Sunday, April 7, 2013

"Redemption" by Johnny Cash (Circa 1979/80)

Johnny Cash was kind of an enigma. He was; at once; the hottest thing in country, while also one of the most mysterious. Some folks are not aware of the fact that Johnny Cash was against the War in Vietnam. He toured there, entertaining the troops engaged in a war he himself did not believe in, but he believed in all those men and women that were there fighting. These were not volunteers; these were people whose lives had been arbitrarily interrupted by politics. There’s a difference.

While Bob Hope always supported the position of the government, Johnny Cash gave of his time to the people who were caught up in something over which they had no direct control. These were the people he sought to comfort with his deep voice and larger than life heart.

This video is from around 1979, a time in which Mr. Cash had not had a big hit in a few years’ time, choosing mostly to concentrate on gospel music. And, as with anything he ever undertook; from booze to music; he took it seriously, reaching greater heights with each step he took.

About this time Rick Rubin came into his life as a producer. His premise was simple enough; strip away all the band; drums, electric guitars etc; and really get down to the essence of Johnny Cash. The resulting 5 albums which capped off Mr. Cash’s career are proof of the wisdom inherent in that approach. From such diverse offerings as U-2’s “One”, Nine Inch Nails “Hurt” (a #1 hit just before his death) and even former son-in-law Nick Lowe’s “The Beast in Me”, in which he tackles the topic of manic-depression, Mr. Cash was able to re-define his legacy. He was able to expand through the music of other’s, while lending a new take to their works. U-2’s “One” never got through to me until I heard Johnny Cash, alone with his guitar, perform the song.

If you have never heard any of those last 5 albums produced by Rick Rubin; some in Johnny Cash’s bedroom, from his sickbed; you have never really heard Johnny Cash. And that is truly a shame.

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