Oct 16, 2006


I know far more about June Carter Cash's music than I do her husband Johnny's. I mean, A Boy Named Sue and Folsom Prison Blues and Jackson and Ring of Fire are all favorites, but if you go much deeper into the catalog, I'll not know about it. Still, I remain fascinated by the Carter-Cash family and its importance to American music.

Last night I finished Johnny's 1997 autobiography Cash, so I know a whole lot more about his catalog and how it came to be than I did before, but I still haven't heard it enough.

Johnny was a good storyteller and I imagine wrote as he spoke. He was one of the last of a dying breed and he knew it:
...that country life as I knew it might really be a thing of the past and when music people today talk about being 'country,' they don't mean they know or even care about the land and the life it sustains and regulates. Back in Arkansas, a way of life produced a certain kind of music. Does a certain kind of music now produce a way of life?
The thing I'm most curious about from reading this account is the letters he mentions writing and receiving from Bob Dylan:
Mostly it was about music: what we ourselves were doing, what other people were doing, what I knew about so-and-so and he didn't and vice versa. He asked me about country people; I asked him about the circles he moved in. I still have all his letters, locked up in my vault.
Where are these letters now? Does Bob Dylan have them? The Carter-Cash kids? Wouldn't be awesome to be able to see them?

Johnny was a spiritual man and believed in miracles. The one account I can't get out of my mind goes like this:
I was walking down 57th Street with June one Sunday morning when we happened on the First Baptist Church of New York...so we went in and the strangest thing happened. The congregation was seated as we entered, but about halfway down the aisle a young boy was turned around watching the door. He saw us, immediately jumped up, and yelled, "JOHNNY CASH!! Johnny Cash has come to church with me!" The boy was mentally handicapped. He was so excited. "I told you!" he kept saying to his parents. "I told you he was coming!"

The preacher came over and explained that the boy had told his parents and the whole congregation, repeatedly, that I was going to walk into that church.
Overall, a great quick read. I enjoyed hearing my favorite local band's (Last Train Home)song about Johnny and June called Hendersonville - mp3 while reading it.


J.J. said...

I'm not a Cash fan -- and certainly not a Trent Reznor fan -- but I do love "Hurt." Who would you have cast as June in Walk the Line? I'm still fuming over the Witherspoon choice (and performance), and I didn't even have a vested interest.

wharman said...

Funny, Reese Witherspoon drove me right up the wall with her goodier-than-thou two shoes until I saw her in this movie. If I were to pick a different actress to play June, I'd like to test Christina Ricci(because she's good in everything), Maggie Gyllenhaal(ditto, plus I think she has a June essence), Zooey Deschanel (because she rocks, has a good southern accent and is edgy but also sweet)and Amy Adams because she did such a great job in Junebug.