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on 12 November 2013
"Johnny Cash: The Life" by Robert Hilburn is a biography of this distinctive musician who throughout his entire career attracted attention due to his music but also due to his behavior, which was anything but conventional.

Although I don't consider myself being great fan of Johnny Cash there are many of his songs that I like to listen. And due to the fact that I learned most about his turbulent life from a great movie "Walk the line", in which he was exceptionally well-acted by Joaquin Phoenix, I wanted to read this biography.

Inside, reader can find good overview of Johnny Cash's private life and music career that start from his youth he spent in Arkansas, time he spent in the Army and his ups and downs during the exciting music career that somehow ended with his moving "Hurt" video.

The fact is that the author doesn't beautifies things about Johnny's life, revealing some truths that won't appeal to those who previously weren't familiar with this information, for example when he's telling about his first wife Vivian cheating with other girls than June, on cheating June with her own sister, or the real truth how serious drug addict he was.
But as well, he had done some good things like getting Glen Sherley paroled or giving his money to charity.
While telling his story, both good and bad things, the author doesn't take either side nor gives his attitude. Instead he is just telling the facts and leave judgment of Johnny's life to each reader for her/himself.

Sadly, this book confirms what was seen in the movie that the roots of his violent and unpredicted behavior lie in relation to whom he had with his father who preferred his tragically deceased brother, and looked on Johnny as unworthy.
This is especially evident in the fact how his character changed after the tragedy, compared to Johnny who was before quite different gentle boy who loved books.

The author was able to get to know Johnny well through his life, and interesting information is that he was the only member of the press who was at the legendary Folsom Prison concert in 1968.
Also, he interviewed both Johnny and June in 2003 which was their last interviews before they died.
Through many of his interviews with Johnny and other people who worked, lived with or knew Johnny Cash, the author exposed his personal and musical merits and demerits, and shows this artist as true icon of the music scene that despite all the failures in his life will remain forever remembered.

"Johnny Cash: The Life" is a well-made and informative biography not only for fans of this distinctive musician, but due to his contribution to the music scene, to all lovers of rock 'n roll and music in general.

Johnny was a man who was walking along the line and frequently crossed it, but nevertheless will remain forever in the memory...
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on 8 January 2016
Well befitting a 20th century music icon, there’s been many books written about Johnny Cash, including a couple of autobiographies, but none can be as definitive as Robert Hilburn’s 679 page tome. Longtime music editor of the Los Angeles Times, he interviewed Cash several times, developing a friendship that allowed him more contacts and a greater insight into the artist’s life and career that hadn’t been covered in other publications.

Meticulously researched, the book draws a vivid, intimate picture of Cash, almost creating a personal relationship between artist and reader, a feat seldom achieved in biographies. Commencing with a poverty stricken childhood in Arkansas where radio first installed musical ambitions and furthered by records and time in the military, he headed to Memphis, Sun Records and Sam Phillips, the producer who made his mark as a founding father of rock ‘n’ roll. Like Rick Rubin, at the end of Cash’s recording career, Phillips provided a guiding hand to the artist’s own creativity – and initial chart success led on to Columbia Records. There, with chart singles and a series of concept albums (including Ride This Train, Bitter Tears, Gospel Road and the Folsom Prison [where Hilburn was the only journalist present, so a genuine firsthand account] and San Quentin Prison recordings), critical acclaim met public success and, by the end of the 1960s he was headlining his own tv series and established as the biggest selling recording artist in the USA.

But the great heights of success was followed by a steady decline in record sales, finally resulting in Columbia dropping Cash from its artist roster. A short-lived association with Mercury Records failed to change his fortunes. Then, believing his recording days were over, punk rock producer Rick Rubin stepped into the picture and helped redefine Cash’s music horizons, establishing the singer with young record buyers.

Robert Hilburn details Johnny Cash’s recordings with great accuracy and insight, alongside tales of life on the road, his fellow musicians and concert appearances that took him around the world. But the music coverage is not to the detriment of other aspects of his life. Equally well detailed are the tragic years of pills addiction; his support of the underdog and charitable work; his love of gospel music, his faith and association with Billy Graham; friendship with Bob Dylan; marriages to the former Vivien Liberto and June Carter; and his children, with the youngest John Carter Cash ensuring that his father’s name doesn’t fade away, though that’s hardly likely. Johnny Cash established himself as a legendary performer, truly one of a kind, and this book pays him true homage.
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on 23 November 2015
Quite a few Johnny Cash songs are on my MP3, and I thought it would be worthwhile reading a biography about him.
The author`s research is exhaustively thorough and has lead to a very well rounded account of the singer. I never realised just how Christian minded a man he was, and initially was quite sceptical. But, he genuinely was a man who whole heartedly believed in his faith, although he lapsed so many times, thus causing himself tons of inner turmoil and anguish.
The vast overuse of illegal drugs, numerous episodes of infidelity, and public leanings towards men incarcerated within US high security jails all contributing to the infamous "bad guy" reputation.
The book suffers excruciatingly, frequently, with reportage of practically every song and album released, and in my opinion this content could favourably have been reduced by at least 25%.
The final years of Cash`s life are very well reported and easily filled my eyes at times with tears.
Overall, a book I am glad I read, and one I would recommend to those who seek to learn intimately about the life of one of C&W`s more important icons.
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on 6 November 2013
this is the best book on country singer johnny cash that i have read,if you are a johnny cash fan then this book is for you,out of ten i would give it top marks.
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on 5 November 2014
This book is just fantastic.I am a big music fan and have several Johnny Cash albums but, i knew very little about him as a person.Even if you are not a big fan music fan, this book is still an excellent read.Characters like Johnny Cash just do not seem to exist any more in this modern world!
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on 20 March 2014
My husband had other books on Johnny Cash but he was most impressed with this one, as it contained more information about Johnny, warts n all. He thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.
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on 14 January 2014
Very good interesting book, I bought it for a friend who is a Johnny Cash fan. He absolutely loved it, can't put it down.
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on 11 February 2014
bought as a present for Johnny Cash fan, They were delighted and read it immediately. Showed the singer's true persona - not just the legend, highly recommend for other fans
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on 14 April 2014
I really enjoyed both of Johnny Cash's autobiographies, and have a read a number of books about him by other authors. This one is far and away the most detailed and and seemingly unbiased account of his life. I'd recommend anyone, not just Johnny Cash fans, to read this. I'll be reading it again, and again.
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on 26 October 2015
Love this book like I have never loved a biography before. Robert Hilburn has a way of writing that takes you away to an era, to a life of one of the most wonderful singers ever. It is like you are there, or watching the movie of the book. The story of Johnny Cash is so intriguing, and Hilburn manages to include so much detail, so much colour, yet it never gets boring, you just want to keep on reading. The photographs are the icing on the cake. A must read and must have for every Johnny Cash fan!
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