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Life After NPR: Ohio’s Bill Cohen

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott Life After NPR: Ohio’s Bill CohenPhoto via The Folk Ramblers.
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If you’re a public radio listener, you can probably still here Bill Cohen’s voice inside your head. After almost forty years at the Ohio Statehouse News Bureau, Cohen turned off his microphone in 2013.

Retirement, Cohen says, is liberating. He qualifies that statement, saying, “I absolutely loved my job as a reporter. I got to ask tough questions of governors, state legislators, and others in power — even though they didn’t always give answers to those questions.”

During his tenure, the retired reporter says political discourse evolved… or perhaps devolved. According to Cohen, debate used to be focused on policies and ideas. That’s changed in recent years, he says, “Some activists now spend much of their time charging that their opponents are evil or ignorant. That has sent the level of public discourse downward.”

But now that the political reporting career is in the rearview mirror, it leaves more time for Cohen’s sideline gig: singing and creating musical events.

While most people know Bill Cohen as the reporting voice on Ohio’s NPR stations, in retirement, he’s spending more time on his musical career. He says, “I’ve sung folk songs for 50 years, but it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that I began putting on full-scale concerts.“

Cohen continues, “In the past three years, I’ve begun doing a series of folk music sing-alongs, and I’ve found the audience loves to get involved, singing songs from the folk music revival of the 1950s and 60s. Veteran banjo picker Carl Yaffey has been joining me on many of those programs… When we work together, Carl and I call ourselves the Folk Ramblers.”

The songs the duo chooses are familiar: Puff the Magic Dragon, Michael Row the Boat Ashore, Sixteen Tons; favorites from Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and John Denver.

Cohen is working his way through his spring performance schedule. Coming up on March 22, the Folk Ramblers duo will be leading a sing-along at Maple Grove UMC in Clintonville. The event is a benefit for ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) research. Every year, 5,600 Americans are diagnosed with this progressively paralyzing disease, among those diagnosed are retired pastor Bill Croy, a fan of Cohen’s and a very active fundraiser for a cure.

While Cohen has turned off his NPR microphone, there’s another microphone waiting for him on local stages.

For more information, visit www.folkramblers.carl-yaffey.com.


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