"The Spaghetti Incident?"

Set lists and a little bit of Rock

Monday, 7 August 2006

Death no obstacle for Johnny Cash

I'm too Lazy to post a real post, so here's some Johnny Cash, stolen as usual form someplace on this interweb thingy. Bono once told me Elvis would have been a sissy with out Johnny Cash so go figure.
LOS ANGELES: In life, Johnny Cash was merely a legend. In death, he is proving immortal.
Almost three years after he died at the age of 71 after a decade of poor health, the country outlaw is the most popular artist in the United States, currently at No 1 on the pop and country charts with an album of new material.
The album, American V: A Hundred Highways, recorded in Cash's final months as he looked forward to reuniting with his late wife, June Carter Cash, sold 88,000 copies in the week ended July 9. It's his first chart-topper since 1969's live prison album "Johnny Cash at San Quentin."
It also marks the fifth – but not the final – instalment in the American Recordings series, which resurrected the singer's career in the last dozen years of his life. The comeback was masterminded by rock producer Rick Rubin, who has already topped the album charts this summer with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Dixie Chicks.
Cash and Rubin started work on the acoustic set the day they finished 2002's fourth volume, which featured one of the biggest hits of his career, a Grammy-winning cover of hard rock band Nine Inch Nails' Hurt. With a frail Cash sensing the end was near, he recorded 60 songs over eight months, often singing in an improvised bedroom studio at his home near Nashville.
While the sessions for the previous albums were straightforward affairs, Rubin said the "American V" sessions had a more important motivation – to keep Cash alive.
"He was recording every day to communicate and to be alive and to have a reason to go on. Which was different than the other albums which were just about singing songs," Rubin said in a recent interview with Reuters.
Still, Rubin said Cash appeared to be on the mend, no longer confined to a wheelchair and enjoying a better diet. He was devastated to learn of Cash's death on September 12, 2003.
"He was able to walk again, and everything was turning around to the point of where the week after he passed – the following Tuesday – he was supposed to be coming to Los Angeles, and we were going to be working together again."
Among the tracks on American V are covers of Gordon Lightfoot's If You Could Read My Mind, and the folk standard Four Strong Winds, as well as the last song Cash wrote and recorded, the train-themed Like the 309.
His voice sounds eerily fragile on If You Could Read My Mind, but Rubin said it fits perfectly with the melancholy lyrics and melody. On the other hand, his reading of Hank Williams' Evening Train is full of gusto, in part because Cash knew the song by heart.
The album was originally envisaged as a black gospel release, and Cash recorded several such tunes including the strident God's Gonna Cut You Down before they decided to expand their horizons. His former Sun Records labelmate Elvis Presley had an earlier crack at the traditional tune on his gospel album Amazing Grace.
Cash and Rubin, who developed an immensely close bond over the years, occasionally discussed death, and the singer had indicated that he was happy to go when his time was up.
"He was excited about working, but at the same time he was ready to meet June when it was deemed his time," Rubin said (She preceded him in death by four months.)
Still, the sessions were not depressing affairs. While Cash's physical body may have been failing him, his intellet and sense of humour remained as sharp as ever. On Like the 309," he confronts his mortality with the opening line, "It should be a while before I see Doctor Death."
"He was really full of wisdom and he was really interested and he would still read, and listen to documentary programs. He was always learning stuff," Rubin recalled.
Rubin said he will issue a sixth volume with tracks from the same sessions, but has no idea what songs will make the cut or when the album will hit the streets. Currently he is working with rock bands Linkin Park and Metallica.
A more immediate possibility is another Billboard magazine advertisement ripping the country music world for its apathy towards Cash. After the overlooked 1996 album Unchained (US sales to date: 152,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan) won the Grammy for best country album, Rubin controversially reproduced a famous photo of Cash hoisting a middle finger into the eye of the camera, and sarcastically thanked "the Nashville music establishment and country radio for your support."
"So much of the idea of that ad was really for Johnny's entertainment," Rubin recalled. "It's a great idea, having the No 1 album and the No 1 country album, it's a great time for a f–- you from Johnny Cash!"


Check out the lyrics to Cash's Aint No Grave Album

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