Covid + Cancer Leads to Concept Album for Kalamazoo Musician
Paulie Cohen turned everything potentially terrible into an amazing piece of music. His incredible story is almost as good as this '80s movies concept album.
"Getting a cancer diagnosis in the middle of a global pandemic adds a bit of complexity to life." Paulie Cohen has a gift for understatement; he also has a gift for music, communication, commitment and has a caring heart. The Kalamazoo musician has put all of this, plus a love of '80s movies into an album called The Senary.
I'm not sure what to tell you about first, Paulie or the record. Each story is intertwined, and he tells it much better, but I'll give you the quick version. The album has ten songs, each written from the perspective of a character in a different '80s movie. He doesn't tell you which character, or even which movie- it's your job to figure that out. In fact, the concept is way deeper as the ten songs all relate in some way. The album title The Senary might be an Easter egg itself.
The concept album was a 2015 idea that went nowhere. In 2017 Cohen wrote a single song. The COVID quarantine and a basement recording studio was the impetus to finish the project. The cancer diagnosis started the clock.
Through this, my idea of writing “The Senary” became increasingly more important for me. I’m not exactly sure of all the reasons why, but aside from just keeping my brain busy, I know there’s also a mix of legacy involved with this being recorded work — my kids were getting to know the songs, and I wanted them to be able to listen to it if I was gone – and not just my kids, I wanted you to be able to listen to it if I was gone. I wanted all of you to know that in the face of the hardest challenge of my life, I was determined to make something beautiful.
Beautiful, it is. I wouldn't call The Senary a rock album, exactly. The lush, complex arrangements tickle the ear; this is definitely a headphones record. Each song flows effortlessly into the next, and the record is best listened to as one continuous track. Cohen's voice may remind you of Cat Stevens, but the complex, arrangements will remind you more of Peter Gabriel. It's an odd combination, but unique, original, and immersive. Oh, and did I mention that he also played and recorded every instrument on the album? You can check out The Senary on Bandcamp or pauliecohen.com.
Here's the last piece, but it's not a pitch. Cohen says, "if you’d like to help me with some unexpected medical bills, I want to earn it." The album is free, with a pay-what-you-like-option. In lieu of the simple ask of a GoFundMe, Cohen is offering his art. If you buy the album on release day, May 7, 100% of the money goes to the creator. Paulie Cohen tells his own story much better than I can HERE. This music may have saved his life
I’m proud that this is what I did with my time. I know that a cancer diagnosis in a pandemic brought me a little artistic purpose.
Hear a conversation with Bobby Guy about Paulie Cohen's experience in the video below.
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