on 19 March 2011
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.
"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.
Recommended. prisrob 06-10-13
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.