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Composed: A Memoir [Paperback]

Rosanne Cash
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

24 Nov 2011
As moving, disarming, and elusive as one of her classic songs, Composed is Rosanne Cash's testament to the power of art, tradition, and love to transform a life. For more than three decades she has been one of the most compelling figures in popular music, having moved gracefully from Nashville stardom to critical recognition as a singer-songwriter and author of essays and short stories. Her remarkable body of work has often been noted for its emotional acuity, its rich and resonant imagery, and its unsparing honesty. Those qualities have enabled her to establish a unique intimacy with her audiences, and it is those qualities that inform her long-awaited memoir.

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Composed: A Memoir + The List + The River & The Thread
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Reprint edition (24 Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143119397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143119395
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 89,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

ROSANNE CASH has recorded fourteen albums charting twenty-one Top 40 country singles, 11 of which made it to # 1, and two gold records. She has received ten Grammy nominations-winning in 1985-and was nominated this year for "Sea of Heartbreak," a duet with Bruce Springsteen on her current CD, The List. Cash achieved the highest chart position of her career with the debut of The List. The album, which Vanity Fair called "superb," debuted in the Top 5 on the Country Chart, and entered The Billboard 200 at No. 22. Cash is the author of Bodies of Water and the children's book Penelope Jane: A Fairy's Tale. Her essays and fiction have been published in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and New York magazine. She lives in New York City with her husband and children.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful pain 19 Mar 2011
Format:Hardcover
Very well written autobiography, in which Rosanne dissects her career and life as daughter of Johnny Cash. The book briefly covers her childhood, then a short spell in London working for Columbia, then into her recording career. She explains how and why each album was made, how her songwriting has developed, the problems of live performance, her marriage to Rodney Crowell, the birth of her children, her second marriage to John Leventhal, the death of her parents and other family members, living in New York during 9/11, and finally her brain surgery. Extremely moving in places, the book gives a great insight into her relationship with Johnny Cash, who comes across as the fine complex human being we all know him to be. Rosanne is a fine writer. A poetic autobiography that most other musicians could only dream of writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lonely Road Is A Bodyguard 10 Jun 2013
By prisrob TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
"I'll send the angels to watch over you tonight/And you send them right back to
me./A lonely road is a bodyguard/If you really want it to be."
song: 'Sleeping In Paris' from the album 'The Wheel'.

Rosanne Cash, it seems has been writing forever. The above song was written after the demise of her first marriage. She remembers as a school child writing a sentence and feeling the extraordinary power of words. What she has given us in her memoir is a lifetime of writing that is, indeed, so beautifully written that we are transported. We are taken to her birth which her mother related in detail so many times, Rosanne was unsure that she ever wanted children. Her life in California, the daughter of Johnny Cash and her petite mother, Vivian. Rosanne speaks of her self doubt throughout much of this book, her body, never thin enough, and the ever present shadow of her father. All of this, like most of us, has taken a lifetime of thought and experience to work through. She says at one point, "I worked out a lifetime of self-doubt and musical and emotional vulnerabilities under the spotlight." In time she realized that "the arena I thought was a circus of humiliation actually held half the available light of what was intended for me, for my whole life." What a remarkable paragraph. That this memoir is filled with these kinds of pearls and delectable writing should be enough, but she also graces us with a life to write about.

Rosanne lived in California as a child with both parents, but then her father split and moved to Tennessee as his career started to boom. They always had a good relationship, and even though Johnny Cash had his demons he was a wonderfully loving father. Rosanne and her sisters spent time with him every summer and at Christmas.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Read 4 July 2012
By Boswell
Format:Paperback
Rosanne has always come across as an honest and decent person. On top of that she is a superb singer-songwriter. This autobiography just underlines these facts. She openly describes all the traumas, relationships, highs and lows of her life and career. Its a wonderful read and at the end of it you feel as if you really know Rosanne Cash. Highly recommended.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read 4 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Found this to be an interesting read particularly her relationship with her Father and close family.Background to past recordings and how they came about also of interest
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  56 reviews
48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lonely Road Is A Bodyguard 10 Aug 2010
By prisrob - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"I'll send the angels to watch over you tonight/And you send them right back to
me./A lonely road is a bodyguard/If you really want it to be."
song: 'Sleeping In Paris' from the album 'The Wheel'.

Rosanne Cash, it seems has been writing forever. The above song was written after the demise of her first marriage. She remembers as a school child writing a sentence and feeling the extraordinary power of words. What she has given us in her memoir is a lifetime of writing that is, indeed, so beautifully written that we are transported. We are taken to her birth which her mother related in detail so many times, Rosanne was unsure that she ever wanted children. Her life in California, the daughter of Johnny Cash and her petite mother, Vivian. Rosanne speaks of her self doubt throughout much of this book, her body, never thin enough, and the ever present shadow of her father. All of this, like most of us, has taken a lifetime of thought and experience to work through. She says at one point, "I worked out a lifetime of self-doubt and musical and emotional vulnerabilities under the spotlight." In time she realized that "the arena I thought was a circus of humiliation actually held half the available light of what was intended for me, for my whole life." What a remarkable paragraph. That this memoir is filled with these kinds of pearls and delectable writing should be enough, but she also graces us with a life to write about.

Rosanne lived in California as a child with both parents, but then her father split and moved to Tennessee as his career started to boom. They always had a good relationship, and even though Johnny Cash had his demons he was a wonderfully loving father. Rosanne and her sisters spent time with him every summer and at Christmas. She remembers fondly the peach ice cream he would make on hot evenings, taking everyone to the movies when it was too hot outside to play. Eventually her stepmother, June Carter Cash entered the picture, and Rosanne found another woman to emulate and love. They spent many lovely times at their estate in Jamaica, and it was there that Rosanne discovered one night the overwhelming feeling to move on with life. She resisted singing like her father, the shadow was too large, but singing and writing prose and melodies overtook her, and so she persisted, and year after year she pushed on, finding her own place. A marriage to Rodney Crowell produced three lovely daughters, and she also brought up Hannah, Crowell's daughter from a previous marriage. Although Rosanne is often classified as a country artist, her music draws on many genres, including folk, pop, rock and blues. In the 1980s, she had a string of chart-topping singles, which crossed musical genres and landed on both Country & Western and Top 100 charts. 'Seven Year Ache' was one of her biggest hits. When her marriage to Rodney Crowell ended she moved to New York City, and in 1995 she married John Leventhal, a musician and producer who produced the album 'The Wheel'. They have a son together, Jakob. At one point, Rosanne developed polyps on her vocal cord and could not sing, thus Rosanne picked up her writing career. She wrote her first book to great reviews and continued writing several articles. In 2003 her stepmother, June, and father, Johnny, both died within a short period of time of each other. Her sister, Rosie died. Her mother followed in 2006. What a legacy to be gone within such a few short years. In 2007 Rosanne had brain surgery to correct a malformation that was giving her persistent and blinding headaches. This was a grueling time, but she recovered and continued writing and assembling this memoir that has taken ten years to write.

When Rosanne graduated from high school, that summer, her father took her on his bus tour. He discovered that she had a limited knowledge of the old songs, and sat down and wrote down the 100 songs that he felt delineated the times. It is a list of the 100 Folk/Americana songs that she needed to know about. Somehow she picked twelve of the very best, and these suit her to a 'T'. She has made a CD that is pure love and music. She has made these songs her own. 'The List' has been nominated for album of the year.

Rosanne Cash's 'Composed' is a perfect title, that is how she has followed her life- in music, from one lyric and song to the next, in life, from one issue to the next, an authentic person. She writes as she lives. She tells us "So, in writing this in nonfiction and a memoir, I felt a responsibility to be true to the facts as I remembered them. And you know there is melody in prose. It's more subtle, but it's there. So I was always trying to find the melody." Rosanne's eulogies for her stepmother, June, and her father, John, are so ephemeral and poignant, that a tear or two are bound to slide down your cheeks. What Rosanne Cash brings to her memoir, with her prose and melodies are the beauty, fire and the stuff of dreams.

Addendum:

Publishers Weekly chose her memoir as one of the top non-fiction books of the year! 11-18-10

'Composed' is listed in Amazon's top ten memoirs of 2010. 01-23-11

Highly Recommended. prisrob 08-10-10

The List [Vinyl]

Bodies of Water
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life as Journey 10 Aug 2010
By Sam Sattler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Acclaimed songwriter and recording star Rosanne Cash, is a reluctant celebrity at best. She never wanted a public life, always preferring to maintain her privacy rather than to share the details of her life via the numerous lowbrow celebrity-worship outlets so common today. Over the years, her fans have come to understand that choice, and to respect it. Those same fans now will be pleasantly surprised at the depth to which Cash willingly shares the details of her life in "Composed: A Memoir."

Rosanne Cash's father, of course, is none other than Johnny Cash, a man for whom the word "legend" is insufficient to describe his place in music history. Cash grew up in her father's shadow, sensing early on that her achievements would be forever judged in comparison to his - a pressure-filled, no-win situation she wanted to avoid. She witnessed the performer lifestyle first hand and knew it to be harder work, and much less glamorous, than outsiders could ever imagine. She was certain she wanted no part of it. And, because she had always been good with words, even to believing that some day she would make her living as an author, Cash decided that songwriting offered her the best chance to work in the "family business" and still maintain the privacy she desired.

Rosanne Cash's life has always been about music and journeys. As she puts it, "I have learned more from songs than I ever did from any teacher in school. They are interwoven and have flowed through the most important relationships in my life - with my parents, my husband, and my children...For me music has always involved journeys, both literal and metaphoric." In "Composed: A Memoir," she shares some of those journeys with her readers.

Cash, the oldest of her father's children, starts at the beginning, recalling what it was like to grow up in Southern California at a time her father's road habits were destroying his marriage and her mother's health. She discusses her attempts to distance herself from her father's style of music, including the London sojourn during which she served as a gofer at a London record label for several months (a job arranged by her father). She beautifully recounts her journey toward becoming a recording star and successful songwriter, and how proud her father was of her success. Along the way, she revisits her marriage to Rodney Crowell, a marriage that filled her home with daughters, and describes her relationship with John Leventhal, the man to whom she has been married for the past fifteen years, the father of her only son.

Beyond a doubt, first and foremost, Rosanne Cash is a writer. Her prose is at its best when she describes the devastating series of deaths she and her family endured beginning in early 2003 and the unusual brain surgery she herself suffered in late 2007. On May 15, 2003, June Carter Cash died and John followed her on September 12. Just six weeks later, her stepsister Rosie would die of carbon monoxide poisoning, and in May 2005 she would lose her mother, Vivian, to lung cancer. Cash spoke at the funerals of her parents and June Carter Cash; "Composed" includes each of their eulogies.

Indeed, Rosanne Cash is good at words. I suspect her father would be very proud of his daughter's story.

Rated at: 4.0
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touch Your Soul Read 24 Aug 2010
By Lon D. Soles - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For as long as I can remember, back in the 50's years of my childhood, I have loved the Carter Family and Johnny Cash. I first recall hearing Rosanne sing No Memories Hangin Round and loved her voice. Since the passing of Johnny Cash, Rosanne's father, I have read everything written about the Cash/Carter clan and play their music often. Rosanne is not only a gifted song writer and singer but her book Composed is a soul touching read that will have a familiar feel to any of us who have reached middle age and looked back. Her gift of discernment was obviously apparent at an early age; her wisdom and keen insightfulness a gift now to all who read what she has to say. If you are looking for a tabloid tell all this book will disappoint you; the very reason I loved what she had to say. She has endured a great deal of sadness and loss, as we all either have by middle age,( or surely will) but also brain surgery and the difficulty of being in a family of "legendary people." Yet through it all she is.........composed.... with absolute class and a clear deep capacity for love and love of family that will touch your soul to it's depths. I watched her interview on Imus in the Morning. She so touched me I immediately bought and read her book. God Bless Rosanne for continuing to carry on her family legacy with her immense talent and thans to her for sharing it with all of us lucky enough to understand and appreciate her. Highly recommend reading COMPOSED, order her music CD's, and learn to love her as I have. Her Daddy and Mama would be so proud. Vicki Soles, Massanutten, VA
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LOVED it! All of it, but my favorite line is last one: "More to come." 13 Aug 2013
By Timothy J. Bazzett - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I ripped through this fascinating little memoir in just a couple of sittings. Often when I read a memoir I really enjoy, I'll finish it wishing there were more. Not this one. I think Rosanne Cash's COMPOSED is just about perfect just as it is. This is a woman who is not just a singer/songwriter. She is a Writer with a capital 'W.'

I'll admit I have been a fan of Cash's music for over thirty years, at least since "Seven-Year Ache." And her music - and songwriting skills - has just gotten better over the years. And now we have the stories behind so many of those songs and albums. And for fans of her famous father (and yeah, I'm one of those too), there is plenty here about her dad, and her not-famous mom, who, thankfully, did find happiness after that volatile divorce. Their daughter, who experienced a failed marriage herself, has learned to appreciate what her parents went through. She's got plenty to say about the price of fame, particularly in her father's case, but her own fame too. She feels empathy now for her parents, who dove "headlong into parenthood when they were barely out of adolescence, but devoted and hopeful ..."

I can't believe Rosanne Cash has been making music for over 35 years now. Where'd da time go, eh? And her dad's been gone for ten years already. I can still remember rocking and singing as kid to his very first pop hit, "Ballad of a Teenage Queen." And now his little girl is closing in on sixty.

Many of her revelations about her family and her life will make you want to weep. Being born into a famous family does not, of course, bring happiness, and Rosanne Cash has had plenty of bumps along the way - drugs, affairs, that failed marriage, some downturns in her musical career, brain surgery. But the parts that will choke you up are about the losses - a baby, her parents and many friends and extended family. She puts it succinctly: "Loss is the great unifier, the terrible club to which we all eventually belong." Her accounts of those losses will break your heart.

A dozen years or more ago I read Rosanne Cash's short story collection, Bodies of Water, a book which didn't make much of a splash, but I thought it excellent. Those writing skills are still working for her. I wonder if there might be a novel in her yet. I hope so. But for now, COMPOSED is a memoir that should stick around for a long time. The closing line gives me hope: "More to come." I will recommend this book highly.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written Memoir 8 Sep 2010
By Maudeen Wachsmith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
About 30 years ago I went to a concert in Seattle. Before the performance some music was played that I was really drawn to. I tried everything to find out who this female singer was; all I had to go on was that Emmylou Harris lent her distinctive vocals to several songs. Every time I went to Tower Records I looked through the stacks of new LPs until several months later I found who this elusive artist with the beautiful voice was--It was Rosanne Cash. Over the years I have purchased all her music in one format or another. I am sorry to say I have not yet seen her perform although she is on my bucket list. When I heard she had written a memoir about her life I knew immediately I had to read it.

Cash, whose intelligent and insightful lyrics have made many identify with the themes in her songs, is a wonderful writer. Whether she's telling about growing up in southern California, visiting her father and June at their "House on the Lake" near Nashville, working in London, or more recently living in New York City where she has found her niche, she uses brilliant prose. As a very private person, I was sometimes surprised at some of the stories she shared. At only 244 pages, there isn't one dull point in her memoir. She tells of the hurt and pain she has gone through, particularly in 2003-2005 where she lost so many people close to her and her readers can feel her grief. Then she tells of how proud she is of her daughters and son, how happy she is in her current (second) marriage and readers are able to rejoice with her. One of my favorite stories is of her going to Scotland to the old ancestral sites and serendipitously finding a gentleman who had become friends with her father years earlier.

COMPOSED: A MEMOIR is a quick but emotional read. I enjoyed learning not only of Rosanne's life but the music business and just a little about what it takes to put out a CD and then to go on tour, sometimes leaving very little for family time although Rosanne seems to have mixed the two well, now going on the road only in the summer.

I highly recommend this book not only to fans of Rosanne Cash, but to those who enjoy a good, well-written memoir. My only complaints were that it wasn't a little longer and that there weren't more pictures, the ones included were just in the frontispiece (note - the captions are found at the very end of the book). But realizing how private she is, it is understandable how she wishes to somehow retain that sense of privacy yet share with the reader her lovely family (it was great to see the picture of her daughters, all grown up, along with her son with her current husband). The only big thing missing was "The List"{ of songs her father, Johnny, shared with her of the best country songs. Now if Rosanne would just come to the Seattle area so I can see her perform in person, I'd be really happy.
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