Thursday, June 30, 2011

Johnny Cash and You

Long before Joaquin Phoenix put on the imitation black leather boots and said his first line, Johnny Cash was firmly entrenched in the fabric of the music world.  So entrenched that acts and too many karaoke singers flock to his works in an attempt to grab just a little of the success that he achieved by putting their spin on his classic hits.  That's where YOU come in.
The influence of Johnny Cash cannot be underestimated in music across the generations of his fans and those bands that have grabbed his coattails in an attempt to do his music in a fashion that is not detrimental but done with respect.  For a band to succeed in this dangerous grab, they need YOU.  The fans.

Why?  Its simple, they, like you are fans and you will not accept a bad version of his music and if one should attempt to put no effort forth, you will see right through them and their veiled attempt.  To attempt a Cash song one must simply be a fan but more importantly, they must understand the man, his successes and his demons.  Those demons are probably the single most important flavor mixed into his music and must be understood to try to understand the man and his music.

Each of us have had trials and tribulations, but how many have succeeded in weaving them into our personal and professional lives?  Cash wrote and sang about the aspects of his life as well as ours and his subject matter showed that. Each of us has felt something contained in his music, whether it be love, hate, crime or death and everything in between, Johnny Cash mirrored our lives with his.

Undoubtedly country music would have maintained without Cash, but without him the country industry would have had only "both kinds of music, Country and Western".  What Johnny Cash did was masterful, he brought hard, cutting subject matter, rock 'n roll overtones and a bluesy way about his lyrics that crossed borders into other music types.

So successful was Cash at this endeavor, that he became one of only FOUR people to be elected in to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Hank Williams Sr., Jimmy Rodgers, Bill Wills, and Bill Monroe are the others).  While Cash had overwhelming success in country music, he had crossover hits, charting songs on the US Country, US Billboard Hot 100 and in other countries proving his grip on the Nation and his fans.

Lest we forget, Cash had an exceptional career in Gospel music, Christmas music, in movies (soundtracks and as an actor) and as a guest performer on numerous songs, and then he did a very risky crossover. 

In 1994, Johnny Cash joined forces with a music producer with some serious credentials, Rick Rubin, and so began a rebirth.  Rubin, who had produced bands such as The Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Slayer, Slipknot, Aerosmith, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine and so many others, brought a serious edge to the music industry and was about to do the same for Cash.

Arm in arm with Rubin, Cash began to record songs that would raise an eyebrow or two and they proved the musical genius of both men.  Johnny Cash recorded songs by Tom Waits, Soundgarden, Nick Lowe, Glenn Danzig, Beck, The Eagles, Tom Petty, U2, Depeche Mode and oh so many others but not to be forgotten, Nine Inch Nails. 

Cash took a NIN classic, Hurt and turned it into one of the most powerful versions of the song.  Johnny Cash put his stamp on a song that is so dark and foreboding that seemed almost darker and paired with the video of the song Cash proved his genius.

On September 12, 2003 Johnny Cash died, but the legacy he left for music, for its fans coupled with the the threads that add to the fabric of music will not be forgotten.  That's where YOU come in, the fans.

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