UBToday Online Alumni Magazine - Winter 1998
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Georgia Burnette
Mark Cohen
Milton Rogovin
Olenka Bodnarskyj

Mark Cohen
Train ride 25 years ago inspires song about Buffalo

Mark Cohen, B.A. '68, has written and recorded what he calls "a love song to Buffalo" that will soon be released as a CD in the Buffalo market and beyond.

The song was written and first recorded years ago on one of Cohen's albums for Folkways Records, which include Fare Well Traveller and Plutonium. At the time, Cohen was a working musician who, after graduating from UB with a degree in English, played guitar in a 12-piece soul band called The Ingredients of Love, traveling and performing throughout Europe. The new song was recorded at New York's M & I Recording Studios, recording home of Lou Rawls, Leon Redbone, B.B. King and Bill Cosby.

As Cohen tells the story, "Buffalo" was conceived one November night 25 years ago at Gerdy's Folk City in New York's Greenwich Village. "Preparing to take a train to Buffalo out of Penn Station the next morning," Cohen recalls, "I jotted down on a scrap of paper, 'Is it snowing in Buffalo?'

"The next day, the train ran its course along the Hudson River, turning at Albany and heading west. Somewhere around Utica, I looked across the western plains and in my mind's eye saw the traces of Indian tribes and the buffalo herds that once roamed the land."

Along the mighty Hudson the iron train does roll

Headed to recapture the yearnings of a soul

As all the towns that race by fade into eternity

Until we reach the northern point and turn at Albany

And I wonder as I watch the river flow

Is it snowing yet in Buffalo

"The whole world was in turmoil, yet Buffalo was such a vibrant and exciting and creative place," says Cohen, who later "segued" to a parallel career as a speechwriter and as a communications/development executive. He now lives in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., with his wife, Sarah, and their two children, Rachel, 10, and Zachary, 7.

Cohen recalls the Buffalo concerts of Janis Joplin and Nina Simone, a reading at the university by the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, and Robert Kennedy's visit to campus while campaigning for U.S. senator, as signposts of the political and artistic climate. The memory of Buffalo in winter lingered, too. "There was something about that absolute beauty of Buffalo covered with snow."

Now there be places on the maps and each one has its ways

Such different worlds in each surrounding that you stare amazed

In some you end up spending time and some you pass right through

And some'll always hold a special place inside of you

So sit back, soon the time itself will show

The snows again in Buffalo.

("Buffalo" can be obtained at Buffalo-area record stores or by calling 1-800-959-2545.)
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