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Nothing beats Wednesday afternoons with ‘Mother Blues’

Mother Blues

 Pat 'Mother Blues' Cohen sings every Wednesday afternoon for the residents and staff at Magnolia Gardens. Mark Wineka/Salisbury Post

Pat ‘Mother Blues’ Cohen sings every Wednesday afternoon for the residents and staff at Magnolia Gardens. Mark Wineka/Salisbury Post

SPENCER — Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen is barely a half-hour into her performance at the Magnolia Gardens nursing home when she gets to one of the residents’ weekly favorites — “Down Home Blues.”

As many in the audience, including staff members, slide toward the dance floor in front of Cohen, she sings the lines, “Don’t call me fat, I’m built for comfort, not speed. It takes a man to handle a queen like me.”

The room loves it. They clap, They gyrate. They swing and sway. There is even a little booty-shaking going on. Cohen, whose look is punctuated by a bright blond wig, hoop earrings, black romper and silver sandals, belts out the words in a voice worthy of greats such as Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight.

Cohen also brings down the house — in this case, the activity room — when she sings the blues song with the oft-repeated line, “You can have my husband, but, please, don’t mess with my man.”

Again, the floor around her is filled with residents and staffers who just have to move to the music. Several leave their walkers and wheelchairs behind.

“I just decided to get that out of they way,” Cohen says, knowing how much her appreciative crowd likes that one.

Every Wednesday afternoon, from 3:30 to 4:30, Cohen brings a sound machine, Bose tower and sheets of song lyrics to Magnolia Gardens and performs for free a variety of songs touching blues, R&B, soul, beach — tunes she calls “oldies but goodies.”

She describes it as a kind of therapy for her, entertaining the folks at Magnolia Gardens.

“It’s good for your soul,” Cohen says. ‘I’ve done this all over the world, but this is my best place, I leave here feeling good.”

Michelle Hunter, activities director for the rest home, says the music does wonders for the residents. They relate to the songs, become much more social, and it turns into an important exercise session when they can’t resist getting up and dancing.

“She sings good, don’t she?” says Daisy Eudy, who spent half the time listening from a rocking chair and the other half dancing. “We love her.”

Cohen, who has performed internationally, lives in East Spencer. In her longtime home of New Orleans, where she built her “Mother Blues” persona, she became a casualty of Hurricane Katrina and moved her life and singing career back here with family.

She kept performing, but within the past year Cohen hit on the idea of taking her act to nursing homes. The local ones she contacted told her they didn’t have any funds dedicated toward entertainment.

“Something clicked in my head and said, ‘Just do it anyway,'” Cohen says.

So she listened to that voice and, after the staff agreed, Cohen started her weekly singing at Magnolia Gardens about eight months ago. Now the residents look forward to her visits, and she knows many in her audience by name.

When her new friends tell her, “I love you,” Cohen answers back, “I love you more.”

Cohen would like to sing at other nursing homes, but she says it’s difficult without some financial assistance or grants. She needs, for example, a wireless microphone to allow her to walk around the room. Right now she is tied to a cord.

Cohen thinks what she does for nursing home residents as an entertainer enriches their lives, along with the emotional reward she receives from it. There’s a limit, however.

“I want to take it as far as I can,” Cohen says. “But I can’t do it myself. I need some help.”

As she sings, Cohen finds way to slip in references to Magnolia Gardens, such as “I’m going to Magnolia to sing y’all some down home blues.”

In just over an hour, Cohen covers 16 songs. Three offerings from the end, she becomes a little emotional in introducing “A Song for You” and dedicating it to everyone in the room.

Later when she says goodbye, Cohen promises her devoted fans at Magnolia Gardens she will be back the next Wednesday afternoon at “the same bat time, the same bat channel.”

They can’t wait.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mark.wineka@salisburypost.com.

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