Category Archives: Johnny Cash

Things I Love on the Internet

* A new blog on the Oscars and Instant Runoff Voting — Here’s a post about the new voting system for Best Picture, written by the Chair of FairVote Board of Directors, Krist Novoselic.
* The last new Johnny Cash album, American VI: Ain’t No Grave is being released on February 23, during what would have been his birthday week. Am buying, sound unheard, if I don’t get for my birthday.
* Brian from Coverville turned me on to Deanne Iovan’s mission, inspired by Julie & Julia, as well as the 09/09/09 Beatles’ releases, of covering The Beatles’ White Album, track by track, putting out a new song every nine days. She just put out Julia, which is at the end of side two. (Side 2? Hey, I grew up with the vinyl version of this album.)
* 500 cartoons on life in biology research.
* The Business Librarians listserv helped me answer a question this week. Apparently the doohickey on the tops to plastic containers, where the grated cheese comes out, one side being a shaker while the other side you can use a teaspoon to dish it out, is called a spice lid or a dispensing closure.
* Valentine’s Day/Census tie-in campaign with a selection of electronic postcards in Spanish and English.
* New CPR on YouTube: Continuous Chest Compression CPR – Mayo Clinic Presentation, sent to me by a nurse friend of mine, who thinks it’s terrific.
* A recent study outlines the health benefits of having more sex. CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen has the details.
* My medical reimbursement company, only this week, has FINALLY decided to accept e-mailed PDFs, GIFs, etc. as well as mailing and faxes. This is particularly helpful since our fax at work does not seem to work. (When someone announced “Fax is dead!””, they weren’t kidding.)
* Found several places: The Muppets: Beaker’s Ballad – the Internet is SO mean.
* Thom Wade points to Hey! It’s That Guy!? It’s a page “dedicated to the character actors collectively known as ‘That Guy’.” Simon Oakland was one of the first ones I knerw by name as a kid.
* Betty White for host of SNL. My only problem is the notion that it’s a resurgence; she never really left.
* Arthur@AmeriNZ found a video response to the Google Super Bowl ad done from a gay man’s POV.
* An old friend accidentally pushed some button that sent an email to EVERY address in her e-address book, which allowed us to reconnect. I’ve had a child and she’s had two since we last communicated.
*Local school catches Olympic fever. “Events have included ring toss, rock climbing, hockey, boggle, hang man, reading comprehension, and math facts.” I’ll pick math facts.
* The 9th Annual Underground Railroad History Conference, Friday, February 26 at 8:30am through Sunday, February 28 at 2:00pm at Russell Sage College, Troy, NY, where I’ll be one of many presenting on that Saturday. Register now!


November Ramblin'

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about a couple recent podcasts by Arthur at AmeriNZ dealing with the topic, broadly stated: “Are online relationships ‘real’?” I was talking over these podcasts with a couple guys I see on the bus each evening. One suggests that if the relationship generates an action from the other person, then it is a relationship.

Of course, it could be a one-sided relationship. Let’s say you were following Ashton Kutcher on on Twitter and retweeted all of his best lines; unless Ashton reciprocated, it would really be much of a story. But when you are motivated to take some action, and they respond in kind, then certainly, some real human interaction is taking place. I see an article that I believe – because I listen to his podcast, read his blog – that Arthur would interested in for its content. And as often as not, Arthur acknowledges that in some way.

Here’s the odd thing I experienced this fall. There’s a guy in my office. He’s a perfectly nice person. Someone sent out an e-mail asking if we wanted to contribute to a wedding gift. Oh, he’s been engaged? Really? I had no idea. Now this guy sits about 20 feet from my desk, lives (somewhere) in my neighborhood. I say hi to him but I don’t know anything about him, or he much about me, I suspect.

Whereas I know about Scott’s sons, Nigel and new baby Ian, and Greg’s daughters, Norah and Mia; they in turn know a bit about Lydia. I know more about Scott and Greg, and more importantly, interact with them more substantially, than I do the woman who I see on the bus every evening.
Wednesday, the wife had a follow-up oral surgery. After the ordeal last year, it seems that six of her lower teeth didn’t have enough gum cover for six of her lower teeth. Without gums, the teeth could rot and fall out. So tissue was removed from one part of her mouth to create gum tissue. She’s recovering amazingly well. The in-laws came to our house this year to help Carol and to celebrate Thanksgiving, which was fine.
I was doing research at work a couple months back, when I came across some New York State law:

EDN – Education
801 – Courses of instruction in patriotism and citizenship and in certain historic documents
§ 801. Courses of instruction in patriotism and citizenship and in certain historic documents. 1. In order to promote a spirit of patriotic and civic service and obligation and to foster in the children of the state moral and intellectual qualities which are essential in preparing to meet the obligations of citizenship in peace or in war, the regents of The University of the State of New York shall prescribe courses of instruction in patriotism, citizenship, and human rights issues, with particular attention to the study of the inhumanity of genocide, slavery (including the freedom trail and underground railroad), the Holocaust, and the mass starvation in Ireland from 1845 to 1850, to be maintained and followed in all the schools of the state. The boards of education and trustees of the several cities and school districts of the state shall require instruction to be given in such courses, by the teachers employed in the schools therein. All pupils attending such schools, over the age of eight years, shall attend upon such instruction.

I did not know that. Surely, this is law that must have been passed long after I attended school – though it seemed we did seem to spend a lot of time on the Irish potato famine. Just found it interesting and can only imagine certain people making political hay over it.
The bitter tears of Johnny Cash. The untold story of Johnny Cash, protest singer and Native American activist, and his feud with the music industry
Caring for Your Photographic Collections.
Hen House Five Plus Two’s In the Mood actually Ray Stevens, the song that first informed me that all music can be done in chicken. The beginning of The Muppets’ Bohemian Rhapsody was a reminder of same.
Wonderous invention.


C is for Cash

I felt that Johnny Cash was one of those characters that kept drifting in and out of my awareness. As a child, I was vaguely aware of him from his later 1950s like I Walk the Line (#17 pop, #6 country) and the even bigger pop hit Guess Things Happen That way (#11 pop, #8 country). 1963’s Ring of Fire was also a crossover hit.

Johnny Cash went through some commercially desolate years due in no small part to his drug use. Then in 1968, now clean, he decided to do a concert in Folsom Prison, California in January, which was released as an album in May of that year. Despite less than enthusiastic support of his record company, Columbia, the album became a big country hit. More surprisingly, it also became a crossover hit, getting up #13 on the pop charts. Jann Wenner, from a relatively new periodical called Rolling Stone, touted the album, which undoubtedly helped fuel its rise. Even more successful was his album At San Quentin, which spawned the #2 pop hit, A Boy Named Sue, penned by Shel Silverstein.

This led to Johnny getting a primetime show on ABC-TV for a couple years, featuring a wide range of artists including Louis Armstrong, Neil Diamond, Arlo Guthrie, Merle Haggard, Joni Mitchell, Odetta, Minnie Pearl, Pete Seeger, and many more.

Of course, even success has its downside. Contrary to the legend about one of his signature songs, Johnny Cash had taken a Gordon Jenkins tune called Crescent City Blues and changed it to Folsom Prison Blues.

He told Sun Records what he’d done, and eventually Jenkins, who said he had no problem with it. The version in 1955 was a relatively minor hit but the 1968 live version on Columbia was massive, and Jenkins (apparently pushed by his publisher) sued Cash and received a settlement. There is an album called Johnny Cash: Roots and Branches; you can hear 30 seconds of Crescent City Blues here; you can also read an analysis of Folsom Prison’s most iconic line, “I shot a man in Reno” here. Somehow, this ripoff of an existing song didn’t bother me as much as others, especially given the fact that John had ‘fessed up.

Johnny Cash, Live at San Quentin – Folsom Prison Blues

John continued with an up-and-down profile. He’d show up in supergroups such as the Highwaymen (Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson) in 1985 or the Class of ’55 (Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison) in 1986; I have the latter on something called vinyl, BTW. But it wasn’t until a friend of mine sent me American Recording, the 1994 first album he performed produced by rock/hip hop producer Rick Rubin. The sparse sound was a revelation and I rediscovered Johnny Cash in that series of American albums: Unchained, Solitary Man, and The Man Comes Around, plus the posthumous A Hundred Highways and a boxed set. The defining song in his later years, of course was the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt.

Justin Timberlake, who beat out Johnny for a video award, said publicly that John should have one for Hurt and later conceived the posthumous video for God’s Gonna Cut You Down.

Johnny Cash died September 12, 2003, just months after his beloved wife, June Carter Cash passed away.

My life in music

I am going to pick my favorite album from each year of my life, selecting them from Wikipedia’s “year in music” because I don’t have them all in iTunes, especially the stuff I have only in vinyl. If the years are wrong, blame the wiki people. I did have to add the 1996 item, because it wasn’t listed – for shame!

Rules say that I have to own it or would most likely have owned it, as I understand them.

1953 – Jazz at Massey Hall – The Quintet. Own on CD.
1954 – Songs For Young Lovers – Frank Sinatra. Don’t own, but have Capitol Singles box set.
1955 – Oklahoma! – Original Broadway Cast. Own a later iteration of this.
1956 – Ella and Louis – Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong. Own on CD.
1957 – Ella and Louis Again – Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong. Own on CD.
1958 – South Pacific – Original Soundtrack. My mother owned it on LP.
1959 – Kind of Blue – Miles Davis. Own on CD. Adore.
1960 – Joan Baez – Joan Baez. My father owned, and I own her LP from the previous year.
1961 – Judy at Carnegie Hall – Judy Garland. I think my mother owned LP; in any case, saw the TV special.
1962 – West Side Story – Original Soundtrack. Mom owned on vinyl; I own on CD.
1963 – With the Beatles – The Beatles. Own on CD.
1964 – A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles. Own both US and UK versions on CD.
1965 – The Sound of Music – Original Soundtrack. Owned on vinyl, own on CD.
1966 – Daydream – The Lovin’ Spoonful. Owned on vinyl, own on CD. Sure I could pick Beatles for every year the rest of this decade (this year, Revolver), but what’s the fun in that?
1967 – The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland – The Supremes. Own on LP.
1968 – Bookends – Simon and Garfunkel. Own on LP.
1969 – The Band – The Band. Own on CD.
1970 – After the Gold Rush – Neil Young. Own on CD.
1971 – Jesus Christ Superstar – Various Artists. Own on LP.
1972 – Fragile – Yes. Own on CD.
1973 – Piano Man – Billy Joel. Own on LP, saw him on tour in New Paltz.
1974 – Endless Summer – Beach Boys. Own on vinyl. Actually really discovered early Beach Boys then; my first Beach boys album was Pet Sounds.
1975 – Still Crazy After All These Years – Paul Simon. Own on LP and CD. Defines old relationship.
1976 – Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder. Own on LP and CD. My old record player would automatically return before the 45 that comes with the LP was over.
1977 – “Heroes” – David Bowie. Own on LP.
1978 – Saturday Night Fever – Original Soundtrack. It is what it is. Own on vinyl.
1979 – Squeezing Out Sparks – Graham Parker & the Rumour. Own on vinyl.
1980 – Peter Gabriel (“melt”, the 3rd album with Biko) – Peter Gabriel. Own on LP in German and in English, and on CD in English. A MOST prodigious year! I had to pass on Empty Glass – Pete Townshend and London Calling – The Clash, among MANY others.
1981 – Discipline – King Crimson. Own on vinyl.
1982 – Night and Day – Joe Jackson. Own on vinyl.
1983 – Genesis (the one with “Mama”)- Genesis. Own on vinyl.
1984 – Purple Rain – Prince and the Revolution. Own on LP and CD.
1985 – Soul to Soul – Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble. Own on vinyl.
1986 – Bring On the Night – Sting. Own on vinyl.
1987 – The Joshua Tree – U2. Own on LP and CD.
1988 – Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 – Traveling Wilburys. Own on CD.
1989 – Spike – Elvis Costello. Own on CD. My favorite Costello.
1990 – Shooting Straight in the Dark – Mary Chapin Carpenter. Own on CD.
1991 – Out of Time – R.E.M. Own on CD.
1992 – Ingénue – k.d. lang. Own on CD. Also tied to a relationship.
1993 – I’m Alive – Jackson Browne. Own on CD. A thin year.
1994 – Wildflowers – Tom Petty. Own on CD.
1995 – Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection – Alison Krauss. Own on CD.
1996 – Unchained – Johnny Cash. Own on CD.
1997 – Time Out of Mind – Bob Dylan. Own on CD.
1998 – Mermaid Avenue – Billy Bragg and Wilco. Own on CD.
1999 – Play – Moby. Yeah, I know everyone tired of it. Own on CD.
2000 – American III: Solitary Man – Johnny Cash. Own on CD.
2001 – Love and Theft – Bob Dylan. Bought on September 11. Own on CD.
2002 – American IV: The Man Comes Around – Johnny Cash. Own on CD.
2003 – Unearthed – Johnny Cash (Box Set). Lots of songs my father used to sing. Own on CD.
2004 – Van Lear Rose – Loretta Lynn. Own on CD.
2005 – Chaos and Creation in the Backyard – Paul McCartney. Own on CD. By this point, Lydia is 1 and I’m hardly getting ANYTHING.
2006 – We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions – Bruce Springsteen. Own on CD. Out of the fog of new parenthood.
2007 – Raising Sand – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Gave to my wife on CD.
2008 – Liverpool 8 – Ringo Starr. By default. Own on CD. i tend to buy more in the second half of the year. I have at least $50 in gift cards, so Costello, Hiatt, E. Harris and Mudcrutch are among the possibilities for purchase in the near future.

This took at least 67% longer than it did Tosy.


Eddie Mitchell Makes Me Go Country

Eddie called me out to comment on EW’s top 25 country albums you have to hear, even if you don’t like country music. Since I pretty much do whatever Eddie requests – he asks so nicely – I could do naught but respond, albeit reluctantly. I am not what I’d call a big country fan; I don’t dislike it, just don’t follow it much.
Once, though, I did. Back in the days when AM radio was king, there were many stations that operated pretty much from sunrise to sundown. Then there were these mega “clear channel” stations that one could hear from a great distance at night. From my home in Binghamton, NY, I could hear stations in New York City and Cleveland. I could also get WWVA, Wheeling, West Virginia, a country station.
Also, my grandfather brought home this album “50 Stars, 50 Hits” on “two long-playing albums”, as the pitchman said it.

Now to the list:
*means I Have It

*1. Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash
Maybe it’s because I heard it first, but I prefer San Quentin. Not that this is a bad album. I also liked the American Recordings John R. did later in his life. In fact, if you considered that best of American Recordings album that came in the posthumous box set, I might pick that.

*2. Home, Dixie Chicks
As I mentioned recently, bought this to protest the protest of the Dixie Chicks. Ironically, this album has one mighty patriotic tune in particular that was on the charts when the controversy developed. I like it, but it seems terribly high in the pantheon of all country music.

3. Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., Dwight Yoakam
I like him when I see him on TV or when he appears on a compilation album I have, but have none of his albums.

*4. Van Lear Rose, Loretta Lynn
I’m quite fond of this Jack White-produced disc.

5. Red Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson
Have some Willie, not this.

6. Carnegie Hall Concert, Buck Owens and His Buckaroos
No Buck except on 50 Stars.

7. Modern Day Drifter, Dierks Bentley
Don’t know him. See he already has a greatest hits album.

8. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Miranda Lambert
I heard her name mentioned in a positive review on CBS Sunday Morning, I believe.

9. The Complete Reprise Sessions, Gram Parsons
The only Gram I have is on the expanded version of the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo CD.

10. Time Well Wasted, Brad Paisley
Know the name. He’s playing around here soon.

11. Coat of Many Colors, Dolly Parton
Eddie will probably hate me, but I own no solo Dolly.

*12. Elite Hotel, Emmylou Harris
Own it on LP, haven’t played it in years. Prefer Blue Kentucky Girl from that era.

13. Georgia Hard, Robbie Fulks
Don’t know.

*14. Trio, Dolly Parton/Linda Ronstadt/Emmylou Harris
Bought unheard based on all those great Emmylou harmonies on Linda’s albums, and Dolly’s harmony on Linda’s “I’ll Never Be Married”. Very fond of this album.

15. Gold, Hank Williams
For all the covers of Hank Williams songs I own and songs referring to Hank, from Johnny Cash to Neil Young that I have, unless I got one in the end days of my LP collecting, I just don’t have any collections.

16. Hag — The Best of Merle Haggard, Merle Haggard
I think that I didn’t get the parody that was “Okie from Muskogee” and dismissed him out of hand. Know better now, but haven’t rectified the void in my collection.

17. Come On Over, Shania Twain
I do remember some sultry video from this, which I did hear as country particularly. And that “Man, I’m a Woman” song’s from here, too. The album sold 20 bajillion copies. My feeling: meh.

*18. Guitar Town, Steve Earle
My first Steve Earle was a live album I didn’t much like. The second was I Feel Alright, which just love. Guitar Town is a really good album, but it was so hyped in my circle of friends, it couldn’t bear the weight.

19. These Days, Vince Gill
Own none Like to watch him on TV occasionally.

*20. Almost Blue, Elvis Costello
It was an acquired taste for me. Grew to like and respect it, rather than embrace it.

21. Here for the Party, Gretchen Wilson
I know who she is, but not this album.

22. The Definitive Collection, the Flying Burrito Brothers
Know them, have heard them on FM radio, but own none.

23. Revival, Gillian Welch
If there’s one artist on this list I’m mostly likely to purchase, it’s Gillian Welch. I’ve heard her music at other people’s houses.

24. Horse of a Different Color, Big & Rich
Know them only by reputation, not all good.

*25. Raising Sand, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
My wife loves Alison Krauss, and we saw her in April 2003 at the Palace Theater in Albany. There are tracks of hers on albums I like but I haven’t loved a whole album since that greatest hits album she put out back c. 1994 when she was still brunette and more zaftig, until this one. But is it country?

I have eight out of 25.

What, no Patsy Cline? I would also found room for Lyle Lovett, Mary Chapin Carpenter and maybe Rosanne Cash.

Your turn, Eddie.


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As I’ve noted, I often play music based on artists’ birthdays. This week, I have quite a few albums by these folks:
May 9, 1949, Billy Joel
May 10, 1961, Bono (Paul Hewson) (U2)
May 12, 1948, Steve Winwood
May 13, 1950, Stevie Wonder
May 14, 1953, David Byrne
And at least one from these people:
May 9, 1937, Dave Prater (Sam & Dave)
May 9, 1944, Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield/Poco)
May 9, 1945, Steve Katz (Blues Project/Blood, Sweat & Tears)
May 10, 1946, Dave Mason (Traffic)
May 10, 1946, Donovan (Donovan Leitch)
May 11, 1941, Eric Burdon (Animals)
May 13, 1966, Darius Rucker (Hootie & The Blowfish)
May 14, 1936, Bobby Darin
May 15, 1948, Brian Eno
May 15, 1953, Mike Oldfield
May 16, 1966, Janet Jackson
So sue me, I bought that first Hootie album. Oh, and the exact dates of the birthdays I’ve seen different by a day or two.

Last night, Carol and I saw a musical based on the music of one of these folks as a pre-anniversary present for ourselves. Wanna guess which one?

I was thinking about a couple questions Eddie (yes, him again) posed:
1. Is it any slight to the original artist when someone else’s version of a song becomes the definitive one? Even if the original artist wrote it?
I can think of at least a couple examples where the original artist acknowledged the superiority of the cover. One was Otis Redding’s Respect; he said of Aretha Franklin something like “That girl done stole that song from me.”
Then even Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails noted, somewhat wistfully, that Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” had become the definitive one.
[And speaking of which: Trent Reznor for intellectual property czar.]
I suppose it depends how the songwriter feels about the song. If it it’s his or her “baby”, then losing it might not feel so hot. But if the writer is open to new possibilities, then I’d think it’d be an honor. Unless…
2. What do you think about cases where a cover is actually quite inferior to the original, yet is wildly more successful?
I’m trying to think of an example of this, actually. Do you have something in mind? Can anyone think of an original, written by the artist, that the cover was not good, yet sold well? Purists might pick Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”, but Whitney Houston’s version was not technically terrible, just mind-numblingly overplayed.


The Diversity of (Man In Black) Thought

I was reading this website called Racialious, “a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture” late last year when I came across this post about a black country singer, who I admit I’ve never heard of. But like the writer, I am happy that a black artist can go into whatever niche of music he or she chooses. I remember all too well what grief artists as diverse as Dionne Warwick (pop), Jimi Hendrix (rock), Charley Pride (country) and Leontyne Price (opera) got, from black people as well as white people, about not performing the “right music”.

Then one commenter wrote:
worth Netflixing when available: Johnny Cash openly championed bucking the Nashville crowd and his (thankfully) just released on-DVD 1970s tv show featured more black performers from the jazz, pop, soul/r&b arena as well as emerging rock/pop acts who were unable to get air time in the South during Nixon/Vietnam for politics/appearances/cultural “issues” (long hair, pot, etc.). He purposefully counter-programmed what “Hee Haw” had on and made a point to play with the artists, promoting them as well, driving the suits nuts, but boosting his show’s popularity. The artists were his friends and he knew talent when he saw it. Open your eyes to some sizzling performances with great audio (just forgive the fashion sense).

And I thought that was nice. Then this comment:
Just want to back up Hy on the “Johnny Cash Show” DVD. The costumes and pompadours are giggle-worthy, but the music is AWESOME. I got the DVD set as a gift for my mom (not that I don’t go over to her place and watch it, oh noooooo).

And this:
I too have enjoyed the “Johnny Cash Show” DVD but agree it needs a “wide lapel” warning. I skipped to the obvious treats right away, including an amazing early Stevie Wonder cut of “Heaven Help Us All” and Ray Charles doing “Ring Of Fire”.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with the other items, and didn’t think I would like it, but the history lesson was worth it! The show only ran two years (1969-1971) and there’s no way it could ever run on the networks today.
It basically took top artists from the counter-culture folk arena, artists written off as past their prime who influenced Cash, anti-establishment country stable, and anti-corporate rock and soul wing (despite their star power) in a “down home” environment.
It’s weird to think of Dylan and Cash playing live together on TV one moment and Cash and Louis Armstrong performing “Blue Yodel #9” then just…hanging out with “traditional” country folks like the Statler Brothers(?)… then shifting to all the “long haired hippies” (Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Neil Young) that show up with the “old guard” of rock (Carl Perkins, Everly Brothers) all viewed during Vietnam and Nixon.
It may not have solved much, but it was a pretty bold statement to make on a lot of levels. I highly second it as a viewing recommendation as well.
Still humming a few of those tunes too, damn…

Three recommendations for the The Johnny Cash Show: The Best of Johnny Cash 1969-1971 from what I would have considered a most unlikely place. Not so incidentally, John R. Cash would have been 76 tomorrow.
And George Harrison would have been 65 yesterday, though for most of his life, he thought his birthday was today, and many sources still cite February 25. I was listening yesterday to a CD a friend made for me of George’s Beatles songs, including those on the Anthologies.
I was talking to a fellow about the expected death of someone, and even though I knew knew that person was going to die, it still hit me, albeit differently than when someone you admire dies quickly via accident or violence. Sometimes that slow and inevitable death doesn’t catch you right away as you rationalize that he or she’s been sick for a long time, and somehow it’s “for the best”. And then – after the rationalizations have all worn away – then you grieve.