Marc Craig Cohn (born July 5, 1959) is an American folk rock singer-songwriter and musician. He won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1992. Cohn is best known for the song “Walking in Memphis” from his eponymous 1991 album; the song, which was a Top 40 hit, has been described as “an iconic part of the Great American Songbook.”
“Walking in Memphis” was originally recorded by American singer-songwriter Marc Cohn, for whom it remains his signature song. It received a Song of the Year nomination at the 34th Grammy Awards.
“Walking in Memphis” reached number 13 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1991. It is the only top-forty hit for Cohn. The song reached number three in Canada, number seven in Ireland, and number 11 in Australia. “Walking in Memphis” has since been covered several times, notably in 1995 by Cher and in 2003 by Lonestar.
Cohn has said that “Walking in Memphis” is “100 percent autobiographical”. He has described it as a song about “a Jewish gospel-music-lover”, and added that “the song is about more than just a place; it’s about a kind of spiritual awakening, one of those trips where you’re different when you leave. He was inspired to write “Walking in Memphis” by a 1985 visit to the Memphis, Tennessee, area. At the time, he was working as a session singer in New York City while pursuing a recording contract.
Released as the first single from Cohn’s self-titled debut album in March 1991, “Walking in Memphis” debuted at number 87 on the US Hot 100 in Billboard magazine dated March 30, 1991 with a subsequent two-month gradual chart ascent to the top 40, the single’s number 38 ranking on the Hot 100 dated May 25, 1991, inaugurating a ten-week top 40 tenure with a peak of number 13 for two weeks, the first week of which was dated July 6, 1991—one day after Cohn’s birthday. Overall “Walking in Memphis” spent 23 weeks on the Hot 100. “Walking in Memphis” was also a hit on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart (number 12) and crossed-over to the magazine’s C&W chart (number 74). In Canada the song peaked at number three on the week dated July 13, 1991.
During its original release, “Walking in Memphis” reached number seven in Ireland but stalled at number 66 in the United Kingdom; its September 1991 re-release returned “Walking in Memphis” to the Irish top 20 at number 16 and introduced the single to the UK top 30 with a peak of number 22. (The re-release of “Walking in Memphis” replaced the original B-side: “Dig Down Deep,” with a live version of “Silver Thunderbird” recorded July 17, 1991.) “Walking in Memphis” was also a top-twenty hit in both Australia and New Zealand, with respective chart peaks of number 11 and number 18. In Europe, the single charted in France (number 45), Germany (number 25), the Netherlands (number 54) and Sweden (number 36).
At the 34th Grammy Awards in February 1992, “Walking in Memphis” was nominated for Song of the Year. Also, Cohn was nominated for the Best Pop Male Vocalist award for his vocals in “Walking in Memphis”. Cohn did not win either award, although he did win the Grammy for Best New Artist that same year.