Another Country Johnny Cash special
This Friday there will be another chance to hear our Johnny Cash special, broadcast earlier in the year, to celebrate the release of American V1 Ain't No Grave. Now since then there have been a few other significant album releases by - Tom Jones, Willie Nelson and most recently Robert Plant. Tom did some of the songs of Johnny and Willie and Robert too did one that Willie cut on Country Music. Does it matter? No. But does it show the depth and depth of feeling behind some of these old Gospel gems? Yes.
Also on Saturday night/Sunday morning I'll be sitting in again for Bob Harris on BBC Radio 2. The special guest will be Philip Selway (better known as Radiohead's drummer) who has brought out a elegiac and true folk album. Nick Drake is the obvious reference point but fans of last years Josh Tillman album (like me) won't be disappointed.
I posted most of this up when we first re broadcast the Johnny Cash show...but some of you may have missed it....
Johnny Cash copyright Andrew Earl.
My little boy came into the room while I was writing this. Is that Johnny Cash dad? I asked him what he knew and he told me that a friend in his class and he had been discussing music they loved. They both loved Ain't No Grave, believe me when I tell you that this has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the man we are about to salute.
It seems that we're finally getting round to something that's been looming for a long while. On Friday we are going to spend the two hours that Radio Scotland has given us on Johnny Cash. I naively wondered what we'd do with the time a while back there. Then my producer, Richard asked me for a list of favourite JC tracks and I realised if we were both going to be happy we'd need to take over the airwaves for the whole evening...there's a thought!
So for good or bad we have two hours in and around the music of Johnny Cash with tributes from friends of the programme as well as an exclusive long chat with Johnny's only son, John Carter Cash. The excuse (as if we needed one) is the release of American VI - Aint No Grave for which John Carter has acted as associate producer, but the reason is more fundamental. Johnny Cash was part of a huge dynasty of music which goes back to the very first recordings of what we now call country. That music was gospel and rhythm and folk and blues and eventually rock 'n' roll. Johnny himself was one quarter of the most potent rock 'n' roll roster of all time and even now there will be arguments about which one of the Presley, Perkins, Lewis, Cash quartet was the greatest. I wouldn't begin to try. Competition has no place in the arts for me. Let's just be glad we have the recordings.
What is particular interesting in the case of Johnny is the fact that his career re ignited in the last years of his life. This wasn't because he was suddenly on a cool label with a cool producer, Rick Rubin. It was because that producer decided to do what great producers do; allow the artist to shine through on his own merits. The singer became the star and anything that got in the way of that voice and the story of these songs was quietly rubbed out. Johnny Cash himself had the idea of singing these songs in that stripped down fashion long before he'd ever met Rick.
On Friday we will play music written and performed by Johnny Cash, music that inspired and influenced Johnny Cash and hear the voices of artists who continue to be influenced by the Man In Black. In my opinion that two hours is going to be worth our license fee alone.
One last story. A couple of years ago I visited a boy in hospital. He was the same age as my 2nd eldest daughter. He'd been in hospital for months as he'd suffered a spinal injury paralysing his lower body and limiting the use of his hands. We chatted for a while then I explained I had to go. I was doing a radio programme that night. Was there any country music he might like? Yes, he said, Johnny Cash.