Monday, January 3, 2011

Johnny Cash

I don't recall hearing a lot of Johnny Cash growing up. I think the first time I even heard who he was was when I was a teenager and I stayed up late watching television. I was flipping through the channels when I came across one of those infomercials on "the golden age" of country music. It was one of those infomercials where some guy sits there and talks to the viewer about how great times use to be and how we could relive those moments through the music of the past. Than they would have some music play with the artist name and song name highlighted going up the screen along with all of the other songs that would appear on the albums. I couldn't explain it, but I remembered Johnny Cash. He had two songs on the set, "Ring of Fire" and "Daddy Sang Bass." I was never really into country—because I felt that it was my mom's genre of music—so I kinda shrugged it off. It wasn't until some time later that I found out more about Johnny Cash.

I was just out of high school when the song "Hurt" came out. It was so powerful. I listened to it over and over again.  I had to hear more of him. Thankfully a friend and coworker was happy to oblige. We listened to quite a bit of him at work, and I began to learn more about the Man in Black. This same friend later gave me the Johnny Cash at San Quentin box set. Enclosed was the story of the infamous picture of Johnny Cash flipping the bird(my rendition below). Some people at Granada Television were crowding Johnny so much that he was unable to see his audience—so he flipped the bird.

He knew how to give people a show

Years later this image was used as an advertising campaign by Rick Rubin. Rubin had worked for Slayer, Metallica, and Tom Petty and wasn't ever snubbed by radio stations. When he took on Johnny Cash—radio didn't want to hear him. They had turned their backs on him years before, trading him for a more contemporary type of country. Rubin responded with a full page ad in Billboard with the picture and a quote saying "American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to acknowledge the Nashville music establishment and country radio for your support." Thanks to the movie and more exposure, Johnny Cash is once again more accepted. CMT will even proudly run specials about him and make it seem that he has always been in their good graces.

Authors Note: I love the picture, but I understand how some people can take offense to it. I know it is an obscene gesture, but it shows so much about the character of Johnny Cash. It is iconic. It represents Johnny Cash's rebel attitude. Showed him as an outlaw. He was bothered by something and showed his frustration. Who can't relate to that?

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