Saturday, November 26, 2005

Johnny Cash - "Walk the Line" Movie

As a musician, I was thrilled to see a movie produced on the legendary Johnny Cash. My wife and I saw the film, released on November 18, 2005, last night. The movie "Walk the Line" profiles Cash's early up-bringing through the most volatile period of his career where he evolved from self-destructive pop star, into the iconic "Man in black". Fighting demons and fighting for the love that would lift him up, this movie captures Cash's early career and lengedary love affair with June Carter Cash as he walks the line between destruction and redemption.

Johnny Cash was born to a farm family in Kingsland, Arkansas in 1932. He went to Memphis in 1955, and walked into the soon-to-be-famous Sun Studio and sang blistering songs of heartache and survival that were gutsy, full of real life and unlike anthing heard before. It was at Sun that he later recorded hits such as "I Walk the Line" (1956) and "Ring of Fire" (1963), written with his wife, singer June Carter Cash of the famous country dynasty The Carter Family.

A major figure in country and western music, Cash's unique style, all-black wardrobe and often tragic subject matter in his songs, made him once of country music's biggest stars. Cash mixed elements of folk, country, and rock in his music winning 11 Grammies and was elected to both the Country Music and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I have always listened to Johnny Cash. I think my up-bringing as a musician naturally caused me to expose myself to many different artists and genres. Cash's music is clearly a distinct, different style and the lyrics are of the sort that are simple, and remind us of our own vulnerabilities and imperfections. Recently, when my son asked me to write down my favorite 20 songs as a young man; I listed one of them as Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire". (see entry, October 23, 2005)

I was fortunate enough to see Johnny Cash live sometime in the late 1970's at Little Nashville Opry located about 50 miles south of Indianapolis, and about 5 miles south of Bill Monroe's Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival. I attended this concert with my parents shortly after coming home from the service in 1977. I assume it was between 1977 and 1980. I remember the concert itself as if it was yesterday.

Little Nashville at that time had barn doors on stage like the backdrop of the Grand Ole Opry. The musicians would enter the stage from the middle and come through the barn door. I remember the announcer saying: "Ladies and Gentleman - the Man in Black, Mr. Johnny Cash". We were sitting in one of the first few rows (it seems like maybe row 4 or 5) and when he walked out he seemed bigger than life.

Dressed out in a black suit, long shiny hair, and a guitar around his neck, he walked straight to the front of the stage, nodded, and then said "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash".