Monday Melody: Walking in Memphis (Marc Cohn)


I think Monday’s a day everyone could use a little music, so I decided to start a new regular feature on this blog, Monday Melodies. Each Monday, I will feature one song from the past that I really like and share it with my readers. I’ll give a little background about the song and explain why I like it so much.

This week’s selection is “Walking in Memphis” by singer-songwriter Marc Cohn.

This song was a big hit in 1991 and is the only hit for Marc Cohn. He wrote it after a trip to Memphis, Tennessee in 1985 which proved to be a musical and spiritual awakening for him. Many people think Cohn is a born-again Christian because of the line at the end, “Tell me, are you a Christian, child?” in which he replies, “Ma’am, I am tonight!” This is the song’s iconic line. It grabs your attention and pulls the whole narrative together. But Cohn is and was a New York Jew. He’s describing how he felt the pull of the religious fervor (and many would say the Holy Spirit) surrounding him as he sang “Amazing Grace” with 60 year old gospel singer Muriel Wilkins playing piano. (See the Wikipedia entry for more background.)

I love this song because to me, it’s perfect in nearly every way. Cohn’s voice is powerful and emotional, the lyrics are great, and the production isn’t overdone. It’s a song you don’t forget, and I think that’s why it’s still often heard on the radio, even though it’s 25 years old. It’s timeless. The gospel choir at the end gives me chills every time.  The way the song ends reminds me of waking up from a beautiful dream for some reason.

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