The recent release of Walk The Line has caused resurgence in the popularity of Johnny Cash’s music. In the South though, I don’t think he ever went away. I grew up hearing Johnny Cash records, I left for college and heard him played in the “alternative’ record stores downtown, and I heard him played over and over on the juke box all through college. His sound is completely unique. Johnny Cash was just a humble boy from Arkansas, but he went on to be one the biggest musical influences on generation after generation of music lovers.
Johnny Cash was born on February 26, 1932. He was born in Kingsland, Arkansas, but was raised in Dysess, Arkansas. Like many other poor Southerners he worked in the cotton fields as a child and through his teen years. His story is like many other sin the South during the depression: misery and hard work. Music was everything in his life, even as a small boy. His humble beginning belies the 50 million records he sold throughout his lifetime. Hits like “I Walk the line, ” “Ring of Fire, ” One piece at a Time,” “A Boy named Sue,” and countless others defined a generation and made him famous. His career spanned over 50 years and he is acknowledged as one of the most influential people in country music ever.
While his life began during the depression and tragedy and hard work seemed to follow him endlessly he was not beaten by life or life’s circumstances. Instead he used his early life to write the hits we all know and love. His legacy of music is living proof that was does not kill you makes you stronger.
My top ten songs by Johnny Cash are:
1. Walk the line
2. Folsom Prison Blues
3. One Piece at a Time
4. The One on the Right is on The Left
5. A Boy Named Sue
6. Cry Cry Cry
7. Hey Porter
8. Home of the Blues
9. Sunday Morning Comin Down
10. Ring of Fire
Johnny Cash had a deep voice that was often described as a freight train. It is completely distinctive with a nice Southern lilt. Even when he talks on his recordings he sounds like he is singing.
Personally I really like his songs because they are very true to human emotion. He writes of real life experiences, making accurate descriptions of life along the way. He also had a great since of humor in his story telling and song writing. “A Boy Named Sue” is one of his most popular songs. I can just imagine the smile it has put on many a hard working face through the years. “One piece at a Time” is almost like an adult bedtime story. He writes of working on the assembly line in Detroit, acquiring his fancy car one piece at a time. By the end he has a nice car made out of a mish mash of pieces throughout years of work. If his words don’t put a smile on your face I don’t know what will.
“Sunday Morning Coming Down” is a sad ballad like song that reminds me of a fall day in the South. Particularly Sunday. He so aptly describes the South in this song it is eerie. Johnny Cash was a master at perfectly describing people and places to a T.
Johnny Cash died on September 12, 2003. His wife June Carter died only a short while before him. Johnny Cash left a legacy of music that is deeply American, heartfelt, and sincere. His deep and immediate recognizable voice continues to inspire people everyday. New fans are made the minute they hear his songs.