Friday, September 12, 2003

The Man in Black

Johnny Cash has passed away. He had been ill for quite a while and with the death of June Carter Cash recently it is not surprising that he followed his "mama bear".

Cash was a bit of an anamoly. A deeply religeous man, an outlaw, hard living, and deeply in love with his second wife June, a country music icon who covered Nine Inch Nails Hurt on his recent album American IV, who worked with Bob Dylan on the Nashville Skyline sessions and according to his daughter Roseanne was against the Iraq invasion. Through June, who was the daughter of Mother Maybelle Carter, Cash was tied to the roots of country music, he was part of the Country Supergroup the Highwaymen with Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, and through his work with Dylan and later through his work with rock producer Rik Rubin bridged the gap to Rock. Johnny defied definition and was always his own man.

His voice could make a grown man cry and often did. Even in his final works, his voice was not strong as it used be, but you could hear a man who had lived. Every hurt, every success, every moment of joy or sorrow could be heard in his deep gravelly baritone.
Cash was a man who always spoke for the poor man, the downtrodden, the convict. He sang the songs that told their story, like a modern day Woody Guthrie. In many ways he embodied America, what we are and what we aspire to be.

When I was a kid Cash was at the height of his stardom producing a string of hits, I Walk the Line, Folsom Prison Blues, Ring of Fire, Jackson (with June) and A Boy Named Sue (with lyrics by Shel Silverstein), to name a few. And he had probably the best line in all of country music in Folsom Prison Blues, "I shot a man in Reno, Just to see him die".

Read John Gerome's AP report here.

And here is the NYT's obit by Stephen Holden.

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