Johnny Cash is, without a doubt, one of the best singer-songwriters of our times. He sung simple songs of love, redemption and faith. He sung humourous tunes of life. He sung of heartache, famine, toil and hardship. He sung of his faith in the Lord, his love for Jesus and his hope of eternal life.
Without a doubt, Cash’s life was, at times, marred with abuse from alcohol and drug use. There was no doubt that he struggled with addiction, being out of control, being angry. But that was not his message. That wasn’t his legacy.
Of the 70 or so albums he released over 60-ish years, 11 of them were gospel albums. He released a number of live albums recorded in prisons (who could forget the epic ‘At Folsom Prison’ and ‘At San Quenten’?). He travelled to Israel a number of times and publically declares his love for the Holy Land. Yeah, he was forbidden to play at the ‘Gran Ole Opry’ and got arrested once, but that’s not the legacy he left.
So that’s why I hate the picture above. You’ll often see teenagers or 20-somethings wearing it on a t-shirt, like Cash was some kind of angry, anti-authority figure. Kids that, I’m guessing, have never listened to a Johnny Cash tune in their life.
You can’t listen to ‘A Boy Named Sue’ without smiling. You can’t listen to ‘Jackson’ and hear the playful love he had for June Carter Cash. You can’t listen to ‘Ring of Fire’ and fall in love with that old ‘boom-chicka sound’ all over again. You can’t listen to any number of Cash’s gospel renditions to know the depth of his love for the Lord.
Johnny Cash transcended musical genres, sounds and tastes, all with his deep, soulful voice. The honesty in his singing and simple purity of lyrics. So don’t tarnish his memory with a stupid t-shirt motif.