Okay I admit it. Yes I watch American Idol. I keep telling myself I will stop watching this show. It is not a talent show but a popularity contest. It is not who has talent, but how many times can you dial the phone while lines are open, still, I admit it, I watch it. This year, the top two were both country and it got me thinking…
As I sat watching American Idol I realized I am a rocker… I love rock and roll so I am not a huge fan of country…I am not saying I dislike it, just not a huge fan. However, I must admit, this all did remind me of what a big fan I am of Johnny Cash. I mean come on Johnny Cash should be put right next to Elvis. After all what Elvis did to rock and roll, Johnny Cash did to country music.
At times, it is hard to just look at Johnny Cash as country. His music had a rockabilly influence and he belted the blues, wailed gospel, sang folk, and had an inner rock and roller. So to call Mr. Cash a country star doesn’t serve him the justice he requires and deserves.
To get into the business, Cash presented himself as a gospel singer but no one at sun records was buying that and he recorded his first single “Cry Cry Cry.” It hit the country charts at number 14. Not too bad for his first record. His second single was “Folsom Prison Blues,” that one reached the top five for country, finally recorded “I Walk the Line,” and he had a number one hit and it even crossed over to the pop charts at number 20.
He was like no other performer. When Cash appeared at the Grand Ole Opry most of his counterparts were in bright colors and wore rhinestone outfits. Not Johnny. Nope he stuck to the bad boy of country and wore black, each and every time and achieved success as “The Man in Black.” To me, this made him more mysterious and I loved the fact that he rebelled against the country western facade.
Cash left Sun records to record with Columbia Records. He had such hits as “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town” and “Ring of Fire.” He also met singer June Carter. Now of course we all know he struggled with drugs and with Carters help, Cash was able to move forward and continue to record not only with his wife June Carter but with others including The Highwaymen with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson.
Cash was interesting as he was a country singer who had an induction into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and then he went ahead and went on stage for the Lollapalooza alternative rock tour. How’s that for a country singer?
I think my all time favorite album was an album of covers called American IV: The Man Comes Around. Here we all get to listen to his interpretations of cover songs such as Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” The Beatles’ “In My Life” and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” These songs are haunting and show you the demission of Johnny Cash.
Sadly, Johnny Cash died of complications from diabetes September 12, 2003. They called it diabetes, but I just can’t help but think, the sweetness of his life went away when his wife June died on May 15, 2003.
No matter how you look at it, Johnny Cash was an Icon of the 50s and 60s music, and continued to be an icon until the day he died. We cannot think of music without thinking of what this man did the not only country music but many genres of music. I think of Johnny Cash as a true artist that had versatility, style and a lot of soul.