Have You Found Johnny Cash Yet? ~ Adam Spriggs

Via elephant journal
on Oct 19, 2012
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My Facebook post, March 11th, 2012, 1 a.m.:

It was midnight in middle of nowhere, Montana. Moon rises, windows slide down, mountain air comes rushing in, Johnny Cash screams out “I’ve Been Everywhere,” hand claps, foot taps.

Inspired, I raced back to my cabin in the woods that night to churn out this little diddy about the Man in Black…

It’s cool to like Johnny Cash again.

You’ll find his middle-finger flashing likeness and iconic last name proudly patched on backpacks of today’s anti-establishment punk teenagers. You’ll overhear hipsters donning their Pendleton’s and Frye’s indulging their old-soul egos whilst revering his albums amongst each other.

While witnessing these things might irk some long-time Johnny admirers, in the end, more people digging deeper than “Ring of Fire,” stompin’ their feet and hootin’ and hollerin’ to Johnny Cash only serves to enrich society.

I myself let my walls down to country music only five short years ago, and even though I’ve since discovered Merle Haggard, Lefty Frizzel and Jimmy Clanton, it still all starts and ends with Johnny Cash to me.

I love songs that were noticeably graced by inspired composers, where the drums and guitars know when to stop to add drama to the vocals (see “Cocaine Blues”) then pick back right back up in pace, and seemingly never repeat the same sound. If you like hanging tom’s, Johnny’s songs bang so much on those bad boys you’d swear a pack of coked up monkeys were hired to record an album.

And truth be told, I kind of have a soft spot for rough, tough, controversial dudes with questionable character.

I like them on my favorite sports teams and I prefer my musicians that way too. A history of substance abuse and a record of run-ins with the law go over real nice with me. I don’t know why, I suppose I believe dysfunction and disorder make for more compelling stories.

Johnny Cash is one of those hardened musicians. His early pieces make little attempt to hide his raw uncompromising social graces and attitudes (see “Understand Your Man”). His frank assured delivery further drives home his attachment to these notions, which would make for almost startling ideals nowadays. I know this because “after too much Johnny” seeping into my brain from my headphones I’ll posture through the house like some hardheaded cowboy speaking at my woman with a scowl and southern drawl, it never goes over well.

Johnny barely has to belt his voice to say so much and mean it so loudly. How many artists nowadays have you believe they truly own what they’re saying? It makes the listening experience that much more rich, he makes me want to go back in time just to be what he is, where he is, doing what he’s-a-doin’ and thinking what he’s-a-thinkin.’

While his body of work reveals a strong-willed man of conviction, he also plays into an endearing vulnerability by condemning himself and his troubled ways along the way. It’s as though he can’t help but speed through life as fast and as recklessly as he can all the while kneeling and asking for forgiveness at the feet of a higher power. Faith (see “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”) and family (see “Daddy Sang Bass”) were focal points of many of his works, almost as much as chasin’ women, killin’ cowboys, and throwin’ back whiskey.

No other artist, not even Katy Perry, makes me want to drink more than Johnny Cash, bourbon after bourbon.

When Johnny Cash plays on my MacBook I defiantly push the volume-up button commanding, demanding it go louder. I wish Apple would add “revolutionary sound” to their increasingly problematic machines sometime before I get hit by a bus.

Their blindly loyal customers deserve better, Johnny Cash deserves better.

I cannot stomach writing about myself and my hardly relevant accolades in third person.  If you must know anything about me, I write because life moves me to.


Editor: Anne Clendening

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2 Responses to “Have You Found Johnny Cash Yet? ~ Adam Spriggs”

  1. joe elliott says:

    Johnny Cash had a strong moral presence. When I think about his life, I think about it in two parts. In the first he was a rock-n-roll cliche. He was modeling himself after Elvis and Carl Perkins and got caught up the fame and various addictions that go with all that. Johnny's career died and was resurrected many times and it allowed him to recreate himself. To me he was a guy with tremendous heart and it showed in songs like 'Man in Black', 'Ira Hayes', 'Redemption', and 'Down There By the Train'. These songs have such soul and depth. Johnny always talked about his experience being poor and growing up in a New Deal project in Arkansas with such humility and grace. He has the potential to become a universal icon for poor and working class people.

  2. Edward Staskus says:

    My three favorite things about Johnny Cash are the version of Ring of Fire by Social Distortion,the version of Ring of Fire by Wall of Voodoo, and the version of Ring of Fire by Cash's second wife, June Carter Cash.