No Matter the Obstacles, Her Music and Compassion Persist

Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen’s first professional engagement came in the early 1980s when she was asked to perform at a local club where she was attending college. 

“I had three days to find three musicians and put together 30 songs,” she recalls. “They loved me. The rest is history because I’ve been singing the blues ever since.”

For years, Pat sang in New Orleans six nights a week, performing at a wide array of venues including the House of Blues, until Hurricane Katrina destroyed her home. She relocated to East Spencer, North Carolina, and began touring with the Music Maker Blues Revue. Tragedy struck again in 2006 when a fire destroyed her house there. Music Maker helped her get a new place to live.

“Everybody has a currency. My currency is my voice. You don’t have to do what I do, but do something nice for somebody else.” Pat "Mother Blues" Cohen

From the first time we saw her, Pat’s performances have always unfurled the tapestry of her life experiences to her audience in soulful words and music. She shares the mettle, pathos, and ocean-deep compassion of the famous female blues singers she idolizes—women like Billie Holiday, Koko Taylor, and Etta James.

That compassion began to flow from Pat in brand new ways during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. As her scheduled gigs disappeared, she began playing one-woman shows at nursing homes. She even made phone calls to individual people and sang to them. These works of compassion wound up making her the subject of a touching story on “PBS Newshour.”

“Everybody has a currency,” Pat told PBS. “My currency is my voice. You don’t have to do what I do, but do something nice for somebody else. That makes you feel good, and that’s contagious. 

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