One of Arkansas’ most prominent sons was undoubtedly the iconic musician Johnny Cash, whose gritty but poignant country crossover songs touched the hearts of music fans everywhere and inspired countless country and rock musicians. The Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter’s fascinating life story has been the subject of many books over the years, as well as the big screen biopic Walk the Line starring Joaquin Phoenix in his Academy Award nominated portrayal of Cash. However, some are calling Robert Hilburn’s recent bestselling book, Johnny Cash: The Life, the definitive biography of the country music superstar.
Hilburn, a 30-year music critic for The Los Angeles Times, had the advantage of knowing "the man in black" throughout his life and was the only music journalist who attended the famous 1968 Folsom Prison Concert. In this unvarnished yet sensitive account of Johnny Cash’s life and career, Hilburn explores everything from Cash’s dirt poor childhood as the son of a cotton farmer in rural Arkansas during the Depression, to the early days of Cash’s career at Sun Records alongside Elvis, to his extraordinary success in the decades that followed. The book also delves into Cash’s often troubled personal life, in which he experienced the lowest of lows as well as the heights of joy.
Like so many artists, Cash was a victim of drug addiction in his youth but unlike a number of his contemporaries, his story had a happy ending. He was able to overcome his addiction to drugs and win the hand of his beloved June Carter after a tumultuous on and off relationship. Hilburn discusses these aspects of Cash’s story as well as the other compelling tragedies and triumphs
One of the things that make this book so special is the unique access that Hilburn had to Cash and his wife, country music sensation June Carter Cash, including a number of interviews that the author did over the years with Cash, his family, inner circle of friends, Philips and music legends such as Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan.
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