Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Great Johnny Cash

When I was a kid, I practically wore out my father's copy of "Ride This Train" by Johnny Cash. It was something of a concept album, the first I ever heard and long before I knew who Pink Floyd was. Between songs, Johnny would come in with "Ride this Train" and provide a narrated set up for the next tune. I can still hear the individual songs in my head.

I was never a big fan of country music as a teenager, when I first got into Kiss etc. and then embraced punk and what some called new wave, but I always liked to hear Johnny. There was an authenticity to his voice that I felt closer to than any of the so-called voices of my generation.

In fact, I was in a local punk bar band at one point in my life and and we would do a wildly bizarre version of Folsom Prison Blues that I always began by announcing "Hello everybody, My name is Johnny Cash" before we proceeded to destroy the song as a big joke. The oh-so-hip crowd (as hip as you can be in small town Mississippi) loved it and I never had the nerve to tell the other guys in the band that I wish we would try doing it straight.

I never walked away from Johnny, but I didn't listen to him with other people for a long time. That is until around 1990. For whatever reason, age I guess, I started picking up whatever I could find of the Man in Black. It was hard getting individual albums from his past (his later stuff wasn't of interest to me) and one of the greatest presents I ever got was an 8 album CD collection from the 60's including "Ride This Train", given to me by a girlfriend.

From there Johnny started recording with Rick Rubin and I was in heaven. Cash simply blew everybody else out of the water. He had no peers. That same girlfriend and I saw him and June Carter Cash in concert with, of all people, this new kid called Beck, and that was one of the greatest concerts I ever saw. My opinion of Beck went from being a one hit novelty act with "I'm a Loser" to deep respect for his musical knowledge. And he hasn't disappointed me since.

The greatest mistake I made when coming into the Peace Corps was not loading up my computer with all the Cash albums in my collection. Ukraine and PCVs are not a great source for his music so I've endured almost two years with a greatest hits album that only whets my appetite.

I've been very excited about the upcoming movie "Man in Black" and only regret that I will probably only get to see it on DVD but I can't wait for that moment. I hope that somebody finally does a definitive documentary on this legend.

Anyway, everybody is talking about JC now and here is a nice article to check out. Enjoy.

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