“DR. IOAN MESOTA” NATIONAL COLLEGE
ENGLISH CERTIFICATION PAPER
THE MAN IN BLACK
TTABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Foreword page 3
2. Life page 4
2.1. Who was Johnny Cash? page 4
2.2. Early Life page 5
2.3. Vivian Lamberto page 7
2.4. June Carter page 7
3. Career page 8
3.1. The Beginning page 8
3.2. Outlaw Image page 10
3.3. Folsom Prison Blues page 13
3.4. The Johnny Cash Show page 14
3.5. “The Man in Black” page 15
3.6. Cash’s Mediatic Activity page 16
3.6. Highwaymen page 17
3.7. American Recordings page 19
4. Last Years and Death page 20
5. “Walk the Line” page 22
6. Fans About Cash page 23
7. Conclusion page 24
8. Bibliography page 25
It happened some time ago when I fell in love with Johnny Cash. Back then I had never heard of him, since he has never been as popular as Elvis Presley or Bob Dylan, especially in our country. As I was saying, about two years ago, I watched the film called “Walk the Line”, the biographical drama based on the life of the singer. I could not describe how much I liked the film, as I watched it over and over again many times. I have to say that I was very moved and impressed by Johnny Cash’s story and the way he went through his life, building a remarkable career.
“Walk the Line” made me do more research about Johnny Cash and, this way, I have found out how much people love him. Moreover, I have found that, in spite of his rock star attitude and dangerous behaviour that defined his early life as a singer, Johnny Cash never stopped being an honest and loving man, and most of all, he never lost his belief in God.
The thing I like most about Cash is that, although he is a man of contardiction, he always managed to undermine his crimes and unethical acts with his charming personality and his clean heart. He used to be (and still is) called “The Man in Black” because he always wore black clothes when he was on the scene. Some say that Johnny always wore black because he identified himself with the poor. He sometimes said that he wore black because didn’t have something else to wear. I believe that he wore black to express his modesty and his solidarity to the less gifted ones.
I would have to add that I find Cash’s music very pleasant and I enjoy listening to it. I really think that it is the feelings that he renders through his songs and lyrics that make his music be so inspirational.
My reason for choosing Johnny Cash’s life and career as the main theme for my project is my passion for country music that Johnny Cash has woken in my heart.
Who was Johnny Cash?
Johnny Cash was an American singer and songwriter and one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Primarily a country music artist, his songs and sound spanned many other genres including rockabilly and rock and roll (especially early in his career), as well as blues, folk and gospel.
Cash was known for his deep, distinctive bass-baritone voice, the 'chicka-boom' freight train sound of his Tennessee Three backing band, his demeanor, and his dark clothing, which earned him the nickname 'The Man in Black'. He traditionally started his concerts with the introduction 'Hello, I'm Johnny Cash'.
Much of Cash's music, especially that of his later
career, echoed themes of sorrow, moral tribulation, and redemption. His
signature songs include 'I Walk the Line', 'Folsom Prison
Blues', 'Ring of Fire', 'Get Rhythm', 'Hurt'
and 'Man in Black'. He also recorded humorous songs, such as
'One Piece at a Time' and 'A Boy Named Sue', a duet with
June Carter called '
Johnny Cash was born at February 26, 1932, in
By the age of five, J.R. was working in the cotton fields, singing along with his family as they worked. The family farm was flooded on at least one occasion, which later inspired him to write the song 'Five Feet High and Rising'. His family's economic and personal struggles during the Depression inspired many of his songs, especially those about other people facing similar difficulties.
Cash was one of seven children: Jack, Joanne Cash Yates, Louise Garrett, Reba Hancock, Roy, and Tommy. His younger brother, Tommy Cash, also became a successful country artist.
Cash was very close to his brother Jack, who was two years older. In 1944, Jack was pulled into a whirling table saw in the mill where he worked, and cut almost in two. He suffered for over a week before he died. Cash often spoke of the horrible guilt he felt over this incident. According to Cash: The Autobiography, his father was away that morning, but he and his mother, and Jack himself, all had premonitions or a sense of foreboding about that day, causing his mother to urge Jack to skip work and go fishing with his brother. Jack insisted on working, as the family needed the money. On his deathbed, Jack said he had visions of heaven and angels. Decades later, Cash spoke of looking forward to meeting his brother in heaven. He wrote that he had seen his brother many times in his dreams, and that Jack always looked two years older than whatever age Cash himself was at that moment.
Cash's early memories were dominated by gospel music and radio. Taught by his mother and a childhood friend, Johnny began playing guitar and writing songs as a young boy. In high school he sang on a local radio
station; decades later he released an album of traditional gospel songs, called My Mother's Hymn Book. He was also significantly influenced by traditional Irish music that he heard performed weekly by Dennis Day on the Jack Benny radio program.
Cash enlisted in the United States Air Force.
After basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and technical training at Brooks
Air Force Base, both in
On July 18, 1951, while in Air Force training,
Cash met 17 year-old Vivian Liberto at a roller skating rink in her native
On August 7, 1954, one month after his discharge,
they were married at St. Anne's Catholic church in
In 1968, 12 years after they had first met
backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, Cash proposed to June Carter, an established
country singer, during a live performance in
In 1954, Johnny and Vivian moved to
Cash's next record, 'Folsom Prison Blues', made the country Top 5, and 'I Walk the Line' became No. 1 on the country charts and entered the pop charts Top 20. Following 'I Walk the Line' was 'Home of the
Blues', recorded in July 1957. That same year Cash became the first
Sun artist to release a long-playing album. Although he was Sun's most consistently best-selling and prolific artist at that time, Cash felt constrained by his contract with the small label. Elvis Presley had already left Sun, and Phillips was focusing most of his attention and promotion on Jerry Lee Lewis. The following year Cash left the label to sign a lucrative offer with Columbia Records, where his single 'Don't Take Your Guns to Town' became one of his biggest hits.
In the early 1960s, Cash toured with the Carter Family, which by this time regularly included Mother Maybelle's daughters, Anita, June and Helen. June, whom Cash would eventually marry, later recalled admiring Johnny from afar during these tours.
As his career was taking off in the early 1960s, Cash
started drinking heavily and became addicted to amphetamines and barbiturates.
For a brief time, he shared an apartment in
Although in many ways spiraling out of control, Cash's frenetic creativity was still delivering hits. His rendition of 'Ring of Fire' was a crossover hit, reaching No. 1 on the country charts and entering the Top 20 on the pop charts. The song was written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore. The song was originally performed by Carter's sister, but the signature mariachi-style horn arrangement was provided by Cash, who said that it had come to him in a dream.
In June 1965, his truck caught fire due to an overheated
wheel bearing, triggering a forest fire that burnt several hundred acres in
Although Cash carefully cultivated a romantic outlaw
image, he never served a prison sentence. Despite landing in jail seven times
for misdemeanors, each stay lasted only a single night. His most infamous
run-in with the law occurred while on tour in 1965, when he was arrested by a narcotics
prescription narcotics and amphetamines that the singer had hidden inside his guitar case. Because they were prescription drugs rather than illegal narcotics, he received a suspended sentence.
Cash was also arrested on May 11, 1965, in
In the mid 1960s, Cash released a number of concept albums, including Ballads Of the True West (1965), an experimental double record mixing authentic frontier songs with Cash's spoken narration, and Bitter Tears (1964), with songs highlighting the plight of the Native Americans. His drug addiction was at its worst at this point, and his destructive behavior led to a divorce from his first wife and canceled performances.
In 1967, Cash's duet with Carter, '
Cash quit using drugs in 1968, after a spiritual
epiphany in the
Folsom Prison Blues
Cash felt great compassion for prisoners. He began performing concerts at various prisons starting in the late 1960s. These performances led to a pair of highly successful live albums,”Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison” (1968) and “Johnny Cash at San Quentin” (1969).
The Folsom Prison record was introduced by a rendition of his classic 'Folsom Prison Blues', while the San Quentin record included the crossover hit single 'A Boy Named Sue', a Shel Silverstein-penned novelty song that reached No. 1 on the country charts and No. 2 on the U.S. Top Ten pop charts. The AM versions of the latter contained a couple of profanities which were edited out. The modern CD versions are unedited and uncensored and thus also longer than the original vinyl albums, though they still retain the audience reaction overdubs of the originals.
In addition to his performances at
The Johnny Cash Show
From 1969 to 1971, Cash starred in his own television show, The Johnny Cash Show, on the ABC network. The Statler Brothers opened up for him in every episode; the Carter Family and rockabilly legend Carl Perkins were also part of the regular show entourage. However, Cash also enjoyed booking more contemporary performers as guests; such notables included Neil Young, Louis Armstrong, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition (who appeared a record four times on his show), James Taylor, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton (then leading Derek and the Dominos), and Bob Dylan.
Cash had met with Dylan in the mid 1960s and became
closer friends when they were neighbors in the late 1960s in
Another artist who received a major career boost from The Johnny Cash Show was songwriter Kris Kristofferson, who was beginning to make a name for himself as a singer/songwriter. During a live performance of Kristofferson's 'Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down', Cash refused to change the lyrics to suit network executives, singing the song with its references to marijuana intact: 'On a Sunday morning sidewalk / I'm wishin', Lord, that I was stoned.'
“”The Man in Black””
By the early 1970s, he had crystallized his public image as 'The Man in Black'. He regularly performed dressed all in black, wearing a long black knee-length coat. This outfit stood in contrast to the costumes worn by most of the major country acts in his day: rhinestone suit and cowboy boots. In 1971, Cash wrote the song 'Man in Black', to help explain his dress code: 'We're doing mighty fine I do suppose/In our streak of lightning cars and fancy clothes/But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back/Up front there ought to be a man in black.'
He and his band had initially worn black shirts because that was the only matching color they had among their various outfits. He wore other colors on stage early in his career, but he claimed to like wearing black both on and off stage. He stated that, political reasons aside, he simply liked black as his on-stage color. To this day, the United States Navy's winter blue service uniform is referred to by sailors as 'Johnny Cashes,' as the uniform's shirt, tie, and trousers are solid black.
Cash’s Mediatic Activity
In the mid 1970s, Cash's popularity and number of hit songs began to decline, but his autobiography (the first of two), titled Man in Black, was published in 1975 and sold 1.3 million copies. A second, Cash: The Autobiography, appeared in 1997. His friendship with Billy Graham led to the production of a movie about the life of Jesus, The Gospel Road, which Cash co-wrote and narrated. The decade saw his religious conviction deepening, and he made many evangelical appearances.
He also continued to appear on television, hosting an annual Christmas special on CBS throughout the 1970s. Later television appearances included a role in an episode of Columbo. He also appeared with his wife on an episode of Little House on the Prairie entitled 'The Collection' and gave a performance as John Brown in the 1985 Civil War television mini-series North and South.
He was friendly with every United States President starting with Richard Nixon. He was closest with Jimmy Carter, who became a very close friend. He stated that he found all of them personally charming, noting that this was probably essential to getting oneself elected.
When invited to perform at the White House for the first
time in 1972, President Richard Nixon's office requested that he play 'Okie
In 1980, Cash became the Country Music Hall of Fame's youngest living inductee at age forty-eight, but during the 1980s his records failed to make a major impact on the country charts, although he continued to tour successfully. In the mid 1980s, he recorded and toured with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson as The Highwaymen, making two hit albums.
During this period, Cash appeared as an actor in a number
of television films. In 1981, he starred in The Pride of Jesse Hallam. Cash won
fine reviews for his work in this film that called attention to adult illiteracy.
Also in 1981, Cash appeared as the 'very special guest star' in an episode of
the Muppet Show. In 1983, Cash appeared as a heroic sheriff in Murder In Coweta
County, which co-starred Andy Griffith as his nemesis. This film was based on a
Cash relapsed into addiction after being administered painkillers for a serious abdominal injury in 1983 caused by an unusual incident in which he was kicked and wounded by an ostrich he kept on his farm.
At a hospital visit in 1988, this time to watch over
Waylon Jennings (who was recovering from a heart attack),
Cash's recording career and his general relationship with
In 1986, Cash returned to Sun Studios in
In 1986, Cash published his only novel, Man in White, a book about Saul and his conversion to become the Apostle Paul. He also recorded Johnny Cash Reads The Complete New Testament in 1990.
After Columbia Records dropped Cash from his recording contract, he had a short and unsuccessful stint with Mercury Records from 1987 to 1991.
In 1991, Cash sang lead vocals on a cover version of 'Man in Black' for the Christian punk band One Bad Pig's album I Scream Sunday.
His career was rejuvenated in the 1990s, leading to popularity among a younger audience not traditionally interested in country music. In 1993, he sang the vocal on U2's 'The Wanderer' for their album Zooropa. Although he was no longer sought after by major labels, Cash was approached by producer Rick Rubin and offered a contract with Rubin's American Recordings label, better known for rap and hard rock.
Under Rubin's supervision, he recorded the album American Recordings (1994) in his living room, accompanied only by his guitar. That guitar was a Martin dreadnought guitar - one of many Cash played throughout his career. The album featured several covers of contemporary artists selected by Rubin and had much critical and commercial success, winning a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Cash wrote that his reception at the 1994 Glastonbury Festival was one of the highlights of his career. This was the beginning of a decade of music industry accolades and surprising commercial success.
In 1997, Cash was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease Shy-Drager syndrome. The diagnosis was later altered to autonomic neuropathy associated with diabetes. This illness forced Cash to curtail his touring. He was hospitalized in 1998 with severe pneumonia, which damaged his lungs. The albums American III: Solitary Man (2000) and American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002) contained Cash's response to his illness in the form of songs of a slightly more somber tone than the first two American albums. The video that was released for 'Hurt', a cover of the song by Nine Inch Nails, fit Cash's view of his past and feelings of regret. The video for the song, from American IV, is now generally recognized as 'his epitaph,' and received particular critical and popular acclaim.
June Carter Cash died on May 15, 2003, at the age of
seventy-three. June had told Cash to keep working, so he continued to record
and even performed a couple of surprise shows at the Carter Family Fold outside
Johnny Cash died less than four months after his wife, on
September 12, 2003, while hospitalized at
Walk the Line is a 2005 American biographical drama film, directed by James Mangold and based on the life of country singer-and songwriter Johnny Cash. In the film star Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Robert Patrick.
The film focuses on Cash's younger life, his romance with June Carter, and his ascent to the country music scene, with material taken from his autobiographies. Walk the Line's production budget is estimated to have been US$28,000,000.
The film previewed at the Telluride Film Festival on September 4, 2005, and went into wide release on November 18. This film was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Actress (Reese Witherspoon) and Best Costume Design (Arianne Phillips). Witherspoon won the Oscar for Best Actress, the film's sole Oscar winner.
Yeah Johnny Cash was and is one of a kind! There will never be someone like him! “The Man in Black” is one of my favorite Johnny Cash songs. It got so much soul, that song makes you think. May he rest in peace with the love of his life June! Johnny you will never be forgotten! (Sabrina)
Johnny Cash is my hero and “The Man in Black” is in my opinion one of his best. If you look into Johnny's eyes as he sings this song you see that he has seen a lot in his life. We miss you, Johnny! (Octavia Palmer)
I just love Johnny Cash, a good man, a good human being. (Scotch)
It’s not easy to be Johnny Cash, you know? And to have everyone looking at you, have everybody scrutinize you, checking on you and trying to do you favours you don’t want… loving is too much… I think we loved Elvis to death and we nearly did the same thing with Johnny Cash and.. had it not been, I think, for his faith in the Lord, I think he’d be dead. (Merle Haggard, country singer)
Johnny Cash is cool. That can’t be said for many sexagenarians who’ve made a living playing country and gospel tunes, but the Man In Black is undeniably so, a “consensus that crosses genre and generation”. He’s a man of contradiction, who has battled the darkest demons, yet whose whatch has been directed to God. He has been a violent man, destroying countless hotel rooms and cars before rock stars even came to be. He’s also a scholar of the Old West, and of the Gospels, a reader impassionate about books and art. He has been a successful man at the peak of his career, in 1969, selling more records per month than the Beatles. His body and his career have proved resistant, and both have come up off the mat when circumstances seemed hopeless.
You might consider Johnny Cash the original gangster. He sang a song about killing a man 'just to watch him die' long before young men began to wear big pants and cap their teeth in gold. His trademark baritone growl and disdainful sneer were the crown and scepter he bore as the king of outlaw country music. Cash's unique sound wasn't complex by any means. However, nobody but Cash could sing those songs with the burning, heartfelt fever that has made him one of the most influential people in country music.
All these years and also in present, Cash’s music has been a true and helpful friend for people all over the world. Through his music, Johnny Cash succeeded to reveal his personality and beliefs, and identify himself with his fans. In spite of all his declines he has always been a person to believe in. He wrote songs about life, about things he saw around him. He felt what he sang, and this way, he managed to always be there for his fans.
Encyclopedia of Country Music, published by Oxford University Press
Johnny Cash: The Life of an American Icon. Omnibus. Stephen Miller (2003).
Man in Black: His Own Story in His Own Words.
Cash: The Autobiography.
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