Wow, it seems like before there was dirt there was Johnny Cash ! He is fixed in my memory with his trademark “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” introduction on the Johnny Cash Show. Pretty cool stuff. What is even cooler than I didn’t understand then was just how brave his guest list was.
This was the late 60’s and he has folks like Bob Dylan on his show. That may not seem like a big deal now but in those days here in the Country Music Capital, they weren’t diggin’ the hippies ! But Cash didn’t care, black, white, hippie, redneck or conservative, he loved them all, and especially loved their talents. There’s good reason for argument, that the Oak Ridge Boys might have called it a day, if it hadn’t been for support financially and tour wise from John R. Cash. The list of Cash helping folks would go for miles.
Johnny’s career spanned decades as well as genres. From the Rockabilly days at Sun Records with Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley, to “I Walk The Line”, and the San Quentin shows; from gospel to his TV show, to the dark days of the mid 80’s when Cash found himself looking for a way to fit in with an ever changing musical landscape.
So why not hang out with some good friends and make music ! So they did, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, former room mate Waylon Jennings and Cash formed the Highwaymen. After a great run, with several hits and worldwide tours, the Highwaymen came to and end with Waylon’s failing health and ultimate death.
Enter Rick Rubin, big time rock producer and possibly the last person one would think would have an interest in Johnny Cash, much less a person that would have a pivotal role in Cash’s career, and a role that sold him into one of the coolest cats forever !
Rubin was smart enough to get the essence of John Cash. Honesty was what provided the ride all along. That voice full of honesty and grit. Rubin stripped everything down and essentially left that voice…..and boy did folks respond, especially the younger market. As Cash closed out his journey here, he left this world the way he should have. An icon. A spiritual giant always wearing his faith and his failures on his sleeve. Go John Cash. Check the last couple of records that Rubin did. If you think you know Johnny Cash’s music and you haven’t heard “American Recordings” or “The Man Comes Around”, then you haven’t heard the whole deal. You may not find anything more honest on the market today.