Fast-forwarding Johnny

When is the end not the end? It happens, I think, when we reach a certain point in life. The insight may come amid that disconcerting stretch commonly referred to as midlife crisis, or it may come much later, when life is nearly gone. For a fortunate few, the realization that it's never too late to be what you might have been comes early in life, but then, life is notoriously unfair.

I wonder if Johnny Cash awoke one day with just such a realization. I know it's tough to imagine the man burdened with regret over his obviously successful music career, but when I listen to the songs he sang as he neared the end of his life, I have to wonder where he kept them all that time, and why. Contracts, maybe.

It's been years since I first heard the newand also quite oldJohnny Cash on the local college station, so I'm a bit surprised at the reaction when I ask people what they think of his later stuff. Most haven't heard it at all, and it isn't easy to convince them to even give it a try. Not that I blame them; I was never a fan myself, and I liked it that way.

Anyhow, if you think you know Johnny Cash but only associate songs about trains and prison with the name, you might want to listen to Hurt (from the American IV - The Man Comes Around album) just because that one is easy to find on the Web.

I'm not saying you'll become a fan, but you may reconsider your position on whether it's really too late, ever, to be what you might have been.



  1. I, too, heard "Hurt" on the radio (I was actually driving on Mullholland Drive at night, so imagine those amazing lyrics and heartfelt vocals amplified by the expanse of Los Angeles' twinkling lights). That song, and Johnny Cash's exquisite rendition of it, has touched me more deeply than anything I've ever heard. The music video is profoundly moving, too. I got it on a DVD collection of music videos by director Mark Romanek. (He also directed that dazzling video for the Michael and Janet Jackson duet, "Scream.")

  2. Thanks for posting that, Craig. I was beginning to wonder if it was just me, but evidently not. Most people (even my 19-year-old daughter) have a change of heart upon hearing the "new Johnny," but I was genuinely amazed (and a bit saddened) that he would have kept that caliber of music under wraps all those years.

    I did see the video btw. Touching, to say the least. I'll have to dig up the Jackson video -- I may have missed that one somewhere along the line.