Thursday, February 7, 2013

Johnny Cash, Redemption and Me

Yesterday at Best Buy, while was picking up power cords for my MacBook and my iPad, I also bought  CD of Johnny Cash's greatest hits for $6.99.

Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, Johnny Cash seemed hokey, corny and square to me. Now, when I listen to his deep baritone, which I did on my long commute to work this morning, I am moved and inspired. Johnny also makes me smile.

 Johnny: where have you been all my life?

Johnny Cash was a man full of desire, passion, fury and humor. The fourth of seven children, he was born in Arkansas during the Great Depression. His parents named him J.R. because they could not come up with a name. The family picked cotton and his childhood was steeped in poverty and gospel music. He became John R. Cash when he joined the Air Force because the military insisted he have a proper name.

In many ways, Cash's life was what my high school students would call a big hot mess. He struggled mightily, in particular with an addiction to prescription pills. In his younger years, he was a womanizer. He married twice and fathered five children. He spent many nights in jail for misdemeanors. He understood he was a sinner and he sought redemption his whole life.

My weaknesses are not the same as his, But when I listen to Cash's music, I understand how far we all ramble from the path we are called to walk. I admire his humility in facing that he is flawed and in need of saving.

There is no doubt when listening to his songs that the culture that shaped him was working-class and rural. He sings about  rivers, trains, guns, cars, picking cotton, working an assembly line, boozing and praying. There is no doubt he understands he was called into being and that the circumstances of his life are infused with a Presence of something beyond what he can see.

When I listen to his iconic song "I Walk the Line," which is not an overtly religious song, I hear yes a man yearning for a woman, but beyond that, a human heart yearning for redemption and longing for eternity.

 You've got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can't hide
For you I know I'd even try to turn the tide
Because you're mine, I walk the line



  1. Wonderful - My mother's Aunt was married into the Cash family.

  2. I love Johnny Cash. I too thought he was hokey when I was young. But I really love him now. There's so much humanity in his work. That's a great one you posted. Some of my favorites are "Flesh and Blood," "Man in Black," and "Folsom Prison Blues." Oh, and he does the best rendition of "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord." Nice post Allison.