Cash: The Autobiography

Cash: The Autobiography

4.5 23
by Johnny Cash

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The personal story of an American icon – Johnny Cash–in his own words.

He was the "Man in Black," a country music legend, the "quintessential American troubadour." He was an icon of rugged individualism who had been to hell and back, telling the tale as never before. In his unforgettable autobiography, Johnny Cash tells the truth about the highs and

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The personal story of an American icon – Johnny Cash–in his own words.

He was the "Man in Black," a country music legend, the "quintessential American troubadour." He was an icon of rugged individualism who had been to hell and back, telling the tale as never before. In his unforgettable autobiography, Johnny Cash tells the truth about the highs and lows, the struggles and hard–won triumphs, and the people who shaped him.

In his own words, Cash set the record straight –and dispelled a few myths – as he looked unsparingly at his remarkable life: from the joys of his boyhood in Dyess, Arkansas to superstardom in Nashville, Tennessee, the road of Johnny's life has been anything but smooth. Cash writes of the thrill of playing with Elvis, the comfort of praying with Billy Graham; of his battles with addiction and of the devotion of his wife June; of his gratitude for life, and of his thoughts on what the afterlife may bring. Here, too, are the friends of a lifetime, including Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and Kris Kristofferson. As powerful and memorable as one of his classics songs, Cash is filled with the candor, wit, and wisdom of a man who truly "walked the line."

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Editorial Reviews

--Country Music magazine
“Cash has always been cool.”
New York Times
“Insightful, relaxed, and conversational. . . . The stories sing.”
Chicago Sun-Times
“Engaging. . . . Written with honesty and spiritual insight. . . . Cash’s stories shine.”
Country Music magazine
“Cash has always been cool.”
Kirkus Reviews
A humble, happy look back from the man in black.

Johnny Cash answers to many names; he's JR to childhood friends and family, John to bandmates, and Johnny to fans. "Cash" is the name wife June Carter reserves for "the star, the egomaniac." The star gets plenty of ink here, from the early days at Sun Records—with Elvis, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis—to his current status as a darling of the alternative rock set. But it's the private man who's most compelling and surprisingly complex. Cash writes candidly of his recurring addiction to amphetamines and his concomitant shortcomings as a father, addresses his spirituality without sounding maudlin, and displays genuine humility at his success and very little bitterness at his abandonment by the country music establishment. A more accurate subtitle might be "The Second Autobiography," since this volume covers some of the same ground as Cash's previous work, The Man in Black (1986), but a life so chock full of oddments (he once started a forest fire with an automobile and on another occasion was nearly disemboweled by an ostrich) and renegade stands (he opposed Vietnam, heresy to the nation's blue- collar constituency) easily merits a second look. Organized around the domiciles where he divides his time—homes in Tennessee, Florida, and Jamaica, as well as his tour bus—the book stays grounded in the present, mixing reflections on his 40-year career with a running chronicle of an ongoing tour. This novel approach minimizes the as-told-to blahs that plague many a celebrity autobiography and highlights Cash's wry humor and introspection. With the help of Carr, editor of Country Music magazine, Cash keeps the pace lively until the end, when the roses he throws everyone from grandkids to music biz buddies bog things down.

Mostly, though, a pungent, substantive autobiography from one the most iconoclastic talents on the American music scene.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.92(d)

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My line comes down from Queen Ada, the sister of Malcolm IV, descended from King Duff, the first king of Scotland. Ada's holdings encompassed all the land east of the Miglo River in the Valley of the Bran, in what is now the county of Fife. Malcolm's castle is long gone, but you can still see some of its stones in the walls of the church tower in the little village of Strathmiglo. The motto on my people's coat of arms was "Better Times Will Come." Their name was Caesche; with emigration in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it came to be spelled the way it was pronounced, C-A-S-H.

The first American Cash was William, a mariner who captained his own ship, the Good Intent, sailing out of Glasgow across the Atlantic with cargoes of pilgrims for the New World until he himself settled in Essex County, Massachusetts, in 1667. His descendants migrated to Westmoreland County, Virginia, in the very early 1700s, before so many sons-in-law, past and present, that June makes a joke of it in her stage act.

My work life has been simple: cotton as a youth and music as an adult. In between I was an automobile factory worker in Michigan, a radio intercept operator for the United States Air Force in Germany, and a door-to-door appliance salesman for the Home Equipment Company of Memphis, Tennessee. I was a great radio operator and a terrible salesman. I hated the assembly line.

My first records were on the Sun label, run by Mr. Sam Phillips in Memphis and featuring Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, and others as well as myself. My first single was "Cry, Cry, Cry" in 1955, my first big hit "I Walk the Line" in 19 5 6. 1 left Sun Records forColumbia in 119 5 8, and shortly after that I left Memphis for California.

My affair with pills had already begun. It quickly became allconsuming, eating me up for the next decade or so. Amazingly, it didn't completely ruin my career. During those years I made music I'm still proud of-particularly Ride This Train, Bitter Tears, and my other concept albums-and I had commercial success: "Ring of Fire" was a big hit for me in 1963. By that time I'd destroyed my family and was working hard on doing the same to myself.

I survived, though. I moved to Nashville, kicked my habit, and married June. My career accelerated. The Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison album was a huge success, and in 1969 1 began hosting The Johnny Cash Show on the ABC TV network. After "Flesh and Blood" in 1970, 1 didn't have a chart-topping single until "One Piece at a Time " in 19 7 6, long after The Johnny Cash Show was history.

Between the early '70s and the early '90s I didn't sell huge numbers of records, but again I have to say that I made some music I'm still proud of, and those years weren't dull. I wrote my first autobiography, Man in Black, and my first novel, Man in White. I teamed up with Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson in the Highwaymen. I left Columbia, owned by CBS Records, and went to Mercury/Polygram. I got elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. I got addicted to pain pills, got treated at the Betty Ford Clinic, recovered, got addicted again, and recovered again. I just about died, got saved by heart bypass surgery, and just about died again. I worked hundreds and hundreds of shows. I kept my operation together, more or less, until the wheel of fortune rolled around to me again.

That happened in 1994, when I formed an alliance with Rick Rubin, producer of radically non-Nashvillian acts like the Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chill Peppers, and made my American Recordings album. According to the media at the time, that caused an overnight change in my status from "Nashville has-been" to "hip icon." Whatever they called me, I was grateful. It was my second major comeback; the minor ones have been too many to count.

I'm still on the circuit today, still recording, still writing songs, still showing up to play everywhere from Midwestern auditoriums to Manhattan trend spots to the Royal Albert Hall.I'm in reasonable shape physically and financially. I'm still a Christian, as I have been all my life. vBeyond that I get complicated. I endorse Kris Kristofferson's line about me: "He's a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction." I also like Rosanne's line: "He believes what he says, but that don't make him a saint." I do believe what I say. There are levels of honesty, though.

And there are levels of intimacy. I go by various names. I'm Johnny Cash in public and on record sleeves, CD labels, and billboards. I'm Johnny to many people in the business, some of them friends and acquaintances of many years. To June, I'm John, and that's my name among other intimates: my band, my sons-in-law, many friends, and people who work closely with me. Finally, I'm J.R., my name from childhood. My brothers and sisters and other relatives still call me that. So does Marty Stuart. Lou Robin, my manager, alternates between J.R. and John. June recognizes that I operate at various levels, so she doesn't always call me John. When I'm paranoid or belligerent, she'll say, "Go away, Cash! It's time for Johnny to come out." Cash is her name for the star, the egomaniac. Johnny is her name for her playmate.

Several names, several homes. I'm part gypsy, part homebody, so I live according to a rhythm alien to most people but natural to me, splitting my time on a semi-predictable basis between my big house on Old Hickory Lake just outside Nashville; my farm at Bon Aqua, farther outside Nashville; the house in Port Richey, Florida, that June inherited from her parents; an endless succession of hotels all over the world; my bus; and my house in Jamaica, Cinnamon Hill.

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