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 for the jukebox; he wanted his music to lift people's spirits.
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 realised.
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By Phil on 14-08-15
The unblemished, unflinching truth
First of all, if you've watched 'Walk the Line' (the 2005 Hollywood film of Johnny Cash's life) - that's the fairy story narrative of this man's life.
A generation of people will understand that Johnny Cash's life was basically a story of how he married young, to the wrong woman, Vivian. She resented his music and gave him a hard a time. He hit the drugs to keep going on the road and found the affections of June Carter - who he fell in love with. He divorced Vivian, and June understood him and saved him from his demons, which included drugs and the bitter memories of losing his brother as a child, and his equally bitter relationship with his father.
Ok - park that story there. Not only is it incredibly unfair on Vivian Cash, it's also incredibly indulgent on Johnny Cash. It also paints June as a saintly figure - and she was far from that in the way she went after the married Johnny Cash.
Johnny Cash was a bad man. Make no mistakes about it. He was wild. There were more women in his life than just Vivian and June. The film doesn't really look at his temper, his violence, his drugs, his missed tour dates (at one point he was missing more bookings than he turned up for). Somehow his incredible talent pulled him through both professionally and personally.
You have to read/listen to this book because the full story, the anecdotes, the legends are as incredible as they are true - and Robert Hilburn is unflinching in his determination to tell the fact from the fiction.
Johnny Cash is a great human being. He experienced the hell of surviving all his personal, emotional and psychological wrong doings and he distilled them to become bitter sweet dark dark chocolate sound of his country, rockabilly, folk and pop music. He was a champion for the underdog, he was resolutely non-judgemental of others, and he walked a line that few others could ever have survived.
Quite incredible man, and all credit to Robert Hilburn, quite an incredible account of it all.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
By Chris on 26-02-14
The Man In Black
The was a fantastic review of the life of JR. I was already a Cash fan, and was pleased with each song or album which was discussed in the book, however the detail and insight in to Johnny's turbulent and intriguing life were fascinating. I already knew some rough outlines of JC's life, but the depth and honesty this book portrays is worth reading. This really is a 'warts n all' look at the life of Johnny Cash and can, in places be surprising. Do not enter in to this with a rose tinted view of Cash as a virtuous moral role model, but a man who battled against his own personal demons his whole life. I cannot highly recommend this book enough for any Johnny Cash Fan.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful