- Even with today’s popularity of eclecticism, not many artists can mix five genres in one song and fewer have done so repeatedly and with staggering popularity.
- Rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel cannot be further apart.
- This unlikely melange of sounds is precisely what made Johnny Cash famous.
- Today I will attempt to give you an overview of who Johnny Cash was.
- Choosing this topic is a matter of paying homage to the man who helped shape the music scene for more than 50 years.
- His character, deeply interwoven with his convictions and music, remains essential to American music.
(Introducing him primarily through his biography seems appropriate, as there could be no tune without a person playing it.)
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- Accepted into halls of fame of country, rock and roll, and gospel musical genres, Johnny Cash was also an actor, a profoundly religious man, and, briefly, a part of the Muppets in 1981.
- John M. Alexander, author of The Man in Song: A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash, outlines the singer’s life through its hardships.
- Johnny Cash was born in 1932 and from an early age worked with his family, picking cotton until 1950.
- Following his four-year military service and after a failed stint at becoming a radio announcer, he got a recording deal in 1955.
- As his fame increased, Johnny Cash became more involved with drug abuse, out of which he emerged religious, popular, and the star of his own TV show, until he relapsed again.
- Despite becoming a controversial figure due to drug-related activities, the singer maintained popularity and remained loved.
- In an interview with columnist Kurt Loder, for the third 2015 issue of the Southern Cultures journal, Johnny Cash said that he was “young and wild and crazy.”
- He released an album titled Johnny Cash Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous merely three years after his first recording.
- He also played prison concerts and befriended an American president. (Simply saying that he was famous, however, does not do justice to the charm that permeates his songs.)
- The music that Johnny Cash wrote always stemmed from introspection, touching upon every-day topics that were relevant to American people.
- His songs always tied with his own experiences, for example, cotton picking in “In Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home.”
- The song “I Walk the Line” initially seems to be merely a love song, but is indicative of his romantic devotion, despite this not always being correct.
- His performances with famous stars, such as Elvis Presley, brought him even more fame.
- W. S. Holland, Cash’s friend and drummer, remembers his band’s jamming session when both Cash and Presley showed up impromptu to join them.
- This collective performance became the basis for the uniquely occurring Million Dollar Quartet. (The mentioned two songs and two albums are sufficient to find a pattern to Johnny Cash, biographically as well as musically)
- In closing, it is necessary to say that the life of Johnny Cash may be considered equal parts a put-on outlaw act and a real tragedy.
- His songs are indicative of not only trends in the 1950s music industry but also of the American life, average enough for everyone, from presidents to convicts, to appreciate.
- So next time you hear the song “Man in Black” think of it less like bragging and more like an autobiography of a troubled man hoping to find some semblance of goodness within himself.
Alexander, John M. The Man in Song: A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash. University of Arkansas Press, 2018.
Loder, Kurt, and Johnny Cash. “Johnny Cash: “You Have to Call Me the Way You See Me”.” Southern Cultures, vol. 21, no. 3, 2015, pp. 5-17. Web.
Setnyk, Jason. “Interview with Johnny Cash legendary drummer WS Holland.” The Cornwall Seeker, 2017. Web.