Celebrating the life of…Johnny Cash

johnnyI’ve been thinking about Johnny Cash. As you do.

Just finished reading a bio by Steve Turner, The Man Called Cash, which is an authorised biography. Not many people like authorised biographies, for obvious reasons. What are those obvious reasons? Sycophantic? They usually are. Like those sickly T.V bio’s and this is no exception, but it does attempt to show the man in a balanced light, albeit a balanced ‘golden’ light.

Cash is as cool as they say. He wore black. He was a christian, without judging others. He once said. ‘I gave my flesh to the devil and my bones to God.’

An amphetamine addict for a large portion of his life, he had various lapses, relapses, clean/straight times. His amphetamine habit aged him, gave him that characteristic haggard look that we all know so well. He wasn’t an angel, yet he was fairly confident that he would be forgiven of that. He saw God as a merciful God. He performed in prisons because he had an affinity with the men who were incarcerated there and felt he could have ended up in the same boat. He went to prison for a short time, for picking flowers, so he knew how easy it was to end up in the slammer. These guys however, had murdered people…and more.

He started off as John R. Cash. The ‘Johnny’ thing was a stage name. He hated the ‘Johnny’ at first. John’s father, Ray, made the young John Cash watch, as he drowned puppies in a weighted sack. His father shot anything that moved and was a strong dominant force within the family. As a result, John found confrontation difficult.

He saw death in his formative years, usually of the furrier kind, but then his older brother, Jack, a beautiful, wise soul, met with an untimely death as a teenager, some awful freak accident with a circular saw. Inadvertently, his father blamed John for the tragic event. This affected him deeply and influenced his outlook and creative output in later years. He sought solace in drugs and avoidance. On the plus side, he had a very loving mother, who believed in him and the voice that would one day make him famous.

He was married with four young children when he embarked on an affair with June Carter, who was also married at the time.  After he divorced Vivian, his first wife, he married June and they had a son. June Carter was a very positive influence in his life. He liked to surround himself with strong women.

An army buddy gave Johnny Cash the idea for ‘Blue Suede Shoes’. He then passed it onto Carl Perkins, who then gave the song to Elvis to record.

Cash did a theology degrees and passed with flying colours. He went to church to preach, at the peak of his popularity, but fame got in the way. People began to take advantage, tried to pitch their songs while he was praying over them. So he got out of that. He was reluctant to leave the church, but felt he had no choice.

After leaving the support of the church, he returned to amphetamines.

There are many testimonies, from many different people, friends, acquaintances and people he knew, where he freely gave money, food, board and any favours he could, whenever he could. He was always trying to help people according to their needs.

Like I said before, not trying to make him look like an angel, but it sounded like he had integrity, love and warmth, like many of us have, to some degree.

While performing at San Quentin (he had already cut his teeth performing at Folsom prison) he could have incited a riot just by raising an eyebrow. He had all the men in the palm of his hand. He evoked strong emotions in them, not just because of the music and lyrics but through his charisma and unspoken philosophy. . .which was, we could all end up in this position, given the right circumstances and conditions.

They saw that he was real and that got them ready and waiting for a sign. No doubt there was a rebellious streak in them to begin with, but it wouldn’t have taken much to incite them to riot. He knew the power he held. He knew he only had to snap his fingers or whatever and that would be that. He chose not to do it.

Johnny had a very successful T. V show at the height of his career. One day, during the show, he naturally and instinctively, as a christian, began to talk about demonic influences in the christian life. The broadcasters of the show warned him that they were gong to cut it, as it would mess up his ratings. He said, if you do that, I’m outta here. They kept the footage in and his ratings went right down. Did he care? Na. He was never comfortable with the T.V show to begin with.

There was an incident with Richard Nixon, President Of The United States. Mr. Nixon asked Cash to play a couple of songs, ‘Welfare Cadillac’ which had a go at people on benefits and ‘Oskie from Muskogee’, which attacked Vietnam war protesters, Cash said he didn’t know those songs and declined to sing them. He refused the requests of the president.

I think, most of us, for good or bad, will remember, the last video Johnny Cash made before he passed. ‘Hurt’ was originally penned by Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails. The meaning has been controversially disputed by many. Some say ‘Hurt‘ is about addiction and self harm, others say it’s about suicide and depression. It’s what we want it to be, it’s mercurial, and that’s the beauty of the song and no-one should take that away from us.

It reminds me of that song by Frank Sinatra. It Was A Very Good Year. It’s about a life spent. It doesn’t matter what happened in that life. It’s when we come to the end and look back, whether our life is ended prematurely or not, again, it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing so fragile and delicate and beautiful as a life spent. It’s an aching beauty. Every person is important. The ending of such vibrancy is very moving. We are moved to tears, to sorrow. The song ‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash is the epitome of all those emotions, grief, pain, hurt, sadness. It pre-empts a great release, a great change. It’s not so sad at the end of the day. Change is a good thing.

I hate that whole ‘cool’ thing. Hero worship. Really cool people are people you never get to know about, the person who lives next door to you, the bus driver who takes you to work every day, the cleaner in The Pound Shop. I don’t believe in ‘lauding’ people because they’re rich and famous. It’s okay to admire them and it’s lovely when they inspire you and give you incentive to do better but they should never be hero worshipped. I don’t believe he would want to be either.

John had his faults and his failings, like all of us. He seemed to be a good guy, we can see that he had integrity regarding his dealings with people, and that he wasn’t intimidated by the American President. He tried to do the best thing by people. He was a very good musician and songwriter.  He is remembered by most, celebrated by all.

When people think of Johnny Cash, they think of a really cool musician/singer/songwriter who always dressed in black. He wasn’t always so cool, but then again, neither were we.







Space Invasion

Ever wondered why that person sat next to you on that empty bus? Yes, me too. It’s one of my pet hates. I’m pretty sure it’s one of yours. Space invasion. Why do they do it? Are they predators? I would surmise so, in some way. Do they have a need to control you? Yes, unfortunately, I think so.  Are they sad? Yes. Are we being horrible by thinking they’re sad? Perhaps. Do they just want company? Yes. Are they lonely? Yes, no…I don’t know. All these questions are making me loco.

In a recent post, I talked about agoraphobia, briefly, and how I managed to get out on my own after three years of, well…not getting out on my own. I once did a seven year stint, but that’s another story, for another time.

I now go out for approximately two hours, all on my own, on weekend afternoons, to my local town centre…and I’m loving it! After the self imposed prison, there is freedom! And it’s sweet, so sweet.

I’m blessed enough to live less than two minutes walk away from a beach. I love the sea, so it should be easy. I’ve been keeping it up for about two months now, every Saturday, but something happened a couple of Saturday’s ago that almost stopped me getting back in the saddle.

My agoraphobia never felt like a waste, until lately. I’m starting to think, I’m almost fifty and I’ve let it rule me with an iron rod, all these years. I don’t want to carry that particular monkey on my back anymore. I’m sick and tired of it. I’m cheesed off, browned off, fed up.

For me, it’s a hereditary thing, both my parents suffer from it, particularly my dad, but he’d rather die than admit it. I’ve just outed him. Sorry dad. He’ll never read this anyway and I’m not saying anything bad about him and what I’m saying is the truth. Perhaps he never thought it was a problem. When I was sixteen, I knew I had a problem and I got the courage to talk to my dad about it after my mum had gone to bed. It was a nice, relaxed, cosy atmosphere, just us two, late at night, both reading. When I revealed my fears, he told me that I was just trying to make myself seem ‘special’.

After that, I never spoke about it again, until now.  If this is ‘special’, I don’t want it.

I could have done without ‘special’ for my whole life.

Of course, when I met my husband, it all rubbed off on him and contaminated him. He had to deal with the fall out, which was considerable. I realise now that my father had to deal with his own agoraphobia and just couldn’t admit it, to himself, or to anyone else. And he certainly couldn’t admit that I had it too. He probably never will, and that’s okay. If he’s happy with that, then that’s fine. In fact, he has said that he’s very happy with hardly ever going out, but I’m not happy with it anymore. I don’t want to be crippled by it anymore. So, in my eyes, it’s not happening. Agoraphobia? What’s that? It’s not something in my experience. It’s something other people have. If you don’t admit it, it doesn’t exist. Right? Well, it does…but…now it’s a conscious effort. It’s psychological warfare. And I’m kitted out.

I was out at the beach recently, one innocuous Saturday afternoon, writing miscellaneous stuff and enjoying my freedom after several years and perhaps feeling a bit raw and vulnerable, but dealing with it, and there were plenty of empty seats, for miles around, yet, a couple came to sit on my bench.

I thought, okay, it’s a free country. You’ve got the WHOLE beach (with very many empty benches) and yet, you come and sit by me. But it didn’t end there. I was writing at the time, in my little pad, just writing crap, for comfort, and minding my own business and this very weird…don’t mean to be judgemental, but these guys were weird, or at least acting weird…there was an undertone that I didn’t like.  Things like this just don’t happen on a sunny Saturday afternoon here. It was odd. Perverts are quite low on the ground here. Sweeping statement, I know, I can’t say that for sure but the Fylde coast (apart from tourists) has a good amount of retired or semi retired people, or at least people who are healthily interested in their own lives and their dogs. There’s a lot of dog lovers here. It’s a great place to have a dog, but people here are still interested in other people…to a point…perhaps not beyond that point. It’s a bit like Florida. Another sweeping statement.

Well, anyway, this guy was wearing a band type t-shirt, I don’t know, I didn’t pay too much attention, but he was the same age as me, roundabout, perhaps a bit older, and obviously thought himself as a ‘Peter Pan’,  and the blonde woman with him, well, she had sunglasses on, so I couldn’t see her eyes. Ah, cowardly lion territory. That’s not playing the game, man.

After about a minute, of the man grinning, smiling and staring fixedly at me and throwing a few little comments in her direction, alarm bells began to ring. The lady in the couple positioned herself bodily, adjacent to me, and was staring, like I was an animal in a zoo.

Both of them were staring, unashamedly and fixedly, and I thought, what is your problem? Shall I sell you some tickets maybe? I continued writing and I admit, I was a bit impish in the end, because I decided to write, look at them and then write…to make them paranoid, like I was writing about them. Well, it would work for me. Then I thought, you know what, I’m getting a really sleazy vibe from you guys. I should stop trying to be clever. This is back firing. I’m outta here. The goods are not for sale. This stall is closed. Go swing somewhere else.

So I got up and walked on. Years ago, I would have thought, I don’t have the right to walk on, to walk away, or, I don’t have a right to stand my ground, or some such idiotic thinking. My instincts are starting to serve me well. I have at least gained some sense of self preservation after all these years. It felt so good to walk away. (I’m sure they were nice people really. Perhaps, it’s my problem for being so sensitive and paranoid)!

So I walked down the pier, found a very pleasing alternative position and never looked back. I spent a beautiful hour writing by the sea. However, I have become a bit paranoid since then and a bit apprehensive. Being in a more isolated part of the beach is a double edged sword. It may be nice to be alone but it can also make you vulnerable to predators. I have started to snarl at people when they come too close. Elvis lip. Maybe I snarl too much. How awful that I’ve become so defensive. But defensiveness can be the best form of attack.

Before that couple approached me, I remember thinking, how awful that we have become so unapproachable, through fear. I don’t know about you, but I am becoming less tolerable of predators as I get older. I’m relieved that I can call them out quicker, that I’m better at nipping it in the bud. That’s priceless, because they used to walk all over me.

The thing is, whatever happens, remember , there are people and forces who will try to STOP you progressing in your life journey. Isn’t it strange that they turn up at the most inopportune moments, when you are getting somewhere? You will find that they turn up at your most vulnerable moment.

Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Walk on.