Pete Davidson has been very busy these past couple of weeks shuttling back and forth to Los Angeles with Kim Kardashian between Saturday Night Live tapings in New York City, dodging hordes of paparazzi along the way, but he somehow found the time to head to his native Staten Island and film the “Walking in Memphis” parody video “Walking in Staten” with Big Wet, Method Man, and even Marc Cohn, the writer of “Walking in Memphis.”
“Put on my bootleg Jordans and boarded the train,” Davidson sings while dressed exactly like Cohn in the original 1991 “Walking in Memphis” video. “Touched down in the land of Colin Jost and the legendary Wu Tang.”
The song touches on numerous Staten Island landmarks that only a native would know, including Vincent’s Deli, which is both a bagel store and a pizzeria, and the flock of wild turkeys that live outside Staten Island University Hospital. “And when you see wild turkeys by the hospital, like an alarming amount,” Davison sings. “No one even bats an eye/Man, it’s really weird in Staten.”
Cohn is a good sport about the whole thing, and he gets some of the best lines, including “I think this strip club used to be a McDonald’s” and “Thanks to New Jersey, we now have deer.” (He’s not kidding. The deer situation has become such a problem in Staten Island that veterinarians are combing through wooded areas, finding deer out, knocking them out, and giving them vasectomies. As Davidson sings, “Man, it’s really weird in Staten.”)
“Walking in Memphis,” which was inspired by a trip that Cohn took to the city in 1986, appeared on the singer’s 1991 debut LP. It was nominated for Song of the Year and Best Pop Vocal at the Grammys, and helped him beat out Boyz II Men, C+C Music Factory, Color Me Badd, and Seal to win Best New Artist.
Cohn’s follow-up albums weren’t huge successes, and he hasn’t released a new one since since his 2010 covers collection Listening Booth: 1970, but he has a devoted cult audience and tours regularly. He made news in 2002 when he married ABC News journalist Elizabeth Vargas, and even more news in 2005 when he took a bullet to the head during an attempted carjacking in Denver.
By an absolute miracle, the bullet barely missed his eye and lodged near his skull. He spent just eight hours in the hospital after they removed it, and walked away 100% okay. “It was a terrifying moment and a moment of sheer relief,” he told ABC in 2006. “There was exactly enough room in the soft tissue between the outside of my face, and the beginning of my skull; there was just enough room to hold that bullet. … I [now] need to make every moment fuller and appreciate it more.”
Two years ago, Miley Cyrus out Cohn at the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis for a surprise duet on “Walking in Memphis.” “She’s not only a total pro,” he said. “But she came in and knew exactly how to put her soul and her vibe into this song. It’s wonderful for me as the writer.” (See video of the moment above.)
Pete Davidson also put his “soul and vibe” into the song, and it led to Cohn drinking beer with Method Man. “I had such a great time hanging with my cast mates Pete Davidson, Big Wet, Method Man, and all the talented folks at SNL last week,” Cohn wrote on Twitter. “The response to our ‘Walking in Memphis’ parody (Walking In Staten!)… has been overwhelming. So happy it made so many of you smile.”