Sunday, September 12, 2004

Remembering Johnny Cash

Today marks the first anniversary of the death of Johnny Cash. I can't really put words together to describe Johnny, so I'm just going to mark the occassion by posting the statement Bob Dylan made soon after Johnny's death:

"I was asked to give a statement on Johnny's passing and thought about writing a piece instead called Cash is King, because that is the way I really feel. In plain terms, Johnny was and is the North Star; you could guide your ship by him - the greatest of the greats, then and now. I first met him in 1962, or 63, and saw him a lot in those years. In some kind of way he was with me more than people I see every day.

There wasn't much music media in the early 1960s, and Sing Out! was the magazine covering all things folk in character. The editors had published a letter chastising me for the direction my music was going. Johnny wrote the magazine back an open letter telling the editors to shut up and let me sing, that I knew what I was doing. This was before I had ever met him, and the letter meant the world to me. I've kept the magazine to this day.

Of course, I knew of him before he ever heard of me. In 1955 or 56, I Walk the Line played all summer on the radio, and it was different from anything else you had ever heard. The record sounded like a voice from the middle of the earth. It was so powerful and moving. It was profound, and so was the tone of it, every line; deep and rich, awesome and mysterious all at once. I Walk the Line had a monumental presence and a certain type of majesty that was humbling. Even a simple line like "I find it very, very easy to be true" can take your measure. We can remember that and see how far we fall short of it. Johnny wrote thousands of lines like that. Truly, he is what the land and country are all about, the heart and soul of it personified and what it means to be here; and he said it all in plain English. I think we can have recollections of him, but we can't define him any more than we can define a fountain of truth, light and beauty. If we want to know what it means to be mortal, we need look no further than the Man in Black. Blessed with a profound imagination, he used the gift to express all the various lost causes of the human soul.

This is a miraculous and humbling thing. Listen to him, and he always brings you to your senses. He rises high above all, and he'll never die or be forgotten, even by persons not yet born - especially those persons - and that is for ever."


The background image on this page is a Hebrew translation of the verse from Bob Dylan's song  It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), from which the title of this blog is taken. Translation courtesy of Yoram Aharon of Hod-HaSharon's page--found via YudelLine-- which has many Dylan lyrics in Hebrew.