Sunday, February 26, 2012

Profile Playlist: Johnny Cash (1932-2003)

Personal Note: Johnny Cash. Singer. Songwriter. Outlaw. Man of God. Man in Black. Johnny represents the rebel, the prodigal and the poet. So many contradictions but yet completely part of the human experience.

My first hearing of Johnny Cash quite possibly came from my grandmother Gertrude watching him perform on one of his TV specials but I couldn’t tell you no more about it than just seeing some guy with a black hair and a guitar singing country songs and, as a child, not really connecting with him. The next time I heard him I was definitely listening. I heard a version of his Man in Black song revised as speed metal with a group called One Bad Pig. OK. That was different.

The next time I can recall would cement his place as the voice of rebel, prodigal and poet in my life: I was just getting into the music of U2 in the early 90’s and picked up their Zooropa album. The last track featured Johnny Cash singing the song “The Wanderer”. To this day that song still means so much to me. It represents everything: strength, fear and anticipation. But, even with that song, I still wasn’t listening like I should have…not quite yet. The next Johnny Cash song I came across that I can recall is “Ring of Fire” being played in the movie, “U-Turn”. I liked it, thought it was cool…but still not listening, not really getting the core of his art, his message.

In 2002, While working at a music entertainment store, a video is played on our monitor. It is Johnny Cash. The song is a remake of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”. I was blown away. The music, Johnny Cash, whose voice, now more raspier than ever, still delivered deeper truths, and the scenes throughout his career in film and pictures and with his wife June, would have most people who watch it realize just how mortal we truly are. It made me look within and made me realize that all this time, I had not been truly listening. He had finally got my attention.

I’ve been a committed fan ever since. When it was announced that a movie was being made about his life called “Walk The Line”, I was determined to be there opening day no matter what. Personally, it was a great last few months of the 2005: The Chicago White Sox had won the World Series, The Chronicles of Narnia was to debut that winter and “Walk The Line” was being released.

Listed below is a bio and my favorite songs by Johnny Cash, whose faith and human contradictions fueled his passion and create some of the world’s greatest music.


BIO: John R. "Johnny" Cash (February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003), A.K.A. "The Man In Black", was an American singer-songwriter, actor, and author, who has been called one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Although he is primarily remembered as a country music artist, his songs and sound spanned many other genres including rockabilly and rock and roll—especially early in his career—as well as blues, folk, and gospel. This crossover appeal led to Cash being inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Late in his career, Cash covered songs by several rock artists.

Cash was known for his deep, distinctive bass-baritone voice; for the "boom-chicka-boom" sound of his Tennessee Three backing band; for his rebelliousness, coupled with an increasingly somber and humble demeanor; for providing free concerts inside prison walls; and for his dark performance clothing, which earned him the nickname "The Man in Black". He traditionally started his concerts by saying, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash." and usually following it up with his standard "Folsom Prison Blues."

Much of Cash's music, especially that of his later career, echoed themes of sorrow, moral tribulation and redemption. His signature songs include "I Walk the Line", "Folsom Prison Blues", "Ring of Fire", "Get Rhythm" and "Man in Black". He also recorded humorous numbers, including "One Piece at a Time" and "A Boy Named Sue"; a duet with his future wife, June Carter, called "Jackson"; as well as railroad songs including "Hey, Porter" and "Rock Island Line".

Cash, a troubled but devout Christian, has been characterized as a "lens through which to view American contradictions and challenges." A Biblical scholar, he penned a Christian novel titled Man in White, and he made a spoken word recording of the entire New King James Version of the New Testament. Even so, Cash declared that he was "the biggest sinner of them all", and viewed himself overall as a complicated and contradictory man. Accordingly, Cash is said to have "contained multitudes", and has been deemed "the philosopher-prince of American country music".


Johnny Cash - Ring of Fire (written by June Carter)


Johnny Cash & June Carter – Jackson


Johnny Cash - Man in Black

Scenes cut from the BBC documentary 'Johnny Cash: The Last Great American'.


Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around


Johnny Cash – Hurt


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