DENVER, CO — Following an August 7, 2005, concert at the Denver Botanic Gardens, a figure in black charged toward a van transporting singer-songwriter Marc Cohn and his entourage.
From the front seat, Cohn saw the running man pull out a gun. The singer instinctively shouted to the van’s other passengers, “Duck!” A shot sounded, glass shattered, and music star best known for the smash “Walking in Memphis” took a bullet square in the temple.
With blood cascading from his skull, Cohn took control of the still-moving vehicle’s steering wheel long enough for tour manager Tom Dubé to regain his bearings and speed off to the nearest emergency room. Dubé, who was driving, had himself been grazed by the bullet.
In the frantic rush, band member Shane Fontayne, who was seated behind Cohn, said:
“I could see a perfectly round hole in his head, which I knew had to be a bullet. He was looking to me for reassurance, and he was speaking of his family, his wife and his children and that he didn’t want to die, you know?”
Cohn remained talking and alert the entire time, with the slug visibly lodged in his temple.
Remarkably, the 1991 Grammy winner for Best New Artist not only survived this direct head shot and the subsequent emergency surgery, but he was up and out of the hospital the very next day.Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson spoke for many, including attending physician Dr. Jason Haukoos, when he said of Cohn: “Frankly, I can’t tell you how he survived.”
Officers hunted down and arrested Joseph William Yachteen, then 26, who had been out on a crime spree that evening.
Yachteen took shelter in an abandoned house as the cops moved in, prompting a six-hour standoff that ended with the use of tear gas. The shooter’s intention, he said, was to carjack the vehicle.
In 2006, Yachteen pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder in exchange for other charges being dropped. He got a sentence of 36 years.
Just a few weeks following his brush with gory death, Cohn stated:
“When the shock wears off, which it primarily has, I think you start to have to deal with the fact that the very useful bubble that you walk around in all the time, is now gone … There’ll be times where I’ll just be talking to somebody. And usually it’s some passing thought, either about the event, or one of my kids, or [my wife] Elizabeth, and I’ll just start crying … I need to make every moment fuller and appreciate it more.”
Since the shooting, Cohn has never stopped recording and touring.
Main photo: Marc Cohn/ “Silver Sessions” publicity image [Marc Cohn Music]