Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Johnny Cash - and Book Review

Today would have been Johnny Cash’s 76th birthday had he not passed away in September 2003. I just finished his autobiography, called Cash: The Autobiography, and it's pretty good.

The book is organized mostly chronologically and in short chapters, so it's easy to read on the fly. Not being a giant fan of country music, I found myself glossing over the parts that talked in detail about certain tours or musicians he played with.

But the rest was pretty fascinating. The account of his childhood in the cotton fields is a piece of American history. He writes about it so vividly, I felt transported back into time into the deep South where the struggles of the farmers were real and raw.

If you have seen the movie Walk The Line, you are familiar with Cash's relationship with June Carter and also his long history of substance abuse. Cash goes into detail about the latter in the book and certainly struggled to get straight for most of his life. There are some wild stories in these pages!

Cash is also a religious man, something weaved throughout the book, from his love of old gospel music to his daily affirmations and love of religious history and interpretation.

Sadly, since the book came out in 1997, it ends before his 90s comeback is in full swing. Funnily enough, that is the Johnny Cash I came to know and appreciate. The old guy doing "Deliah's Gone," "Hurt" and "The Man Comes Around."

This is his work with Rick Rubin and some of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers and I have all five of the CDs he did on Rubin's American Recordings label. While I wouldn't say they rock, they are fantastic. I can't think of anyone else who, in their late 60s and early 70s, had such a prolific run of great music at the end of their career.

Anyway, the book is good. Much like with Miles Davis' biography, I didn't need to love the man's music to appreciate his story. And now I have a whole career's worth of music to go back through and discover.

Here are two facets of that career for us to dig on his 76nd birthday: The video for his version of Trent Reznor's "Hurt," which I defy anyone to watch all the way through and not tear up at least a little, and a video from Cash's middle years.


San Quentin


Chris said...

ah, Mr. Cash. Good stuff! But, did you ever catch Kermit's version of "Hurt"? (he follows Cash's version, not Trent Reznor's original). Check it out.


Isorski said...

OK, that Kermit video is really disturbing! Like Michael O'Donoghue said, "I don't write for felt." But Reznor finally found his muse. Ouch!

Sue said...

The 'Hurt' video has a powerful message. We were always huge fans of JC. Sue

Dr. John said...

Whoa. That is the first I had ever heard/seen that song, and it was pretty damn depressing. Didn't he win a Grammy for that posthumously?

Tara said...

I'm not a fan of country either, so I'd probably do what you did and skim over some of the concert info. But the rest sounds very interesting!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Isorski,

I'm the guy that posted on A Large Regular. I noticed your from Portland, so I assume you know the "Teenager of the Year", the indefatigable Stan McMahon. We were in the Navy together back in 1984-85.


Isorski said...

Hey Donald - I don't know Stan but I found this interview and I think I will check him out a bit more! Funny dude:


Anonymous said...

I read that a few years ago, and used it to get back in contact with him. He's kind of a pop guy, but frankly you can just wind him up and he can play anything on a guitar. There were many nights of Navy guys getting wasted (Ranier beer $1.79 a six pack and incredible buds, which were verboten)and him playing Pete Townshend (Or whoever).