Walk the Line

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine.
I keep my eyes wide open all the time.
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds.
Because you’re mine, I walk the line.

Everyone has that favorite singer. Many people find it odd that my favorite singer is the legendary singer, Johnny Cash. If y’all don’t know who Johnny Cash is, look him up.

J.R. Cash was born on the 26th of February in 1932 in Arkansas. The initials “J.R.” didn’t actually stand for anything. When Johnny enlisted in the United Air Force during WW2, he couldn’t use initials, thus he enlisted as John R. Cash which he eventually used as his stage name; Johnny Cash.

Johnny always had an ear for music. When he was a teenager, he used to hear his future wife, June Carter as a young girl, singing on the radio. He was also raised with music being an integral part of his life. From folk songs to spiritual hymns to work songs, Johnny Cash absorbed all of these sounds as he was growing up.

After serving in the air force during WW2, he married his first wife, Vivian and they had four daughters. Whilst working, Johnny aspired to hit it big in the music business. Eventually, he got an audition for Sun Records and introduced gospel music to record producer, Sam Phillips, however Phillips immediately told Johnny to create more “sinful” music. Later on, Johnny and his band, The Tennessee Three, released their first song, “Hey Porter!” yet it did not hit the charts. They then released “Cry, Cry, Cry” which did mange to hit the charts but not high enough. It was “I Walk The Line” which was Johnny’s first big hit as it sky-rocketed to number one on the Billboard’s chart and remained there for forty-three weeks.

Johnny had a lot of difficulties in his life. He was addicted to drugs and was an alcoholic. His first marriage ended badly too. Johnny was lost for a long time yet it was June who put him right on track. Johnny truly loved June Carter. They really were meant to be. He depended a lot on June since she was the only person who fully understood him.

My enduring love for Johnny Cash stems from the fact that I have been hearing his music since I was a baby. Back in New York on Sundays when my family and I would go shopping, my dad used to put on Johnny Cash albums and we would hear them all day. I remember when we used to go to Target, I would drag my dad to the music section to see if there was a Johnny Cash album we didn’t have so that we’d buy it. Therefore, my love for Johnny Cash is due to my dad.

Johnny Cash is famous for his deep monotone voice. It is his voice that distinguishes him from any other singer. Furthermore, Johnny Cash is not exactly country music. I feel that his music is a genre of its own. It’s a mix of folk and soul and blues and country. His music comes from the heart unlike music today. I feel that I can relate so much to Johnny in his music. I also feel ashamed that people consider today’s music “good”. Johnny’s music might not be “modern” but I surely know that his music was real and genuine. His music makes me happy and I love to sing along with him. I cannot choose a favorite song of his because I love them all. He’s truly inspiring due to his real talent in song-writing, singing and playing the guitar.

In the 70s, Johnny Cash became known as “The Man in Black”. Singers of that time were wearing colorful rhinestone costumes, in contrast to Johnny’s black outfit. He actually wrote a song called, “Man in Black”, to explain why he used to wear black. Black is a misjudged color. People associate black with death yet black is way more than that; black is classy and expressive. Johnny understood that.

“I wore black because I liked it. I still do, and wearing it still means something to me. It’s still my symbol of rebellion — against a stagnant status quo, against our hypocritical houses of God, against people whose minds are closed to others’ ideas.” – Johnny Cash

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin’ for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen’ that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen’ that we all were on their side.

Johnny certainly saw the world from a different lens. He saw beyond the filters of society and saw the world for what it really is. Furthermore, Johnny expressed all of this in his music, creating music that has meaning. I can relate to Johnny in such a way.

Unfortunately, I will never get to see Johnny Cash live in concert someday since he died on the 12th of September in 2003; just a few months after June died. He fell into a depression after she died which was how he died. However, Johnny will always be alive because of his music. He’ll never fade away in my life for sure.

One response to “Walk the Line”

  1. He’s quite a contrast to a fellow country performer like Marty Robbins – just look up his handle-bar mustache and shimmering sequin suits, for example – and what’s even cooler is that he and Marty collaborated numerous times. Perhaps – most notably – Johnny Cash did a cover of Marty Robbins’ “Big Iron”, with Cash’s cover being released on the Unearthed 2003 box set. I wish they did more songs featuring each other, as I don’t believe “Song of the Patriot” did their vocal talents justice.


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