In the classroom, Danny M. Cohen ’06 MA, ’11 PhD grapples with the big issues. An associate professor in both the School of Education and Social Policy and the Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies, he teaches social change, human rights and Holocaust history.
Outside the classroom, the London native is an author, nonprofit leader and folk-rock singer-songwriter. In 2017 he formed the Chicago band They Won’t Win alongside Greg Lanier after the two men discovered a shared passion for music. Having performed throughout the city, the duo expanded and released their debut album, Lost at Sea, in June 2019.
The album is a personal exploration of everything from mental health and LGBTQ acceptance to homelessness and modern love. “One of us will start writing a song,” explains Cohen, “and the other will say, ‘What’s that really about?’ Then we’ll sort of push each other, especially on the lyrics.”
While Cohen uses music as a respite from his teaching and research, social topics unintentionally found their way into the album’s lyrics. Both he and Lanier are gay, married fathers and have close friends and family members who have experienced hardship, including homelessness and abuse. Their parallel backgrounds also extend to their professional work in social justice.
“All of these social issues started to bubble up to the surface,” says Cohen. “Some parts of the album could be used to help communities have conversations they’re currently not having.”
Though Cohen acknowledges the potential power of the project, he doesn’t believe the album has a central message. As he points out, even the band’s name — a nod to the Crowded House song “Don’t Dream It’s Over” — wasn’t intended to be a statement.
“It’s up to each listener to decide what they want to take,” he says. “We just wanted to write songs that we would find beautiful — songs that, if we had discovered them out in the world, we would wish we had written them.”