Showing posts with label Autobiographies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Autobiographies. Show all posts

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Cash Preferred

“...Two million dollars... Last year, Johnny Cash made twice that much, singin’ about hard times.” -Bob Hope

His sound and image were inexplicable yet deceptively simple and accessible. An inimitable
brand of country music fused with blues, rock, gospel and folk invoked the raw character of working rural Americans shaped by the land, broken dreams and death itself. Perhaps it’s precisely what is missing from popular music today. Ironically, Cash’s voice and music resonate with contemporary young music fans much as they did during the latter part of the 20th Century.

Born J.R. Cash on February 26, 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas, “John” Cash began using the name “Johnny” only after beginning a music career in Memphis, Tennessee as a recording artist for Sam Phillips’ Sun label in 1954. Just when Elvis Presley was beginning his music career there, Cash began working with a backing group called the Tennessee Two, playing gospel and later transitioning to the trendy new ‘rockabilly’ sound, a blend of “hillbilly” rock and roll that incorporated rhythm and blues. 

Cash’s Sun hits included the classics “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk the Line.” They featured a distinctive rhythm and beat accented by Cash’s unmistakable deep baritone. His lyrical themes were universal in nature and ranged from heartbreak and loneliness to crime, tragedy, punishment, salvation and the American spirit. If that weren’t enough, the man could also write and sing some pretty funny stuff to boot.

After leaving Phillips for Columbia Records, Cash toured extensively and honed a trademark image that saw him dressed in all-black attire. Some of his greatest-selling recordings were albums produced from free concerts given for felons within the walls of various prisons. Cash saw these inmates, like the American Indians, as examples of the forgotten and underrepresented. 

During this period Cash also began touring with June Carter of the famed Carter Family country act. The two would eventually be married in 1968.

With and without June, he scored more chart successes but concurrently developed severe issues with drugs and alcohol.

By 1969, Cash was hosting The Johnny Cash Show on ABC, videotaped at Nashville’s hallowed Ryman Auditorium. The popular music program was an influential one, showcasing not only himself but also introducing many new recording artists of the era to Cash’s audience.

Despite a troubled personal life that saw frequent addiction, abuse and run-ins with the law, Cash continually found renewal and redemption in the Almighty. He regularly performed at Billy Graham’s ‘Crusades’ and wrote a Christian novel and a screenplay which he produced on the life of Jesus in addition to his two autobiographies written in 1975 and 1997.

Though several illnesses eventually slowed down Cash’s life and career, his stardom would have a final resurgence with a back-to-basics album series known as the American Recordings which featured stark cover versions of eclectic songs by some unlikely contemporary artists.

Sadly, Johnny Cash passed away on September 12, 2003, four months after June’s passing. His musical legacy is difficult to explicate yet easily noticeable in the multitudes of musicians he played with and influenced.

Cash’s songs and the values he strove to embody would seem practically essential in our current world ripe with confusion, crisis, doubt and disillusion. Indeed, there is something unequivocally missing from the time in which we live because — up front, there ought to be a man in black.

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Christopher Robinson

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Autobiographies: Getting the Inside Story

Typically, I’m not an avid reader. I rarely read fiction these days and most of the biographies I’ve read have been on figures in media or music. I’ve actually read a good number of musical autobiographies. I find that the inside perspective into the genesis of a song or musical piece often broadens the dimension for its appreciation and understanding.

Some musical autobiographies that I have read are:

  • Riders on the Storm by John Densmore
  • I Used to Be an Animal But I’m Alright Now by Eric Burdon
  • Play On by Mick Fleetwood
  • I’m a Believer by Micky Dolenz
  • Chronicles Vol. 1 by Bob Dylan
  • Searching For the Sound by Phil Lesh
  • I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne
  • Clapton by Eric Clapton
  • Long Time Gone by David Crosby
  • Somebody to Love by Grace Slick
  • I Me Mine by George Harrison
  • Change of Seasons by John Oates

Some I have read when they were first published and others I only got around to after some twenty years or so.

Autobiographies are naturally subjective and generally divulge only select information(or misinformation) that the author wants the public to know, but they all tell fascinating stories and contain inspiring and memorable anecdotes that pass on into legend and lore.

What are some autobiographies you’ve read? More importantly - how do they inspire you?