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Life Events Broke Marc Cohn's Writer's Block

Of the Oakland Press

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Marc Cohn acknowledges he was suffering from a bit of a songwriting block prior to starting work on “Join the Parade,” his first set of new material in nine years.

But the combination of being shot during a Denver carjacking in 2005 and the subsequent tragedy of Hurricane Katrina “jolted me back into creativity,” he says.

“It’s very simple; I just didn’t have 10 songs that I loved,” explains Cohn, who’s best known for the 1991 hit “Walking in Memphis,” which helped him win that year’s Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

“I had songs. I had an album, but not a strong enough one for a long time. It was really about getting to a place where I believed not only in the songs individually but how they worked together as a whole. It was that simple and that difficult. It was frustrating.”

The first song Cohn wrote for “Join the Parade” was “Dance Back From the Grave,” which was inspired by, and uses parts of, author Rick Bragg’s account of post-Katrina New Orleans.

“This one line immediately drew me in: ‘I’ve always seen the people of New Orleans dance right up to the edge of the grave. I guess now they’ll have to dance back from it,’ ” recalls Cohn, who’s in the midst of his first full-band tour in a decade. “It was an incredible image ... and it struck me harder because I’d just been shot.

“I tracked (Bragg) down ’cause I wanted to actually use things he wrote; a good one-third of that lyric was taken from that piece, so he’s the co-writer of the song. That’s the only way to do it.”

Marc Cohn and Amy Correia perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday (Nov. 5) at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $51, $36 and $26. Call (734) 668-8463 or visit www.michtheater.org.

Web Site: www.michtheater.org

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