When Johnny Cash auditioned for Sam Phillips at Sun in 1955 singing Gospel songs that his mother had taught him. Phillips stopped him and said; “Stop and get out. You don’t believe in what you’re singing. If you don’t believe it, how can your audience?”
Cash sung him the self penned “Folsom Prison Blues” and the rest, as they say is history.
This is the key to Cash and his career. He bled his music. Melodramatic but true. If anyone was more honest in his music then I’ve never heard it, from “Cry, Cry, Cry” to “Hurt”, Cash sung from his soul and was always true to himself.
I’ve never heard lyrics that can move me as much as from the Man in Black, and the genesis came when Cash suffered unbearable tragedy as his brother was killed in an accident borne of typical Mid Western poverty, dying whilst sawing wood to make some extra money for the family, only for his father to piss it up the wall and destroy his sons confidence, not through physical violence, but worse by relentlessly saying “You’re nothing” when he really meant, “I’m nothing”.
Cash Senior was a constant drain on John, even in later life. Although dry he dragged his son down with a drip drip of disapproval, and by drawing satisfaction whenever Cash messed up, either through drink, drugs or adulterous behaviour.
A theme continued through the film as a drug addled Cash still craved his father’s approval only to be rejected.
Cash undoubtedly was scarred by his brother’s death as they were best friends but he never let it define his life or made it an excuse for his behaviour.
Instead he wanted to reach out to others through his music and change things for the better.
Hence the opening scene of “Walk the Line” sees Cash playing his one of infamous prison gigs.
We see cash demand that his label release the Folsom jail gig as a live album.
“John, your fans are Christians, they don’t want to hear you sing for a bunch of rapists and murderers”.
“Well, then they ain’t Christians at all”.
The album was released in 1968 and outsold the Beatles “White Album”.
Cash turned back to the faith of his youth but not in a Bible Bashing Holier than thou fashion. His inspiration was the passage that if followed by Christians would make them Socialists.
“WHEN I WAS HUNGRY, YOU GAVE ME FOOD; WHEN I WAS THIRSTY, YOU GAVE ME SOMETHING TO DRINK; WHEN I WAS A STRANGER YOU TOOK ME IN, WHEN I WAS NAKED YOU GAVE ME CLOTHING; WHEN I WAS SICK YOU TOOK CARE OF ME, WHEN I WAS IN PRISON YOU VISITED ME. THEN THE RIGHTEOUS WILL REPLY, LORD, WHEN WAS IT THAT WE SAW YOU HUNGRY AND GAVE YOU FOOD, OR THIRSTY AND GAVE YOU SOMETHING TO DRINK, A STRANGER AND TOOK YOU IN, OR NAKED AND GAVE YOU CLOTHING? WHEN DID WE SEE YOU ILL OR IN PRISON, AND CAME TO VISIT YOU? AND THE KING WILL ANSWER, I TELL YOU THIS: ANYTHING YOU DID FOR THE LEAST OF MY BROTHERS HERE, YOU DID FOR ME.”
Wouldn’t it be great if Christians actually followed what Jesus taught them instead of perverting it and cherry picking?
The above passage is a great manifesto for how to improve Society through individual and collective action.
The movie focussed on the Great Man’s early life and especially on his relationship with June Carter.
Talk about star crossed lovers. Every obstacle both external and between them seemed to be in the way but this is an amazing story of how love can conquer all.
This was a superbly written picture and Phoenix and Witherspoon were brilliant as the duo.
I found the movie moving and inspiring and only increased my admiration for Cash as a man and musician, and having seen it already at the cinema, I found it actually improved with a second viewing, as there is so much to discover and reflect on in Johnny Cash’s amazing life story.