Saturday, December 31, 2011

Documentary - Johnny Cash: The Last Great American

I really did not become a Johnny Cash fan until the mid 1990s when I went to see Mark Lanegan (former singer for the Screaming Trees) as the opening act for Cash in Seattle. Lanegan had released two moody, melodic, post-grunge solo albums that hinted at the blues-tinged work he would do later, and I was willing to pay the steep ticket price to see him do a solo show (stripped down, mostly acoustic). Besides, we could always leave at intermission before Cash played. But we didn't.

This was the era when Cash had begun working with Rick Rubin on the 4-CD series for American Recordings that would become the foundation for Unearthed, a 5-CD retrospective released shortly after Cash died. The song the grabbed me from that first album was "The Beast in Me," written by Cash's former son-in-law, Nick Lowe.

This album, and those that followed, resurrected his career, especially with his cover of Nine Inch Nail's "Hurt." This song seemed so personal for him at the time - which was recorded (I believe) shortly before his wife June Carter died, and showing his own ill health. He died seven months later.

Back to the concert - what amazed me at that show was the incredible numbers of middle-aged people who had shown up with arms full of his records (remember vinyl?) hoping to get them signed. The other thing that amazed me at that show was that I knew most of his songs.

Anyway, I am not sure that Cash was the last great American - but he was a man who made his own way in the world - having started with nothing. He overcame drugs and alcohol, prison time, and producers who wanted to make him the next Elvis when he was more in tune with being the next Robert Johnson.

He eventually found June Carter Cash, his last wife, who he credited with his redemption. They often performed together in the last decades of his life.

I admired Cash - through all of the struggles in his life, he found meaning and purpose through his music, his love, and his faith. I respect that in any person.

This documentary is from Top Documentary Films.

Johnny Cash: The Last Great American

Johnny Cash: The Last Great AmericanDocumentary profiling the life of legendary country music star Johnny Cash, who died in 2003 shortly after completing the retrospective Unearthed, a five-CD set of the acoustic performances with which he resurrected his career in the last decade of his life, and after losing his wife, June Carter Cash.

This first major retrospective of Cash’s life, times and music features contributions from his daughter Rosanne Cash and son John Carter Cash, his longtime manager Lou Robin and fellow musicians including Little Richard, Cowboy Jack Clement, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and Elvis Costello.

Cash was the son of a poor sharecropper from Kingsland, Arkansas, who sang folk, spiritual and country songs to himself while picking cotton in the fields. In the 50s he signed to Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, scored his first hits and was part of the ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.

Watch the full documentary now

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