On February 26, we wear black for the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash.
The Arkansas-native and prolific country rock legend would have turned 88-years-old today. The "Ring of Fire" singer (though that song was co-written by his wife, June Carter, and Merle Kilgore ), rose to prominence in the 1950s but soon struggled with the pressures of touring. While his struggles with alcohol and drug addictions were widely publicized and he once called himself "the biggest sinner of them all," Cash wasn't just another romanticized figure of outlaw country. He became a symbol of disaffected youth and prisoners' rights, which inspired his stunning live album At Folsom Prison (1968).
"He always identified with the underdog," Tommy Cash, his youngest brother, said. "He identified with the prisoners because many of them had served their sentences and had been rehabilitated in some cases, but were still kept there the rest of their lives. He felt a great empathy with those people."
While his hits live on today, the "Walk the Line" singer's discography is as complex as his dueling images between outlaw country singer and activist: "Sometimes I am two people," he once said. "Johnny is the nice one. Cash causes all the trouble. They fight." Today we remember some of his lesser appreciated tracks and remember the legacy of one of America's first rock stars.
"How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man." - Johnny Cash
"I Will Dance with You" (1977)
A duet with Karen Brooks, "I Will Dance With You" features a building instrumentation that pairs perfectly with the driving consistency of Cash's rich baritone.