Thursday, April 1, 2010

#34 The Man In Black... Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash is a singer-songwriter,guitarist, actor and author who is known as one of the most influential forces upon music who have ever lived. In his career that spanned nearly fifty years, Cash has explored nearly every musical genre that there is. His music blurred the lines between early rock and roll and country and paved the way for later generations of musicians. Although his career has primarily been known for country and folk, he has written and performed material that expands into rockabilly and rock and roll in ways that no one before him had attempted and he was doing so right from the beginning.

With his deep baritone voice, his increasingly sombre and humble demeanour along with his reputation for giving free concerts in prisons and his choice to always perform in black created the mystique about Johnny Cash that eventually led him to become known as '
The Man In Black'. Johnny himself addressed the nick name in a song stating 'Ah I'd love to wear a rainbow every day, and tell the world everything's ok, but I'll try to carry off a little of the darkness on my back, Till things are brighter, I'm the man in black.' This persona continued throughout his career and in fact became more pronounced in later years. His music towards the end of his career echoed themes of sorrow, moral tribulation and redemption.

Over the years Johnny Cash has worked with a vast number of musicians which have resulted in some golden musical results. On December 4th, 1956 Cash was present for an event that music history remembers as 'The Million Dollar Quartet'. This session, which began totally by chance, included Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Sam Phillips the owner of sun records saw the opportunity and quickly started recording. The resulting session was one of the most unique recordings in music history. All of the participants were singing and playing to try and compliment the others and as a result you can hardly hear Cash as his trademark baritone vocals are gone as he tries to increase his vocal pitch to better match Elvis's. Later in his career, Cash was instrumental in forming the super group '
The Highway Men' with fellow country stars Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. In the ten years they were active (1985-1995) they released three albums and earned a number one hit with their single 'Highwayman'. As a group, they were pretty much responsible for the creation of the 'Outlaw Country' genre.

For me, Cash is the country outlaw, this mythical figure of music that is so prolific his career is almost unbelievable. Johnny Cash
IS country in my opinion and he does it with such style and class that most country acts never attain in my opinion. Songs like 'Folsom Prison Blues', and 'I Walk the Line' are fantastic examples of Cash's work. His musical rebel side comes out in songs like 'Cocaine Blues' and 'Man in Black'. This rebellious image helped him in later years to break through to the younger audiences and fans of indie and alt rock. This popularity increased with the release of his 'American' series of albums that he began releasing shortly before his death and have continued to be released posthumously. There is an awesome box set of his unreleased sessions from the American series called Cash Unearthed. I highly recommend that one as it is really awesome and incredibly well put together. The American series, produced by Rick Rubin is one of the finest collaborations I have head in recent memory and it really sparked a renewed interest in Cash for me. He is definitely more then just a country singer, and in fact he has been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his genre blending music. Check him out if you haven't really given him much of a chance before, I think you will enjoy it.

This is a great video. It is Johnny Cash performing his cover of 'Hurt' by Nine Inch Nails. The video shows Cash mere months before his death and is shot to be a reflection of his life and career. I think its really awesome and would love to know what you think about it.

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