Friday, February 26, 2010

'As sure as night is dark and day is light..'

Today is the birthday of a true giant of American music. Johnny Cash would have been 78.

My dad was a fan and I remember being very young and hearing songs like "Folsom Prison Blues", "Walk The Line", "Ring Of Fire" or "A Boy Named Sue".

Cash's immense catalog, from the early groundbreaking recordings in the late 1950s, through the classic albums of the 1960s and 70s and the rejuvenating American Recordings series produced by Rick Rubin from the mid-90s, continues to grow this week with the release of "Ain't No Grave"

For me, though, it was a song that he didn't write or originally record that poignantly encapsulates the man's pain, heartache and mortality. Trent Reznor's "Hurt" reaches across the years and is perfectly brought to life in this video by director Mark Romanek.

In a piece of synchronicity so perfect it was almost scripted, Apple announced the other day that the ten billionth song downloaded from iTunes was Johnny's "I Guess Things Happen That Way" - evidence that his legacy endures regardless of how his audience engages with him.

And his influence on American music and musicians - and not just in the country genre - has been profound. Here's Bruce Springsteen with a version of Johnny's "Give My Love To Rose" from a tribute show in 1999.

Last year Johnny's daughter Rosanne released "The List" - including a duet with Bruce on "Sea Of Heartbreak" - which originates from a list of "essential" songs that her father passed on to her in the 1970s.

Here, she shares stories and other family remembrances.

(Rosanne also recorded two of my all-time favorite albums, "Seven Year Ache" in 1981 and "The Wheel" in 1993: and this is one of my absolute favorite songs from the latter)


Details were released this week of a new Tom Petty album. called "Mojo" and tour - it kicks off in Raleigh on May 6 (with Joe Cocker as support) and rolls into Madison Square Garden in New York on July 28.

You can sign up for pre-release ticket notifications and hear one of the new tracks, "Good Enough", at

The Heartbreakers provided the backing band for Johnny Cash's third American Recordings album "Unchained" in 1996.

I first saw Tom and the band play in 1983 at the Rosemont Horizon outside Chicago, on the "Long After Dark" tour (the support was Nick Lowe - who was then, I think, still Johnny Cash's stepson-in-law) and they're one of the best live acts I've ever seen. The other night I re-watched Peter Bogdanovich's brilliant movie chronicle of the band, "Running Down A Dream". If you haven't seen it I'd heartily recommend.

In the meantime, here's the haunting "Southern Accents":


Very sorry to hear that the BBC has decided to axe 6 Music.

Phill Jupitus writes in The Guardian about his time as a 6 Music DJ, as well as the station's value and what would be lost.

For example, he says: "We also played two brand new artists on the show every day. Even three years after leaving 6 Music, bands still come up and thank me for giving them their first national airplay. I once bumped into one of my main competitors from commercial breakfast radio on a train. As we chatted, I bemoaned the fact that we only got nine free choices per show. He looked at me somewhat crestfallen and said "I get one … a week."

Opposition is growing to the BBC's move, and you can follow the latest on Twitter using the hashtag #savebbc6music

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