Tag Archives: walking contradiction

Johnny Cash (Part 3)

I got to hear Johnny Cash sing in person back in 1978.  Here is a portion of an article about his Christian Testimony.

A Walking Contradiction
Cash’s daughter, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, once pointed out that “my father was raised a Baptist, but he has the soul of a mystic. He’s a profoundly spiritual man, but he readily admits to a continual attraction for all seven deadly sins.””There’s nothing hypocritical about it,” Johnny Cash told Rolling Stonescribe Anthony DeCurtis. “There is a spiritual side to me that goes real deep, but I confess right up front that I’m the biggest sinner of them all.” To Cash, even his near deadly bout with drug addiction contained a crucial spiritual element. “I used drugs to escape, and they worked pretty well when I was younger. But they devastated me physically and emotionally—and spiritually … [they put me] in such a low state that I couldn’t communicate with God. There’s no lonelier place to be. I was separated from God, and I wasn’t even trying to call on him. I knew that there was no line of communication. But he came back. And I came back.”Years after his return to the land of the living, Cash once got a visit from U2 members Bono and Adam Clayton who were driving across the U.S., taking in the local colors. The three of them sat around a table before their meal, and Cash floored the two Irishmen with an incredible prayer of thanksgiving to God. Then, without skipping a beat, he raised his head and quipped, “Sure miss the drugs, though.”Cash sums up his soul’s murky landscape—if that’s possible—better than anybody else: “I’m still a Christian, as I have been all my life. Beyond that I get complicated. I endorse Kris Kristofferson’s line about me: ‘He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.’ I also like Rosanne’s line: ‘He believes what he says, but that don’t make him a saint.’ I dobelieve what I say. There are levels of honesty, though.”Sigh.At this juncture, you may be asking why the book you’re holding is attempting to figure out the spiritual nature of this man. A puzzling personality who once implored, “Please don’t tell anybody how I feel about anything … unless I told you in the last few days.”

The answer? It’s attempting nothing of the sort. The sole purpose of this book is to focus on the wild, incredible ups and downs of Cash’s spiritual journey. It’s a chronicle of his highs and lows, a record of the ebb and flow of his soul’s story.

And like many such journeys, Cash’s was a roller coaster experience—though his twists and turns and plunges have been more intense than the average person’s … and, well, there were a lot more of them.

Cash began life close to church, close to the earth, and close to gospel music; but his earliest singles for Sun Records hit the secular path rather than the gospel road he hoped Sam Phillips would let him follow; Phillips’ preference for the former led to big hits from Cash right from the start, and he immediately became a slave to the road, soon making millions of dollars and winning over millions of fans; he battled through a lot of death through the years—including his big brother Jack’s, his parents’, his longtime guitarist Luther Perkins’, and especially his wife of 35 years, June Carter Cash’s—but Cash somehow eluded the Grim Reaper’s snares despite feeding his frame with truckloads of uppers and downers over the better part of the 1960s; he enjoyed a creative and spiritual renaissance in the late ’60s and early ’70s, a run that not only sealed his status as the father of American music but proved a blueprint for what would soon become contemporary Christian music; and then, just when it appeared his career was sputtering to a halt in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Cash confounded everyone by becoming the “it” artist once again, boldly interpreting eclectic song mixtures that mined alternative rock and bygone standards.

And while his body suffered recently under the strain wrought by years of abuse, Cash’s mind stayed strong … and his spirit stayed stronger.