“Cohn has one of rock’s most soulful croons a rich, immediately recognizable tenor…” – Rolling Stone
Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Marc Cohn has been obsessed with pop music for as long as he can remember: I was hooked from day one. My older brother had a band that rehearsed in our basement, so I heard Bacharach, The Beatles, Ray Charles, and Motown coming up through the floorboards from the time I was six years old. By the time I was eleven though, the Beatles were breaking up and singer-songwriters were breaking through, and a lot of that music really resonated for me.
One Sunday morning in the early ’70s, a youngster in Cleveland caught an earful of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and his life was never to be the same. That kid was Marc Cohn, and soon after that morning, he bought everything Morrison had released to date, along with works by Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne. Soon thereafter, an older brother taught him a Ray Charles tune on the piano, and he joined a cover band, Doanbrook Hotel. He sang with them from junior high school until he left home for Oberlin College. All the while, Cohn learned to play guitar and was dabbling with the craft of songwriting, since the cover band played everything but the kind of songs he loved so dearly.
At Oberlin, Cohn taught himself to play piano and a lasting bond formed. After transferring to UCLA, he hit the Los Angeles coffeehouse circuit. Cohn then made yet another move, this time to New York to be with his fiance, and he formed the Supreme Court, a 14-piece band complete with horn section. Putting unusual spins on popular tunes, the band gained a following that included Carly Simon, who recommended they play at Caroline Kennedy’s wedding. That gig seemed like a good stopping point, and Cohn left the band to focus once again on his own songs.
He sent a piano/vocal demo to Atlantic Records and landed a deal, and from there he co-produced his debut with Ben Wisch with some assistance from John Leventhal. What emerged was a beautifully tasteful and intelligent album that included the hit Walking in Memphis and won Cohn a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. The Rainy Season followed in 1993 and was a thematic complement to Cohn’s debut. Folks like David Crosby and Graham Nash stepped up to the mike to lend their vocal support to this soulful new talent.
Cohn returned in 1998 with the release of Burning the Daze. Another studio hiatus followed, during which he released an independent live compilation. Cohn was also shot in the head when victimized by an attempted carjacking — thankfully, the musician recovered, and he subsequently released Join the Parade in 2007.
In 2010, Cohn returned with Listening Booth: 1970, a collection of cover songs that were originally released during the titular year. 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.
Listening Booth:1970 ultimately brings Cohn back to where he began– writing songs like Walking In Memphis which spoke so eloquently about the transforming, healing power of music. Like that hit single, Listening Booth: 1970 is really the soundtrack to his life.
As Cohn reflects, It seemed like such a natural progression for me to do a record like this because, if you’ve been following my records from my first single, I have been paying tribute to musicians through my writing all along, from Al Green to Elvis to Levon Helm to Charlie Christian – it’s really been a touchstone for me. Now I’m just repaying a debt of gratitude to the artists who’ve changed my life and taught me how to do what I do.”