Ohio Rocks! Hit songs from legendary Ohioans- 'Walking In Memphis'
One of the most popular and beloved songs of the last few decades was written and produced by a guy from Cleveland, Ohio. Singer/songwriter Marc Cohnis the creator of Walking in Memphis, one of the biggest ‘recent classic’ songs around.
If you’ve listened to adult contemporary radio stations, sang karaoke, been to your local bar, or even shopped in a grocery store, you’ve heard Walking in Memphis being played. It’s one of those songs…the ones that get absorbed into the fabric of our everyday lives because it’s so special.
The man behind the masterpiece, Cohn, was born in Cleveland on July 5th, 1959. He’d later graduate from Beachwood High School, and then attend Oberlin College, both of them Ohio based schools. A few years into college, he transferred to UCLA, and made his way into the recording industry.
Cohn was doing studio session work in New York while trying to score a record deal. In doing so, he came to the realization that he didn’t have any songs that he thought were good. So, in an effort to find inspiration, he took a trip to Memphis, Tennessee. And, he found his inspiration. An odyssey which took place in Memphis ended up becoming a song, of which Cohn has said was, “100 percent autobiographical.”
Walking in Memphis was the first single released from his self-titled debut album in March of 1991. A few months later, the single peaked at the number 13 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. A few more months later, Walking in Memphis was nominated for a Song of the Year Grammy and Cohn himself nominated for Best Pop Male Vocalist and Best New Artist, which he did win the award for.
Despite its peak Billboard chart position, Walking in Memphis continued to captivate new fans for the last few decades. It’s especially done well on adult contemporary stations, where it stays even now in heavy rotation. You have to wonder if the song’s 1991 chart performance had to do with the song having to battle the Hip-Hop and R&B songs of its day. Walking in Memphis probably was trapped on either side by I Wanna Sex You Up and Motownphilly. Away from pop music, it seems that the song has had a chance to breathe, giving it a new life.
Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, when you hear Walking in Memphis, you always feel like you're walkin’ with your feet ten feet off of Beale.
Miami Valley Music Focus explores the places and people behind the music of Southwest, Ohio. This series is made possible by support from Ohio Arts Council.