This past week MACLEAN'S reviewer Martin Patriquin eloquently contemplates the multifarious nature of Johnny Cash in Robert Hilburn's new biography. Here's a snippet from the article but you can read the entire review at http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/11/20/johnny-cash-the-life:
“Cash could make any song sound like it was pouring from his own guts, even if he hadn’t written it. We find out why in a pitch-perfect nugget typical of Hilburn’s brilliant Cash biography. Sincerity is country music’s greatest compliment, something Cash learned from his idol, country singer Jimmy Rodgers. “As Cash listened to Rodgers’s records, he identified with the man who had grown up in hard times and found in music both a comfort and a personal salvation,” Hilburn writes.
The Johnny Cash that Hilburn meticulously sketches is exactly this type of man—with an added caveat. Music was Cash’s comfort and salvation, but it also turned the shy, God-fearing boy from Kingsland, Ark., into an explosive, pill-popping, alcoholic womanizer who teetered on the edge of self-inflicted oblivion for much of his life.
There are already over 50 titles written about or by Cash, yet Hilburn’s work is a standout if only because of his access to the man. As a music critic, Hilburn followed Cash’s career from the late ’60s onward; as a friend, he was close to Cash in his dying days. He writes about the relationship between Cash and the latter’s second wife, June Carter, formed as it was in adultery, fuelled by music, misery and at times drugs, and punctuated by separation and longing. And yet this tornado-like union is brought to a scene of peaceful heartbreak by Hilburn, who documents the last moments of Carter’s life in a hospital, with Cash by her side. You might have to put the book down for a moment.”
The definitive biography of an American legend
In Johnny Cash: The Life, Robert Hilburn conveys the unvarnished truth about a musical icon whose colorful career stretched from his days at Sun Records with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to the remarkable creative last hurrah, at age sixty-nine, that resulted in the brave, moving "Hurt" video. As music critic for the Los Angeles Times, Hilburn knew Cash well throughout his life: he was the only music journalist at the legendary Folsom Prison concert in 1968, and he interviewed Cash and his wife June Carter for the final time just months before their deaths in 2003. Hilburn's rich reporting shows the remarkable highs and deep lows that followed and haunted Cash in equal measure. A man of great faith and humbling addiction, Cash aimed for more than another hit on the jukebox; he wanted to use his music to lift people's spirits and help promote what he felt was the best of the American spirit.
Drawing upon his personal experience with Cash and a trove of never-before-seen material from the singer's inner circle, Hilburn creates an utterly compelling, deeply human portrait of one of the most iconic figures in modern popular culture - not only a towering figure in country music, but also a seminal influence in rock, whose personal life was far more troubled, and whose musical and lyrical artistry much more profound, than even his most devoted fans ever realized.
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
- Price: $35.00 CAN
- Pages: 688
- Physical Dimensions: 6" x 9-1/4"
- ISBN-13: 9780316194754
- On Sale Date: 10/29/2013