hiatus.

Long before "Walking in Memphis," a 7-year-old Marc Cohn made the mile and a half walk from his house to John Wade Records on Shaker Square. "It was the first time my parents let me go out by myself," he recalls. At the store, Cohn purchased a copy of the Merrilee Rush single Angel of the Morning.

"I still remember what a thrill it was to play it at home," he says. "That was the beginning of my obsession with pop music."

Cohn was a quick study, singing on the WMMS Coffee Break Concert while still a junior at Beachwood High School. His 1991 debut album, Marc Cohn, was a critical and commercial success, reaching platinum status with the single "Walking in Memphis" becoming one of the biggest hits of the year. A Grammy for Best New Artist followed, and his early albums featured appearances by the likes of James Taylor, David Crosby, Graham Nash and Bonnie Raitt.

Cohn is touring with Raitt this spring, and the tour includes a May 23 stop at the Akron Civic Theatre. "She's my favorite singer, and to get back on the road with her is such a gift," he says. "I toured with Bonnie 20 years ago in Australia and New Zealand, and Bob Dylan headlined a few of those shows, which made it even more miraculous."

Raitt's new album, Slipstream, ends a long absence from the music scene. It's something with which Cohn is very familiar. "I'm a big fan of the long hiatus," he laughs. "It's part of the cyclical nature of my creative process."

On 2010's Listening Booth: 1970, Cohn paid homage to the artists he discovered at the record store all those years ago. "The idea of being an interpreter of someone else's songs always appealed to me. I honor lots of musicians explicitly in my songs. To me, Levon Helm and Al Green are forms of biblical references."

Cohn says has been approached about working on a Broadway project, but for now he is touring and spending time with wife Elizabeth Vargas of ABC News and their two sons.

"There will always be interest in a well-sung song and an interesting narrative," he says. "Good music always finds its audience."

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