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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
Johnny Cash: The Life
Format: Kindle Edition|Change

on 20 July 2017
superb biography of a Great Man's life.
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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 27 October 2017
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on 16 October 2017
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on 27 April 2017
Great story and very well written.
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on 20 September 2017
An excellent book about the man in black riveting from start to finish the latter chapters so very sad missed
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on 25 August 2014
Too much unnecessary data

Great facts about Johnny and his life

Really enjoyed the read. Learned about the true man.
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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 18 May 2016
This was a gift.
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VINE VOICEon 15 September 2014
Hank Williams died in 1953, aged 29, as a result of a combination of prescription drugs and alcoholism. Thirty years later Keith Whitley, who was on the verge of stardom, drank himself to death aged 33. Many of the stars of country music were pill poppers or alcoholics, including Ira Louvin, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, the iconic Carter Family and Johnny Cash. Robert Hilburn's 'Johnny Cash – The Life" captures the whole sorry tale of a musical career based on chemical support which, many feel, shortened his life considerably. Reading about Cash's life is a disturbing experience of the impact of an addictive personality (Cash started smoking at the age of 10) and a recognition of the contradictions that exist in all our lives. Not only Cash but his wife, June Carter, and Cash's daughters from his first marriage, had drug problems.

The picture of June Carter and Johnny Cash living happily ever after they got married is a myth. Carter was a wife stealer who pointedly told Cash's first wife, 'Vivian he will be mine'. Whereas Vivian Cash stayed at home and looked after their children, June Carter, being aware of the casual relationships that take place on tour, insisted on going on tour with him, although even she was shocked when she learned Cash had an affair with her sister, Anita. Most of the others she never knew about or chose not to know. She married Cash despite knowing of his substance abuse, attributing her commitment to love - and love hurts. At times Cash for so zoned out that his handlers' response was, 'Leave him twenty-four hours. If he wakes up he's alive, if he doesn't he's dead'!

All performers suffer with nerves before a show but with Cash this was compounded by an innate shyness and a desire to avoid confrontation. Ironically, he preferred to be a songwriter than a performer and the book vividly demonstrates the often excruciating creative process of making a record. To those around him it was clear that Cash was high on drugs, although to the untrained eye and ear his performances in the 1950s and 1960s did not betray the damage that was being done to his body and soul. It was the latter which most often troubled Cash. Brought up in country style evangelical surroundings Cash was acutely aware of the manner in which the lifestyle he led conflicted with the values he considered he should be applying in his daily life. From time to time he would be contrite but would return to the pills largely because he liked the effect they had on him. One pill was one too many and a thousand not enough.

Cash served in the USAF as an intercept operator while in his late teens and when posted to Germany worked long high pressure hours during which he stood out as intelligent, witty and promoted to staff sergeant. He grappled with personal issues of women, religion and alcohol telling endless none too accurate stories about his activities. He declined an invitation to stay on in the forces and on his way home wrote the song 'Hey Porter' to define his feelings. However, being at home was not the same as his home being where his heart was. On the road he slipped easily into the company of 'women who were pretty, smart, spiritual and......supportive of his music in ways that helped him in his struggle for self-worth'. This nearly became scandalous when he starting spending time with sixteen year old Lorrie Collins, ten years his junior. He had designes on Billie Jean Horton after her husband died. As Tom T Hall put it 'He was searching for love' and the more he toured the less he found it at home. What he did find on tour were local doctors willing to provide pills.

It's not all bad news about Cash. Many of his recording were made out of his commitment to the forgotten people including the inspiring Ballad of Ira Hayes and the song about San Quentin that he sang to a rapturous reception by the inmates. Yet the man who could write about shooting a man in Reno 'just to watch him die' produced several gospel albums which he sang with sincerity and issued despite a lack of commercial appeal or sales. Yet sincerity was, as Hank Williams said, the difference between country music and other forms of musical expression. Kris Kristofferson could have been writing about Cash in his song 'The Pilgrim Chapter 33'

He's a poet, he's a picker, he's a prophet, he's a pusher
He's a pilgrim and a preacher and a problem when he's stoned
He's a walkin' contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction
Taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

Cash would give you the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it and he was generous to a fault, always looking for the good in people rather than the bad. For the last fifteen years of his life he was in constant pain and by the time he recorded 'Hurt' he was virtually blind. His later work with Rick Rubin demonstrated that he was a musician and songwriter par excellence. Hilburn captures Cash's all too human strengths and weaknesses and while this reviewer would never place him above Hank Williams or George Jones in the legends of country music Cash did reach across to a variety of musical genres in a way in which Williams and Jones did not.

June Carter Cash died in May 2003, Johnny Cash died in September of the same year. Whether he just gave up on life or his body just shut down has been the subject of speculation since. Then again perhaps they just wanted to meet on the 'Far Side Banks of Jordan' sooner rather than later. Hilburn tells the unvarnished truth. It isn't pretty but it's worth five stars.
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