C – is for Johnny Cash

Thursday 23rd October

What a colossus, he has been around for sixty years and had made music for all of that time.  Unlike Elvis, whose star may have shone brighter but blew out quicker he was always there.  As a teen, though I was keen to reject the music of the fifties – I mean Elvis was boring, wasn’t he – and was eager for every new sound of the beat music revolution; why, even then Johnny Cash was around, with his deep voice and songs like “A Boy Named Sue” and “Walk The Line”.  He sounded and looked just like a cowboy, but even then I couldn’t ignore him and watched entranced as they showed in grainy black and white Johnny Cash At San Quentin, singing to a bunch of no-hope lifers.  Powerful stuff back then.  He had a poor seventies and eighties as “country music” took a hammering from Pop and Disco.  But Johnny was always more than just country.  Then around the early nineties when he seemed all washed up he started to record with Rick Rubin and what became known as the American Recordings emerged.  A whole series of classic albums, just Johnny and a guitar mostly, his voice almost shot but still beautiful and imbued now with the dignity of old age, he sung a few new songs and a lot of his favourites both old and new.

Slowly his reputation was cemented for a new generation.  For me – I love all his records.  Somehow even the corny songs have an edge of the genuine about them which lifts them from the average.  He died in 2003, a couple of years after his wife.  He lived life to the full, and suffered too with alcohol and drugs and a fair degree of personal tragedies, but through it all he could always sing.   One of the greats.

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