Marc Cohn – “Walking In Memphis” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis” is a soulful reflection of his spiritual journey in Memphis, Tennessee, reflecting music, spirituality, and revelation themes. The song articulates Cohn’s experiences, encounters with the city’s musical heritage, and observations of Memphis’s vibrant cultural tapestry. Cohn encapsulates the essence of Memphis, symbolized by the vivid imageries of the Delta Blues, Elvis Presley, and Beale Street. It’s a harmonious blend of self-discovery and homage to the city’s musical roots.


Ever felt the soul of a city resonate with your own? Dive into the rich tapestry of Memphis with Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis” and uncover the spiritual and musical journey entwined within its lyrics!

“Walking in Memphis” Lyrics Meaning

“Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn conveys a profound journey of self-discovery and a deep connection to the city’s musical heritage. The song unfolds Cohn’s pilgrimage to Memphis, starting with him “touching down in the land of the Delta Blues.”

Cohn’s interaction with the “ghost of Elvis” symbolizes the enduring impact and the lingering presence of the iconic musician in the city, depicting Memphis as a sanctuary of musical history and heritage. This encounter is not just a literal walk but also a metaphysical journey through the musical soul of the city.

Cohn mentions “Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale,” highlighting the influence of Beale Street, renowned for its vibrant music scene. This elevation suggests a transcendental experience, possibly representing an overwhelming sense of connection to the city’s musical soul and a feeling of elation derived from the rich musical environment of Memphis.

The references to gospel music and Reverend Green depict the city’s strong spiritual foundations. The lines “Reverend Green be glad to see you when you haven’t got a prayer. But, boy, you’ve got a prayer in Memphis,” illustrate the redemptive and welcoming nature of the city’s spiritual community, offering solace and acceptance.

The interaction with Muriel at the Hollywood brings forth the concept of communal music making. Cohn’s performance and the subsequent inquiry about his faith depict the intertwining of music and spirituality in Memphis, culminating in his proclamation, “Ma’am, I am tonight,” emphasizing the transformative impact of his journey.

The Story Behind “Walking in Memphis”

When Marc Cohn penned “Walking in Memphis,” he was navigating through a pivotal period in his life, and his journey to Memphis was more than just a geographical one; it was a spiritual odyssey. Cohn, grappling with his creative purpose, was seeking solace and inspiration, and Memphis, with its rich musical and cultural heritage, offered a sanctuary of sorts.

The song reflects Cohn’s exploration of the vibrant tapestry of music, spirituality, and cultural diversity in Memphis. His encounters, from the musical legacy of Elvis to the living traditions of Beale Street and the spiritual nourishment offered by Reverend Green, are reflective of the diverse elements that constitute the city’s identity.

The amalgamation of experiences in Memphis, coupled with the transformative power of music and spirituality evident in the city, served as a rejuvenating force for Cohn. It allowed him to reconnect with his artistic roots and spiritual essence, drawing inspiration from the multifaceted character of Memphis. The essence of “Walking in Memphis” is not merely a portrayal of Cohn’s experiences; it’s a heartfelt homage to a city that resonates with musical history, spiritual depth, and cultural richness, encapsulating the universal allure of Memphis and its enduring impact on those who walk its streets.