Johnny Cash: The Heart of the Story ~ BitterSweetLife

Friday, November 16, 2007

Johnny Cash: The Heart of the Story

If you haven't seen Walk the Line, the (somewhat) biographical movie about Johnny Cash, you probably should. It's an excellent film, with top-notch performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, and the concert sequences are electric--emotionally, of course, not musically. However, as an accurate depiction of Cash's life, the film disappoints. You walk away with the impression that June Carter's love magically induced Cash to forsake his massive drug problem and rediscover his musical chops--and this is simply revisionist history. Doxologist sketches the heart of the real Cash transformation story:

Cash hit rock bottom... He had ruined everything and he decided to take his own life. As a kid he had explored depths of Nickajack Cave, an immense, abandoned cave system that was about to become a water reservoir. Johnny crawled in, carrying only a flashlight, intending to get lost and die in the darkness of the soon to be underwater cave system. He crawled for hours till flashlight went out and he curled up to die. He described it like this, “The absolute lack of light was appropriate, for at that moment I was as far from God as I have ever been. My separation from Him, the deepest and most ravaging of the various kinds of loneliness I’d felt over the years, seemed finally complete.”

Then, as he thought he drew near to death he said, “I felt something very powerful start to happen to me, a sensation of utter peace, clarity and sobriety… There in Nickajack Cave I became conscious of a very clear, simple idea: I was not in charge of my own destiny… I was going to die at god’s time, not mine.”

Read the whole thing. Of course, if you're familiar with Johnny Cash's life and music, this is old news. If you're not, do yourself a favor and explore his canon. You'll discover a brooding, rough but poetic voice that is familiar with darkness, yet has become convinced that salvation and grace are the stronger realities.

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R. Sherman said...

Johnny Cash is one of those performers with whom I've fallen in love on multiple occasions. Over the years, he really grew on me. Truly a classic.

Here's "Personal Jesus."


Ariel said...

Thanks for the link! I think once you discover Cash, there's no going back. A timeless element to his songs.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife