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Bitter Tears- Ballad Of The American Indian
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With his highly personal early 1960s work, Johnny Cash had been trying the patience of the Columbia brass, who were less than thrilled with his commercial performance. When "Ring of Fire" topped the country charts in 1963, it allowed him to continue the many ambitious concept albums-history lessons close to his heart. The eight songs on 1964's Bitter Tears are sung from the point of view of the American Indian (still the accepted term in 1964), and together they form a potent work that is both deeply real and highly spiritual. With assistance from co-composer Peter LaFarge, Cash offers an earnest, solemn portrait of Native Americans that examines a variety of issues through a range of viewpoints and contained in unadorned musical settings. Cash actually took out full-page ads daring radio programmers to play "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," but all of the material hits home, from LaFarge's defiant "As Long as the Grass Shall Grow" to Johnny Horton's mournful, spooky "The Vanishing Race." --Marc Greilsamer
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Custer is told from the American Indian view point and questions how the battle would have been viewed if the outcome was reversed (a slaughter or a victory). The song does not hold back it's contempt for General Custer
White Girl is the story of an Indian man who is used as a "toy" by a white woman who never intended the relationship to be serious.
As Long as the Grass Shall Grow is haunting and beautiful
I would reccomend this to any Johnny Cash or country story teller fans
Brian Lee Hart
Virtues: It is Johnny Cash at his most passionate. The tragic but talented songwriter Peter LaFarge wrote five of the eight tracks on this record, and died not long after it was issued. (Check out his own work on the Bear Family CD reissues of his old Folkways albums.) This concept LP produced the hit "Ballad of Ira Hayes" and with the upcoming film version of "Flags of Our Fathers" interest in Ira is sure to escalate. However, "Ira" is not the only stirring performance: other gems include "As Long as the Grass Shall Grow" and (my favorite) "Drums" and "White Girl" (all by LaFarge.) After Peter's death, and after "Bitter Tears" showed there was a market for Indian protest ballads, Buffy St. Marie hit it big during the final years of the so-called "Folk Revival". But first was Pete LaFarge, and then Johnny. If the subject interests you at all, owning this CD would be wise.