Work To Do

Album: Work To Do (2019)

Songfacts®:

  • On this soulful track featuring the gospel group the Blind Boys of Alabama, Marc Cohn contemplates why he's been given more time on Earth than all the friends he's lost. The answer: "Maybe I still have work to do."
  • This is a personal song for Cohn, who was shot in the head during an attempted carjacking in 2005. Cohn was leaving a gig in Denver, Colorado, when Joseph W. Yacteen opened fire on the musician's van. "It was some kind of miracle that I survived that night," Cohn recalled to Rolling Stone. "I was told that the caliber of the bullet, along with the fact that it traveled through a windshield and grazed the driver's chin contributed to slowing down the bullet sufficiently enough to cause it to lodge a centimeter short of my skull - nestled in just enough soft tissue to save my life. I never lost consciousness, I watched them remove the bullet from my head. I stared at the x-ray in disbelief. One more centimeter and my children would have lost their father that night. Too many stories end that way. I was one of the lucky ones."
  • Cohn's close call made him a passionate advocate for gun safety. The song's music video, directed by the singer's daughter Emily, was released during National Gun Violence Survivors Week as part of the Everytown for Gun Safety movement. Inspired by Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" video, the clip features Cohn singing against a backdrop of animated stills. Meanwhile, an array of people use Post-it notes to share how they hope to create a better world. Some want to quit using plastic, some want to hug more, and others want to improve their mental health. At the end of the video, one note reveals, "Help stop gun violence."
  • Cohn had already worked with the Blind Boys of Alabama on their 2017 album, Almost Home, and wanted an excuse to make more music with them. He started thinking of a song that would suit their soulful voices and came up with "Work To Do." While Cohn certainly identifies with the song's sentiment as a survivor of a near tragedy, he had someone else in mind entirely while he was writing it. "I was thinking about Jimmy Carter (not our former president, but the oldest surviving member of the group at age 88), when I wrote the lyric to the song," he explained. "To my mind, it's an older man's song…a look back at a life with more miles behind than ahead… but still not over. Hopefully the song will resonate for people of all ages, but it was being able to witness Jimmy's daily work ethic as an 88 year old touring artist (who also happens to be blind), that essentially inspired the song."

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