In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week: songs about ghosts.
Marc Cohn isn’t exactly a household name, but put “Walking In Memphis” on any bar jukebox and watch the whole joint light up with glee. The track that helped Cohn win a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1992 was actually inspired by a trip the Cleveland-born singer took down to Tennessee. He made the trek in 1986 and did, in fact, go to Graceland, heard Al Green preach the gospel, and saw W.C. Handy’s statue. He even watched a little old lady named Muriel Wilkins play the piano, and then had a long chat with her after about life, love, and religion.
What he didn’t do, though, was see Elvis Presley’s ghost. Though the song’s lyrics say Cohn “saw the ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue / Followed him up to the gates of Graceland / Then I watched him walk right through,” the singer says he’s always almost regretted even including a mention of The King in the song. Cohn says he’s found that Elvis’ name is so strong that even mentioning him makes fans think the song is about him, and that his sweet little sing-along about a town Elvis loved instead becomes just “another Elvis tribute.” Read the lyrics or think about the song critically, and it’s clear that’s not the case. Still, on the off chance that the ghost of the The King felt slighted, it’s worth noting that Cohn still helps Elvis get his phantom rocks off in the song. As the lyrics go, “There’s a pretty little thing / Waiting for the King / Down in the jungle room.”