A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears

A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears

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by Antonino D'Ambrosio
     
 

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A Heartbeat and a Guitar tells of the collaboration of two distinct yet connected musicians—iconoclast Johnny Cash and pioneering folk artist Peter La Farge—and the album they created, Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian. It also tells of the unique personal, political, and cultural struggles that informed this album, one that has

Overview

A Heartbeat and a Guitar tells of the collaboration of two distinct yet connected musicians—iconoclast Johnny Cash and pioneering folk artist Peter La Farge—and the album they created, Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian. It also tells of the unique personal, political, and cultural struggles that informed this album, one that has influenced the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. D’Ambrosio has interviewed dozens of Cash’s and La Farge’s friends, family, and collaborators, including surviving members of his band, his producers, and Pete Seeger and Kris Kristofferson, creating a dramatic picture of both an era of radical protest and the making of one of the most controversial and enduring works of political pop art of the 1960s.

A Heartbeat and a Guitar is the inspiration for the new album “Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears revisited” featuring a collective of top Americana artists including Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, and Kris Kristofferson.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This book is a truly fascinating journey, charting the historical and social context of a courageous musical statement by one of our greatest rebel voices. It has since been locked away in the ‘denial drawer’ (aren't First Nations people just an extinct species, systematically exterminated by European ‘progress’?), but D'Ambrosio admirably shines his investigative lantern into every darkened corner, finally offering some greatly appreciated illumination.”—Jim Jarmusch, filmmaker

“Antonino D’Ambrosio’s A Heartbeat and a Guitar is a beautiful and inspiring book. D’Ambrosio’s possess the rarest of gifts, an artist who infuses his work with compassion and courage.” —Pete Seeger, musician

"Antonino D'Ambrosio's book on the making of Johnny Cash's album "Bitter Tears" is much more than the story behind those extraordinary songs. It is a rich history, not only of Johnny Cash's life, but of the Indian struggle for justice, which inspired Peter La Farge to write the song ‘The Ballad of Ira Hayes’ and Cash to sing it. The book is full of fascinating character sketches of the great folk singers of the Sixties, and their part in the social movements of that exciting era. I believe D'Ambrosio has made an important contribution to the cultural history of our time." –Howard Zinn, historian

“With his latest, A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears, D’Ambrosio offers a fascinating account of how that album embodied the true grit of Cash’s courage and conviction.”—The Boston Globe

“Though many books have been recently written about Johnny Cash, this one provides an original perspective on Cash’s ability to span musical boundaries. Recommended for fans of social history or American popular music.” –Library Journal

“D’Ambrosio skillfully weaves together [Johnny] Cash’s story and [Peter] La Farge’s...This is cultural history at its finest.” – The Progressive
“I enjoyed Antonino D'Amrbosio's A Heartbeat and a Guitar immensely. D'Ambrosio really did his homework and he is an exceptional storyteller. D'Ambrosio successfully tied vast events and peoples real-life experiences into a fast moving, dramatic arc that reads like an epic novel. Tragic, infuriating, darkly funny and profoundly inspiring. D'Ambrosio captures an important slice of our cultural and political history.”
--Wayne Kramer, legendary musician from the MC5
“If you saw the Oscar winning film Walk the Line, tapped your foot to a Johnny Cash bass line, or didn't know the Man in Black before his late-career revival, you don't know the full story and you have an obligation to read A Heartbeat and a Guitar. This remarkable book is the missing link: it explains the gut-level political passions of Cash like nothing that exists in print. History is trying to give Cash a political root canal. D'Ambrosio sets the record straight shines the light on his fangs.... and a remarkable and forgotten album. I utterly lost myself in this book.”--Dave Zirin, author a People's History of Sports in the United States
“...a fresh look at an American icon and an illuminating dive into an issue that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.”--Oregon Music News
“To really trace the progressive politics of Johnny Cash, I can't recommend enough Antonino D'Ambrosio's book A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears, which places Cash in the center of a web of social-justice-minded artists whose influences came together and set Cash to the making of his most overtly political record—subtitled "Ballads of the American Indian"—right after his biggest success.” —Bitch Magazine

“Art is the antidote. This timeless truth is clear in Antonino D’Ambrosio’s new book A Heartbeat and a Guitar.” —LA Weekly

“Antonino D'Ambrosio has really done his homework like no one ever before. I performed with Cash for 40 years and have read every book written about him yet D'Ambrosio astonishingly reveals another side of Cash framed around perhaps his most important work, Bitter Tears. A Heartbeat and a Guitar is a rare and extraordinary work thanks to D'Ambrosio's exceptional and masterful storytelling. This book must be read, not just by Cash fans, but everyone who loves music and believes in its power and spirit. D’Ambrosio’s work, like Cash himself, is highly original and a force to be reckoned with."Johnny Western, musician and longtime emcee of The Johnny Cash Show

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781568586076
Publisher:
Nation Books
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
828,903
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Antonino D'Ambrosio is an author, filmmaker, and visual artist. His books include A Heartbeat and A Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears, Mayday with artist Shepard Faiey, and Let Fury Have the Hour. D’Ambrosio’s essays from the latter inspired his feature length documentary feature film of the same name. D’Ambrosio’s writing appears in The Nation, The Progressive, The Believer, Salon.com, Moviemaker, Huffington Post, among others. A frequent guest on TV and radio, D’Ambrosio’s film work includes No Free Lunch starring comedian Lewis Black. He is the founder of the nonprofit La Lutta NMC, selected by The Nation as one of the top independent media groups. In 2014, Sony Music Masterworks will release Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited inspired by D’Ambrosio’s book A Heartbeat and a Guitar. Sony will also release the feature documentary We’re Still Here: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited, produced/written/directed by D'Ambrosio. Also in 2014, Zoolook will release D’ambrosio’s film Speak the Words the Way You Breathe as part of a film series featuring filmmakers from around the world. D’Ambrosio is currently in producion on a feature length documentary Frank Serpico: Only Actions Count, produced by Gigantic Pictures. D'Ambrosio is the host/director/producer of the forth-coming broadcast series The Free Space. D’Ambrosio’s upcoming books include Inside the Touchline, Everything, a collaboration with philosopher Simon Critchley, and The Free Space.

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