The width of an index finger: that's all the distance that remained between the bullet planted in contemporary singer Marc Cohn's temple and his brain.
Two more centimeters, and he wouldn't have had his fourth son Samuel; his other three children would have been fatherless and his music legacy would have rested solely on his 1991 hit "Walking in Memphis."
Instead, the bullet was slowed by a windshield and grazed two other people in his van as Cohn departed Denver Botanic Gardens in Colorado after a performance in August of 2005. The next year, 27 year old Joseph Yacteen pled guilty to the attempted murder that occurred during the botched carjacking, netting him 36 years in prison.
"It was comforting to know that justice was done," Cohn shared in an interview with the Source. "He terrified me that night. The first thing people often ask me is was I targeted. That thought never entered my mind. Because it was so random, my association with him doesn't hold much weight."
Cohn's brush with death came during an interesting season of his life and resulted in an unexpected change to his approach to music.
"I went out on the road for that tour to just get myself reacquainted with my audience," explained Cohn. "I had always made my family a priority. I would take long breaks to be with my children. It's really strange that that event happened right then when I was trying to assert myself in my career. I had post-traumatic stress afterwards and...after dealing with some of those issues, in the end it served to make me more motivated to do what I do. I felt like I was given a second chance at a career. I've never worked more, or enjoyed working more."
In 2007, Cohn released Join the Parade, perhaps his most meaningful album since the 1991 platinum self-titled effort that earned him a Grammy for best new artist. The record was full of songs aimed at delineating the fallout from that August night. Cohn claims the most personally powerful track is "Live Out the String."
In that song, lyrics such as: "Maybe life is curious to see what you would do with the gift of being left alive" strike an extremely honest chord.
Since the death-defying incident, Cohn has plotted a very practical path for his life. He speaks about the future with a serene voice and contagious optimism.
"The thing you think is going to happen is that you're never look at life the same way. Nothing will get you down," said Cohn. "That doesn't last. I'm not wired that way. I still have to remind myself to keep focused on what's important; what's changeable, what isn't. I've learned a lot from it no doubt about it....I'm more of a one day at a time kind of person. It's really all about what I hope and wish for the people I love, not what I want to do."
According to Cohn, the shooting and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina were major catalysts that got him writing songs again. Until then, he hadn't released a new album of original material in seven years. As a result, the 54-year old is ready to keep making music for many years to come. But even if nothing he does matches the success of "Walking in Memphis," he says that's fine with him.
"Obviously I want to write another great song and have great collaborations," said Cohn. "I'm very proud of that song. It's been my calling card. It's been covered by six artists or something like that. I feel like the song isn't even mine any more. I've done the work and now it belongs to everyone else."
6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14
Athletic Club of Bend
61615 Athletic Club Dr.
Tickets $28 at Newport Market