To millions, he was the rebellious man in black, the unabashed patriot, the redeemed Christian, the king of country music. Yet Johnny Cash (1932-2003) was also an uncertain country boy whose dreams carried him from the cotton fields of Mississippi to the vanguard of popular music, all the while struggling with the all-too-real pain of a guilt-ridden childhood, chemical addictions, and self-doubt. Johnny Cash: The Biography --the first American independent, critical biography of Cash in thirty-five years--will delve into oft-overlooked moments in his life and career: the tragic death of his older brother Jack; his Air Force career (1950-1954), when his songwriting took form and he purchased his first guitar; the origins of the boom-chicka-boom rhythm; his drug dependency, which is generally thought to have disappeared in the 1960s yet actually continued to plague him privately for the rest of his life; the deep love he shared with his second wife June Carter Cash; and his relationship with the young producer Rick Rubin, which revitalized his career yet raised numerous contradictions about Cash's values and craft. Insightful, thorough, and profound, Johnny Cash: The Biography is the truest portrait yet to emerge of this American icon.
An American legend's biographer must keep the story compelling and fresh, inserting new interviews, revealing details and a delicate balance of respect and criticism. Streissguth (Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison) delivers all three elements with unflinching insight into the Man in Black's life and career, drawing from the archive of Cash's former manager, the late Saul Holiff; extensive interviews with Cash's longtime record producer and collaborator, Jack Clement; the only surviving member of the original Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two, bassist Marshall Grant; and numerous childhood friends and family members. Unlike the 2005 film Walk the Line, which concludes with a clean and sober Cash, this book examines the singer's continued substance abuse well into the '70s and '80s, chronicling also the singer's dedication to Christianity, his extramarital dalliances, his reliance on outside songwriters and his banishment to the tourist haven of Branson, Mo. Streissguth writes with elegance, even when citing conflicting information and details that taint Cash's image. His treatment of Cash's relationship with wife June Carter Cash, who preceded her husband's 2003 death by five months, is particularly revealing. The author also weaves his own observations and reviews of the man's work into the text and sustains interest throughout-even though readers already know how this story ends-making this an exemplary music bio for fans of the man, the music or the genre.
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-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Da Capo Press
August 14, 2006
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