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Johnny Cash - Man In Black

Johnny Cash – Man In Black

The Beard – EP 9 – Man In Black by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

Johnny Cash - American IV: The Man Comes Around (American Recordings / Universal, 2002)

Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around (American Recordings / Universal, 2002)

“Folsom Prison Blues” Johnny Cash
“I Walk The Line” Johnny Cash
“When It’s Springtime In Alaska” Johnny Cash
“Girl From the North County” Bob Dylan
“Highwayman” The Highwaymen
“Sunday Morning Coming Down” Kris Kristofferson
“Why me Lord?” Ray Charles
“I Hung My Head” Sting
“Cocaine Blues” Johnny Cash
“Don’t Take Your Guns To Town” Johnny Cash
“I See A Darkness” Bonnie “Prince” Billy
“Hurt” Trent Reznor
“Solitary Man” Neil Diamond
“Redemption Song” Bob Marley
“A Boy Named Sue” Shel Silverstein

Intro: “Folsom Prison Blues”

Johnny Cash – Man In Black

Though it had nothing to do with him, the image of the young guitar player walking down an empty road somewhere in Mexico in Robert Rodriguez’s 1992 cult classic El Mariachi, always reminded me of Johnny Cash. The name Johnny Cash conjures up a number of archetypal images: The Rebel. The Solitary man. The guy that comes from a mysterious and troubled past, plays a few funny and sad tunes, maybe shoots a few bad guys, and wanders off down the highway.

I guess in a way you could say the tough talking, deep voiced man in black is my unsung hero. Could be, he’s the unsung hero for all underdogs. Johnny Cash, the infamous American singer-songwriter, is readily accepted as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Despite the fact that Cash is primarily remembered as a country music icon, his twangy voice and passionate lyrics spanned many other genres including rockabilly and rock n rollas well as blues, folk and gospel. In my eyes, John R. Cash will always be remembered as Elvis Aaron Presleys older rough around the edges brother, however I have never had a thing for older guys.

“When It’s Springtime In Alaska” Johnny Horton
“Girl From the North County” Bob Dylan

Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison (Columbia, 1968)

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (Columbia, 1968)

Cash is famous for his collaborations. Having shared a stage with (and paving the way for) Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and other new Rock and roll stars, he spent the better part of his career crossing the genres of rockabilly, country, gospel and blues. Some of his more famous (and surprising) collaborations are with Bob Dylan on “Girl From the North County” from the 1964 Nashville Skyline, with U2 on 1993’s Zooropa (The Wanderer), Neil Young (A Little Drummer Boy), John Denver (Country Roads), Roy Orbison (Pretty Woman), even the Muppets and Sesame Street. While his most memorable collaborations are with his longtime wife, June Carter Cash (& the Carter Family) and the country supergroup The Highwaymen (consisting of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson & Kris Kristofferson).

Here’s a Kris Kristofferson penned tune featuring Cash, “Why me Lord?” performed by Ray Charles followed by “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down”, a song he used to perform regularly by his longtime friend Kristofferson, and the infamous Country all-star Highwaymen’s “The Highwayman”. But first we need a little bit of Muppets to help us get to Jackson.

Cash was known for his distinctive bass-baritone voice, for his signature Tennessee-Three “boom-chicka-boom” sound, for his rebelliousness, which eventually culminated in an increasingly somber and humble demeanor. Although Cash was a devout catholic, he battled drug addiction and had run-ins with the law throughout his entire life. Likely this is where his connection to the darker and somewhat unaccepted members of society comes from and Cash sings, especially in his later career, of failure and redemption.

Here is a cover of Sting’s “I Hung My Head”, followed by “Cocaine Blues” and “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town”

Solitary Man

By the time that Cash released the boxset of much of his discography thematically reimagined in 2000’s Love, God, Murder he had already begun his collaboration with reknown hip-hop-heavy metal producer Rick Rubin on the American Recordings series, which numbered 6 albums and ran from 1994-to the posthumous American VI in 2010. This was his third posthumous album, all of which ranked in the Billboard top ten, a feat he hadn’t been able to reach alive. The American Recordings series is a collection of mostly covers and a few original numbers, all performed by Cash playing his stripped down acoustic guitar and accompanied by his gravel rich baritone.

Here are his stark renditions of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man”, Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s “I See A Darkness”, and Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt”.

Johnny Cash - At San Quentin (Columbia, 1969)

Johnny Cash – At San Quentin (Columbia, 1969)

In this the modern era of the single, of portable music, Cash will most likely be remembered for his most recent work, the American Recordings, but it is his early prolific production that will endure longer than anything else. Like the iconic live recordings At Folsom Prison and At San Quentin in which he, along with Carl Perkins, the Statler Brothers and June Carter & The Carter Family, performed to inmates for free.

Cash took real life experiences, often the darker and morally questionable, and wrote songs about them. As Cash suggested through his lyrics, the only thing you can do when life kicks you down is pick yourself up, dust yourself off and don’t bring your guns into town. We will finish it off tonight with the Marley classic “Redemption Song” with Joe Strummer and a Shel Silverstein song you might’ve heard once or twice.

Elvis - The First King of Pop

Elvis – The First King of Pop

Episode 2 of The Beard focuses on the first idol, Elvis Aaron Presley. It is hard to get a sense of just how popular he was. But for what? For being a rebel for the youth of the fifties while still possessing the polite, genteel posturing of a southern youth. Infamous for his hip shake, his overall body of gospel work far outnumbers his rock and roll catalog.

Truth be told, it was Elvis’ performance of “Hound Dog” on NBC’s June 5, 1956, “The Milton Berle Show,” that set off the national consciousness alarm clock, with critics labeling him vulgar and obscene. But by the time he appeared cropped from the waist up on Ed Sullivan he was performing slow ballads and gospel numbers.

He aroused the dormant sexuality of a nation of privileged youth with songs like “Fever,” from Elvis Presley’s 1960 album, Elvis Is Back, originally recorded and released as a single by Little Willie John in 1956. Presley’s version is based off the 1958 Peggy Lee version, and although the 1993 Madonna, or even the 2010 Beyonce cover might be more recognizable today, there is none more soulful than his rendition.

Elvis – The First King of Pop

Elvis - The First King of PopMore than a singer and an actor, something Elvis knew–a good song never dies, but is only repackaged. “All Shook Up”, “Don’t Be Cruel” as well as “Fever”, were written by Otis Blackwell. Carl Perkins wrote the 1956 hit “Blue Suede Shoes”, considered by many to be the first example of Rockabilly (aka Country, Western Swing, Hillbilly Boogie, R & B, Rock and Roll). Like on “Come Back Baby” a standard by blues pianist Walter Davis, we hear the shift from piano, the instrument that defined one era, to guitar, the instrument that defined the next 60 years. Despite what Chuck Berry & BB King had already done, it was Elvis who put the guitar in the hands of Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Joe Strummer.

No matter what you think of the person, I mean let’s face it, he was the prototypical pop pedophile (he began dating Priscilla when she was 14…and she was not the first, but were you gonna say no to Elvis? Hehe, I don’t think so…), it was Elvis who invented Michael Jackson. It was also Elvis who, with his infamous peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches, invented the modern diabetes epidemic. But, and this may be the biggest but in all of pop music history, it was Elvis who helped integrate the radio waves for African-American artists like Little Richard and Fats Domino to gain their rightful recognition. It was Elvis who married rhythm and blues with rock and country topped with a gospel croon. It was Elvis who made girls swoon, who sold millions of records to kids spending their weekly allowance, who made Wall Street realize the youth market was viable, who empowered the youth, who started the 60s counter culture movement. That’s right, Elvis invented hippies too. And the Future. He definitely helped invent The Beard. Listen to The Beard – Episode 2 – Elvis Presley.

The Beard – EP 2 – Elvis by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

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