From Publishers Weekly
The late legendary Cash is celebrated in one of the best of Rolling Stone magazine's series of special tribute books about popular musicians. And as in the series' other titles, the featured artist is treated to an oversize, lavishly illustrated (150 photos) and lovingly written collection of new and old essays. Cash's long career gives this volume more depth than usual, since the writing ranges from Ralph J. Gleason's 1969 column on "Johnny Cash at San Quentin" to a thoughtful and revealing new interview with Rick Rubin, the rap/metal producer behind Cash's mostly acoustic albums in the 1990s. The collection is book-ended by its two best pieces: a wonderful overview of Cash's life by Mikal Gilmore and a fantastic critical discography by rock critic Greg Kot. The photographs—which cover everything from his birth in 1932 to his death in 2003—allow for a greater portrait of Cash, including those from his farm youth in Arkansas and candid shots from his turbulent 1960s career. It helps that Jim Marshall, the equally legendary photographer whose work is generously featured, captured Cash in serene and volatile moments, providing a well-rounded look into the emotional complexity of the self-styled "Man in Black." Indeed, Kot's discography and the photographs alone make this volume essential for a true understanding of Cash's impact on popular music.
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Johnny Cash (1932-2003) was, next only to Elvis Presley, the greatest pop musician discovered by Sun Records of Memphis, but while Elvis became Mr. Mainstream, Cash became country music's greatest maverick. Best when applying his sepulchral baritone to songs about mournful love, down-and-outers, and rowdy spouses--sometimes funny ("A Boy Named Sue"), sometimes devastatingly somber ("Long Black Veil")--he had an up-and-down career, punctuated by bouts of addictive upper and downer pill-popping. Though hampered by serious illness during his last years, he was producing some of his most successful work when he died. Selected Rolling Stone articles and interviews, and excerpts from Cash: The Autobiography make up most of the text here; editor Fine's excellent biographical precis, David Fricke's piece on Cash's Sun sessions, Greg Kot's recommending romp through Cash's discography, and brief tributes from daughter Rosanne and several musical friends round it out. Good as the prose is, the wealth of photos, especially those from Cash's family, outshines it. One reason Cash was a star: cameras loved him. Ray Olson
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