‘Walking in Memphis’ was the hit song written and sung by Marc Cohn in 1991. It was his first visit to meet influential musicians like Elvis Presley, Isaac Hayes, and Al Green. The song symbolizes the personality and appeal of Memphis. Each line of the song reveals green thongs and sightseeing spots in the soul city.
How was the song inspired?
Cohn was suffering from a dry spell in writing lyrics. His first inspiration was songwriter and singer James Taylor. James broke his block going to a place he had never gone before. Cohn got the inspiration to a new location and chose Memphis.
You will learn from the song that he did touristy things like visiting Graceland and even explored the off-beaten attractions like the Hollywood Café and the Tabernacle Church.
References to Elvis and
You will find few lyrics about Elvis because Cohn wrote the song as an epitome of his overall city experience. Music in Memphis is associated with Elvis and some other locations, which you can check on a trip.
- Sun studio – The first line mentions ‘Blue suede shoes’, a song of Elvis Presley recorded in the Sun Studio. In 2003, Sun Studio was declared as a National Historic Landmark.
- Lanksy Brothers – Lansky’s family was the first stylist of Elvis, who was responsible for giving him the glitzy looks. Blue suede shoes can be purchased from Lansky Brothers on Beale Street and on the Peabody Hotel’s other side.
- Union Avenue – ‘Ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue’ got written in the lyrics because when Crohn visited Memphis theories were swirling around that his ghost had been seen around the world. Union Avenue is the main route to Graceland.
- Graceland – The ‘gates of Graceland’ and ‘tomb’ of Elvis are mentioned. Elvis Presley’s mansion is called Graceland, where he lived. He was buried on the grounds. The property gates have metalwork depicting guitar players and music notes.
Mention of Blue music
Blue Music originated in Mississippi Delta and is referred to as the ‘Land of Delta Blues’ in the song.
- Beale Street – It is designated as ‘Home of Blues’. In the early 1900, it gained notorious popularity as an entertainment area housing clubs and restaurants. This 2-mile long street has turned into a major tourist destination.
- W.C. Handy Park & Statue – Handy was the pioneer of the blues genre, who performed with his band on the Beale Street in 19902.
Mention of Gospel Music
Cohn mentioned Rev. Al Green, who became a destined minister and recorded the Gospel song.
- Full Gospel Tabernacle Church – Friends suggested that if Cohn desired to get full Gospel experience then visit the Tabernacle Churn led by his favored blue singer, Al Green.
- Hollywood Café – The words ‘Muriel at the Hollywood’ refers to a food greasy spot in Robinsonville, where Gospel singer Muriel frequently performed. It was a suggestion from a friend but Cohn met this old school teacher. Both played on the stage even if their common songbooks were different.
There is an ironic lyric in the song, ‘Tell me are you a Christian Child?’ with another line rephrasing ‘Ma’am, I am tonight!’ Cohn was Jewish and did not become a Christian but it implies he had a ‘moment with Jesus’ when he performed on the stage with Muriel at Hollywood Café.