Cash is king

Over the past few weeks I’ve been spending a lot of time with another man. The G.O. doesn’t mind, he’s a fan too… of The Man in Black: Johnny Cash.

It started with a book – Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn, my book club’s selection earlier this year I purchased despite being a weighty paperback tome knowing the G.O. would enjoy it also, but the size of which was practically daunting to lug for daily commute reading time on the train.

“In this, the definitive biography of an American legend, Robert Hilburn conveys the unvarnished truth about a musical superstar. Johnny Cash’s extraordinary career stretched from his days at Sun Records with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to the remarkable creative last hurrah, at age 69, that resulted in the brave, moving “Hurt” video.

As music critic for the Los Angeles Times, Hilburn knew Cash throughout his life: he was the only music journalist at the legendary Folsom Prison concert in 1968, and he interviewed both Cash and his wife June Carter just months before their deaths. Drawing upon a trove of never-before-seen material from the singer’s inner circle, Hilburn creates an utterly compelling, deeply human portrait of a towering figure in country music, a seminal influence in rock, and an icon of American popular culture. Hilburn’s reporting shows the astonishing highs and deep lows that marked the journey of a man of great faith and humbling addiction who throughout his life strove to use his music to lift people’s spirits.”

The heft of the book was soon immaterial as engrossed I read it every spare minute I had. At the end, sad to put it down, I gave it 5 stars: “Wonderfully absorbing. I had no idea I would become so captivated by Johnny Cash as his story is told by Robert Hilburn. This book doesn’t simply convey details, it makes you care and takes you along for the incredible ride. To enhance the experience listen to some Johnny Cash as you go through the book; the later Rick Rubin albums beginning with American Recordings as well as Johnny Cash’s earlier music.”

We already had a few Johnny Cash albums in our collection including the more recent American IV – The Man comes Around; American V – A Hundred Highways; and American VI Ain’t No Grave, which I have to confess at first I didn’t appreciate and languished in a cupboard. But, reading Robert Hilburn’s biography set me off on a shopping mission for classic recordings such as Folsom Prison and The Essential Johnny Cash plus the earlier of the Rick Rubin produced albums: American Recordings; Unchained (American II); and American III – Solitary Man.

Just after the book went back on the shelf awaiting the opportunity for the G.O. to read it I noticed a promo for The Man in Black – The Johnny Cash Story, a show at the Sydney Opera House for which I had tried unsuccessfully to get tickets during its previous tours.

“The Helpmann Award winning The Man in Black… Starring Tex Perkins, this is two hours of Johnny Cash’s magnificent music interwoven with the story of his rise to stardom, his fight for survival and his eventual redemption.

IMG_20140720_160739With his driving freight-train chords, steel-eyed intensity and a voice as dark as the night, the legendary Johnny Cash revolutionised music. The show explores his relationships – with hardened prisoners to the beautiful June Carter and lots in between. Johnny Cash was dealt a very tough hand, early in life, but through his music and dedication, he became a legend throughout the world.

Tex Perkins, one of the most electrifying front men of Australian rock ‘n’ roll, brings the hard-living country legend to life, and is joined on stage by Rachael Tidd and The Tennessee Four.

Enjoy Ring of Fire, I Walk the Line, Folsom Prison Blues, Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down, Get Rhythm, A Boy Named Sue, Hey Porter and over a dozen more hits.”

The weather was chilly last Friday night when we went but the show was brilliant, Tex Perkins doing an amazing account of The Man in Black, and the wintry late evening trip home well worth braving for the experience. I couldn’t really say a favourite song but “Hurt” originally recorded by the Nine Inch Nails and later covered by Johnny Cash was powerful. Over the weekend the G.O. and I both were still humming the tunes.

He was an extraordinary man.

“The Master of Life’s been good to me. He has given me strength to face past illnesses, and victory in the face of defeat. He has given me life and joy where others saw oblivion. He has given new purposes to live for. New services to render and old wounds to heal. Life and love go on. Let the music play.” Johnny Cash


19 thoughts on “Cash is king

  1. I”m glad you both enjoyed the show. There are so many Johnny Cash records out there it would take ages for you to get them all.Cheaper maybe to download them off the net onto an MP3 player and invest in some speakers, or use an ipod?
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx


    1. Downloading the music would be simple but our life is rarely simple and the G.O. has an affection for traditional… vinyl would be even better. Fortunately there are still good bricks & mortar music retailers in Newtown and the CBD, and our collection is modest, no way we need them all 🙂


  2. My hubby has just about every Cash album ever made. One day when the builder was here he asked if he could put on some music from his phone and I said okay. Guess what – Johnny Cash. He’s a legend! 😀


  3. I was never much a fan of Country Music but Johnny Cash was the exception. I really do enjoy his voice and have a number of his recordings. I should look to see if “The Man in Black …” will be touring here. Now *that’s* entertainment. 🙂


    1. C&W mostly gives me the horrors but I can sing along to all the old songs because that’s what my family listened to when I was a kid, like you, Johnny Cash was different. I had a look on the show’s touring page and it seems Perth is next. I couldn’t find any info re international touring, but at least if it does happen it will likely catch your eye.


  4. Sounds like you really dove in. I hate it when a good book ends. I haven’t had a feeling like that about a book in a long time. Speaking of which, it turns out that your blog post answered the question on my latest post. I’m so glad to go to blogs to find out that people actually do still read, and a print book to boot! Glad you had a good escape for a while In to Johnny’s life.


    1. When a good book ends it’s like saying farewell to friends you have made. We have an workplace book club, and while not every suggestion gets a good response from me, it’s interesting and fun. Mostly I borrow print books from the library, and if they are keepers I put in an order to Book Depository. But I do like e-books via Amazon for reading on my phone, mostly Indie authors.


  5. My dad was a country music fan and we had to ‘suffer’ the LPs being played at the weekend – Charlie Pride, Jim Reeves, and Johnny Cash mostly. Did you see ‘Walk the Line’ and what did you think of it?


    1. My uncle is Charlie Pride fan. We usually watch Walk the Line on Valentine’s Day but watched it the weekend before last as part of our own personal Johnny Cash festival 🙂 It’s one I really enjoy. I like the music and the story.


    1. I like the earlier Johnny Cash offerings but there’s some songs on the later American Recordings albums that are so powerful… I’m pleased he was able to work with Rick Rubin and give us this later body of music.


  6. Johnny Cash was an important part of the soundtrack of my youth. I returned to him over the last few years and it’s remarkable how fresh his music still sounds.

    Recently I’ve heard a couple of interviews of his daughter Roseanne on podcasts (On Being and Sound Opinions). She’s got great music in her DNA.


    1. Johnny Cash’s music was there in my life too. He and his music always had that every-man appeal, I think, no matter the Ups and downs of his life.
      When I get time I want to find and listen to some June Carter and Roseanne Cash, so I’ll keep that in mind.


Comments welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.