Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Johnny Cash Music

Johnny Cash Music
There are only a few country music artists that I admire. These are the ones who have enjoyed some crossover success into other genres and pop record charts. I love to listen to Johnny Cash music and I think that his passing is a significant loss. Born into an Arkansas family in 1932, he grew up knowing the effects of the Depression and the suffering of the poor. This empathy for the working class struggle never left him, and it informed a lot of his songs. He championed the underdog, as in his campaigning for prison reform and his album dedicated to Native Americans in 1964, titled Bitter Tears.
He had his own personal demons to contend with, in addition to social concerns. He had battled with, and beaten alcoholism and drug addiction. Johnny Cash music seems to exude his melancholy and his deep experience of the dark side of life. His religious convictions rescued him from the life that he was leading. Cash always had an admiration for the gospel music and hymns that he had grown up with.
Cash, known as The Man In Black, was the sort of guy that people felt they could chew the breeze with. He wasn't a rhinestones and Stetson type, he came across like an ordinary Joe. Two of his most successful albums were the live performances from Folsom Prison and San Quentin Prison. The inmates took Johnny Cash music to their hearts.
Other artists greatly respected Cash and he had a successful collaboration with Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. Bob Dylan was another fan and they recorded a duet together for Dylan's country album, Nashville Skyline. Of course his greatest collaboration, for Johnny Cash music and in life, was with fellow country singer and second wife, June Carter Cash. Their relationship was recently depicted in the movie, Walk The Line.
It wasn't all sorrowful songs. Cash revealed his lighter side in funny releases such as A Boy Named Sue and One Piece at a Time. Johnny Cash music traveled a long way from the young man who signed with Sun Records in 1955. This was the label that also launched the careers of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Cash gained a new generation of fans through his final recordings. My favorite track is his cover of Hurt, which appears on his final album. Originally, a Nine Inch Nails song, Cash's frail voice gives the song an added poignancy. Sadly, his death in 2003 came when he was just entering a new phase of his musical development.