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.