Johnny Cash’s fame looms enormous ten years after his death, from Sun Records and Folsom Prison to Rick Rubin, from “I Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire” to “A Boy Named Sue,” from his own memoirs (Man in Black and Cash) to the Hollywood depiction of his life, starring Joaquin Phoenix.
Yet, when former Los Angeles Times critic Robert Hilburn approached Cash’s longtime manager, Lou Robin, about creating a full biography on this iconic American character, Robin told him that 80 percent of Cash’s tale had yet to be written. Johnny Cash: The Life, which was released this week, goes into unprecedented depth about Cash’s epic highs and abysmal lows.
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10 Facts About Johnny Cash
Here are 10 facts about the famous artist Johnny Cash, that will help you to know the lifestyle of the artist.
- He felt sympathy for a monster
Cash was captivated by the original Frankenstein film as a child. The monster, in his opinion, was a sympathetic creature, “made up of bad parts yet seeking to do good.”
- He had to overcome his prejudice
Based on the showy outfit of an African-American Air Force colleague stationed in Germany, Cash offered his pal Carl Perkins the concept for the rock & roll hit “Blue Suede Shoes.”
Cash, who is well-known for his support of minorities (particularly Native Americans), was involved in an ugly name-calling episode involving a black soldier walking with a white woman. Later, he blamed the incident on the racism of his upbringing in rural Arkansas, telling a buddy, “I never, ever disliked blacks.”
- He was silly
Rosanne was named by Cash and his first wife, Vivian, from Cash’s nicknames for Vivian’s b**bs: Rose and Anne.
- He was cunning
“I Walk the Line,” popularly perceived as an oath of loyalty to his young bride, had a second meaning for Cash: he saw it as a sneaky method to smuggle a little God into his music after Sun’s Sam Phillips told him he wasn’t interested in recording any spiritual songs.
- He was also practical
Though Cash created the iconic song “Man in Black” to explain the social conscience behind his outfit choices – “just so we’re aware of the ones who are kept behind” – he actually chose black to keep clean on long tours. Other performers taunted him about it early in his career, dubbing him the “Undertaker.”
- His fairy-tale marriage to June was not always the case
Despite Cash’s marriage to June Carter being portrayed as one for the ages in subsequent years, when they first began their affair (while Cash was still married to Vivian), some acquaintances considered June as a manipulator: “an early country analog of Yoko Ono in John Lennon’s world,” Hilburn says.
- He twisted the truth
Cash claimed for years that he stopped taking medications after retreating deep into a cave on the Tennessee River and lying down to die.
He made his way back out, claiming God’s intervention, where June and Cash’s mother awaited him with a basket of food, and swore off the medications. Nevertheless, Hilburn points out that the cave would have been underwater on the day Cash frequently mentioned… and that the singer continued to use drugs afterward.
- He considered starting a riot
Cash presented two versions of a new song titled After the Institution at his second major prison concert, at San Quentin in 1969.
The inmates’ scathing lyrics (“San Quentin, I loathe every inch of you”) nearly prompted an insurgency, and Cash was tempted: “Johnny understood that all he had to say was, ‘Let’s go!’ and there would have been a full-scale riot,” producer Bob Johnston remembers.
- He was not present when Kris Kristofferson’s chopper landed on his property
Another well-known piece of Cash folklore has the aspiring songwriter Kris Kristofferson landing a helicopter on Cash’s property while holding a drink and offering the astonished singer a demo of the song “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down.” Nevertheless, Kristofferson says that he was not holding a beer, that the song was not “Sunday Mornin’,” and that Cash never walked out of the home to welcome him.
- He assumed that no one cared
Before collaborating with Rick Rubin on the austere American albums that would revitalize his career in the 1990s, Cash was so depressed that he believed no one would care about any of his music when he died. “Rick made me consider that maybe I may have a legacy after all,” he told Hilburn.
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