summer issue featuring kevin costner
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winter featuring doug friedlander
fall07 featuring Shu Ming
Spring 07 featuring Sara Kalvin
 

Vc Lifre and Style

Marc Cohn

Marc Cohn

Vc Lifes and Style

Vc Lifes and Style

Marc Cohn

Marc Cohn

Vc Lifes and Style

 

Marc Cohn
Living out the String

Story & Interview by Amy Jones
Photos by Dina Pielaet

When Marc Cohn’s gospel hued monster hit, Walking in Memphis, won him a Grammy the music world eagerly awaited continued greatness. Rock icon, David Crosby said, “…Marc Cohn is easily in the top half dozen talents in the world. He writes and sings at an amazing level. He has consistently written some of the best songs in American music. I rank him with Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Paul Simon, and Shawn Colvin. I believe his music will last and be loved hundreds of years from now.”

Marc Cohn works by his own rules. Between an intense commitment to family and his demand for the highest quality and depth in his recordings, years went by between releases and tours. Despite that, he maintains a huge following, and a reputation in the business as “one of the all-time great songwriters.” This summer when it was announced that Cohn was releasing not one but two albums, and hitting the road again with his band and co-headliner Suzanne Vega, many could hardly wait. Concert venues sold out. Ironically just a few weeks into his tour, Marc had a life-changing experience, one that brought him just about as close to death as one can go. We spoke with him before and after that day in Denver when as Marc puts it, “I met the devil in the street.”

On July 27th, we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway from Ventura to the Santa Monica pier. Suzanne Vega, the great folk singer/songwriter opened the show. Marc Cohn and his fabulous band, each stars in their own right, jammed like it was Sunday. They are Shane Fontayne (guitar), Jennifer Condos (bass) and Jay Bellerose (percussion). It was a musician’s musical night enjoyed outside with crisp ocean breezes and a colorful crowd. Live TV cameras broadcast the concert on the side of huge white trucks for the audience that had to take up spots in the sand below the crowd on the pier. And, hundreds of lights and candles twinkled like fireflies.

Marc Cohn has an uncanny ability to inspire in his audience a profound hope in the best person they might be. The maturity of his songs cuts right to the heart of what is most important in life. It was remarkable to hear how often his fans said things like, “This is the song I want to sing my wife.” “This is the song I would sing to my child.” “This is the song I want played at my funeral.” Cohn’s music flows out from the stage delivering precious kernels of truth to each person present, creating an evening that is both sublime and poignant.

His work evokes a kind of odyssey experience – a southern fried vision quest marked by pivotal moments and encounters along his life’s journey. Each line of every song holds a story, crafted for infinite possibilities of interpretation, the hallmark of all great story tellers.

One morning about ten days after the Santa Monica concert, our office was planning our Cohn cover story. I was piling over notes about the rich references in his songs, lines like “there’s catfish on the table and gospel in the air.” About the tragedy in his life, of losing his mother and then his father at such a young age that is at the heart of appreciating the wisdom, joy and power in his songs. The story about his life changing trip to Memphis where he visited Al Green’s church and sang with an old, sage-like black singer named Muriel, who mysteriously peered into Marc’s soul, dispensing pearls of wisdom that changed his life.

How many terrible things begin with a phone call, I wondered when we got the call that, “Marc Cohn was shot in the head in Denver.” That’s all we were told.

We huddled around the computer searching for information. One of Marc’s lyrics, “I saw the ghost of Elvis,” actually drifted into mind, painting a sad picture of our cover story that might now, it seemed almost certainly, be a memorial. Marc is married to our Creative Director’s cousin, and it was wrenching to witness the process of bracing for tragedy about to ripple through the rest of the family. Work came to a halt. Doors were locked. Phones set to message service.

Another online news report confirmed that Marc Cohn had been shot in the head by a car-jacker in Denver after a concert as he and his band members were on their way back to the hotel. We stood around the computer monitor, hands over our mouths, in shock, thinking, people just don’t usually survive being shot in the head. The worst seemed to be reality.

It seemed hours before we came across another internet source that reported doctors were able to remove the bullet that was lodged in Marc’s temple. Miraculously, he would recover. Fate had smiled on Marc Cohn in Denver. We breathed a collective sigh of relief and pictured his wife Elizabeth in flight on her way to be with him.

Later when we saw an X-ray of the bullet so precariously lodged in a small pocket of soft tissue, it seemed impossible that Marc Cohn still walked among the living.

Even though it looked like he was going to be ok physically, Marc and his band members were needless to say, emotionally stricken. It also went without saying that our upcoming interview would be postponed at the very least. However, almost a month later, to the day, we did end up talking to Marc on the phone, us in Ventura, him in Manhattan, about his horrifying ordeal, his music and what it might mean that he had been spared.

Marc’s wife is Elizabeth Vargas, anchorwoman of ABC’s television show, 20/20 and when her network presented the story of Marc Cohn’s carjacking in Denver, we got a chance to see him recovered somewhat from his injuries, but looking frail, vulnerable and still in shock. Elizabeth recounted Marc’s almost childlike recollection; that the gunman who shot into the windshield of his van, looked like “a monster.”

When Dina Pielaet, our Creative Director, spoke to Marc for the first time after the event at the start of our interview and after many exchanged sentiments, she said that he looked like his head was above water and blue skies were above, but that he must feel a little like he’s caught in an undertow. And, Marc replied, “I look ok, but people don’t know…Undertow is an accurate word to describe what it feels like hour-to-hour…I’m trying to process….One of the things that is actually a relief is that it was so random and that it wasn’t a fan. That would be much more difficult to handle.”

If you would like to continue reading our Feature Story for our Fall 2005 please call: 805.641.9303 or click here for details on how to order back issues.

For more information about Marc Cohn, his records and tour dates visit:
marccohn.net (includes sound clips & Marc Cohn Live 04/05 with the new song One Safe Place) and marccohn.org (official fan site)

Marc Cohn

Marc Cohn

Marc Cohn

 

 

 
 

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