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Johnny Cash: The Life (Ala Notable Books for Adults) Hardcover – October 29, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
I learned so much about the origins of Sun Records, Cash's passion for underdogs, his battle with addictions, his need for affirmation, and his physical ailments at the end of his life. As a Christian, I was interested to see how Hilburn handled Cash's faith, which was quickly glossed over in the film Walk the Line. In my view, Hilburn bent over backwards to represent Cash's faith and love for gospel songs in a way that would have pleased Cash no end. I didn't sense one syllable of ridicule for Cash's beliefs.
Hilburn's extensive interviews with Cash's family members, friends, and females were enlightening and contributed toward a well-rounded portrait of the man. Their commentaries on key events in Cash's life added emotion and insight to his sometimes erratic behavior.
But what I appreciated most about this book is that Hilburn continually focused on Cash's music, quoting Cash's lyrics at key junctures and letting Cash explain why he wrote and played certain songs. Cash was always at its best when he was authentic, which is why I love the American Recordings albums so much ... usually just the man and his guitar. Since there are hundreds of Johnny Cash albums available on CD - many of them compilations - Hilburn's recommended purchases at the end of the book will save readers much time as they seek to delve into his music.
I appreciated Hilburn's previous book Cornflakes with John Lennon and love this book as well. Because Hilburn respects both his subject and his audience, this book deserves a wide readership. I tried, but couldn't put it down ... and most likely, I'll pick it up again soon. Like its subject, this book is a winner.
"It's called country music and western music, but the truth is it's American music. It speaks in story about America in a way that speaks to all of us, north, east, west, and south." Richard Nixon at a White House concert.
With the holiday gift giving season fast approaching, there's no surfeit of books on musical artists. Books on Charlie Parker, The Beatles, Duke Ellington, Robert Plant, Jimi Hendrix, and no doubt others will be on the bookshelves. But certainly one of the best is Robert Hilburn's book on Johnny Cash.
Hilburn began this book in 2009 when Cash's manager told him "only about twenty percent" of Cash's life had been told. While previous books on Cash put his life and music in some kind of perspective, Hilburn takes a slightly different approach. He reveals not just Cash's life in and out of music, but why Cash matters. This book is a penetrating look at the man behind the "Man in Black" myth. And Hilburn never lets the myth get in the way of the facts. He has known, interviewed, and simply talked with Cash during his long (50 years) music career. Using interviews from both the past and present Hilburn has gone deeper into Cash's life, and has shone a light on both the real Johnny Cash and his music.
The book is broken into five parts, each dealing chronologically with a specific period and events from that period of Cash's life. Events like Memphis and Sam Phillips, Columbia Records, the tune "Big River" and pills, June Carter, drugs and Carnegie Hall, Folsom Prison and marrying June, losing the muse, Rick Rubin, and the final days are just a few of the many headings of events in the five parts chronicled in this book.Read more ›
Cash was a titan of music. What other musician could you write a 700 page biography on that would feel shallow in parts. Cash's career spanned across so many decades (from the 50s on) and trends in music (rockabilly to folk to outlaw country) and he interacted with so many other great musicians (from Elvis to Bob Dylan to Kris Kristofferson) and public figures (Nixon and Billy Graham) that inevitably something will leave you wanting more. Hilburn hits the most important points well, though, from the prison shows to Cash's passion for the downtrodden to his drug addiction (at too great length, that, but that's Cash's fault) to his triumphant final act with Rick Rubin. The book is packed with vignettes, like Cash being one of only three musicians to write Steve Earle a note while he was in jail for cocaine and weapons possession. Hilburn writes it all well and with a deep knowledge of the music (if with = a hint of snobbishness).
Disclosure: I received a complimentary e-copy of Johnny Cash: A Life via NetGalley.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great all encompassing look at his life without going into a level of detail that can sometimes be a waste of time and/or annoying. Read morePublished 1 day ago by R.Squire
The author tended to elaborate too much on the details of each recording session; who was there, how many takes did they take, etc. Read morePublished 11 days ago by Dan Berlin
An awesome and complete volume on Cash's professional life story. What inspirations made the music. What insecurities fueled the pill use. Read morePublished 13 days ago by Patrick M. Kunzer
A staggering work - 600 pages or so. Brutally honest and highly entertaining. The first Cash bio I have read that does not downplay or gloss over the lifelong struggle with... Read morePublished 2 months ago by vv
I love biographies and this one was one of the best I've ever read. Great reading on a great subject.Published 2 months ago by Steven L.
a lot of detail about Cash's life, some borders on invasion of privacy which I don't like personally. Read morePublished 2 months ago by cheeringyouon
It reads like a novel. I am listening this book on my Kindle for a week now. There are so many things About JC I've never knew before.Published 2 months ago by haris
I was born in Arkansas not far from Dyess. I knew who Johnny Cash was, but had never read his life story. My dad was a huge fan. I learned a lot about the man beyond his music. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Diane Loves Elvis