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Old 12-02-2005, 09:40 AM   #1
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The Gospel According to Mr. Johnny Cash

So I just saw "Walk the Line", and loved it. Was never a hugh Cash fan, but am now an admirer, and I espeically love the whole "Man in Black" idea. Solidarity with the marginalized, the oppressed, the poor, etc. Yet I know it's controversial (probably because it's provacative and challenging).

So, I'm asking: what do you think of the Man in Black? (Not Cash himself, but the metaphor of someone in mourning for the forotten, the impoverished, the imprisoned). The soldier sent to die in the unjust wars of rich men.

Did he get the gospel right? Did he go to far (solidarity with murderers? Seriously, Johnny, wtf?)

Love to hear your thoughts. Below are the lyrics, which I love.

Man In Black - 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.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

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.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black
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Old 12-02-2005, 10:46 AM   #2
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One of my favorite parts of the movie was when his label was trying to talk him out of doing the Folsom Prison concert by saying the majority of his audience are "Christian folk" and don't want to see him playing for a bunch of murderers and thieves. Johnny just calmy turns to the label and says well then they really aren't Christians.
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Old 12-02-2005, 04:17 PM   #3
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That was my favorite bit, too. I found the clip of it.

http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1808628394/details

Click on "movie trailer" and then the clip called "The World's Changed". What a great scene!
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Old 12-02-2005, 05:10 PM   #4
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"I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die..."

Do you think Johnny Cash would have gotten away with lines like this if he wasn't white? I'm not trying to start a war here, it just baffles me that these kinds of lines didn't stir up a storm.
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Old 12-02-2005, 07:07 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by U2Man
"I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die..."

Do you think Johnny Cash would have gotten away with lines like this if he wasn't white? I'm not trying to start a war here, it just baffles me that these kinds of lines didn't stir up a storm.
He created characters, not all of them were people you would want to hang out with. Nothing more.

And his music did create quite a storm back then.

Not sure what color of skin has to do with it.
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Old 12-02-2005, 07:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
Did he go to far (solidarity with murderers? Seriously, Johnny, wtf?)
I think you can still feel something for those in prison. Yeah, you'd not want to hang out with them out on the streets, but I think what he was going for was Jesus's stance in the Bible about hanging out with the "undesirables."

"The Pharisees were indignant. 'Why does your teacher eat with such scum?' they asked his disciples. When he heard this, Jesus replied, 'Healthy people don't need a doctor; sick people do.' Then he added, 'Now go and learn the meaning of this scripture: I want you to be merciful; I don't want your sacrifices.' For I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough.'"--Matthew 9:11-13
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Old 12-03-2005, 07:42 AM   #7
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Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar


He created characters, not all of them were people you would want to hang out with. Nothing more.

And his music did create quite a storm back then.

Not sure what color of skin has to do with it.
Well, if a young black hiphop star sang something like this, how would people and the media react?
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Old 12-03-2005, 07:50 AM   #8
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Hello guys! Thanks for the thoughts.

Mmmm....if the late great JR Cash was black....

Well, I tend to agree with BVS. It *did* create a storm. Hence the production company's unwillingness at first to go with him. And I'm sure he both lost and gained many fans for it.

Aislinn: Yes, I totally agree. I was characterizing the reaction of some to the idea of compassion for or interest in the welfare of criminals. Nothing could be more Biblical, to my mind. Yet we hear a lot of "tough on crime" rhetoric, to the point where some argue that juvie offenders should be put to death! I guess that's what I'm reacting to. I find that attitude antithetical to the Gospel.
The sins of the men in Folsom prison and elsewhere were real. They were guilty as hell. Yet still human. How much do we as a society really mean it when we say human life has worth simply because it is?

What I love about Cash's approach is that he doesn't take the easy way out. That is, the men weren't wrongly accused or driven by hunger to steal food or something. They had willingly, knowingly committed terrible crimes. By forcing us as listeners to confront that reality, the radical, incomprehensible nature of God's grace and forgivness become even more real, too. It the sin isn't real, grace ain't worth a whole lot.
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Old 12-03-2005, 01:14 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by U2Man


Well, if a young black hiphop star sang something like this, how would people and the media react?
Well I would say they have, and it sparked controversy, some have gained from it others haven't.
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Old 12-05-2005, 01:40 PM   #10
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I've been listening to Johnny Cash since seeing the movie, I love that one called Singer Of Songs (on the Unearthed CD). It made me think of Bono, how he talked on 60 Minutes about being remembered for his music and not his humanitarian work.
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Old 12-06-2005, 10:52 AM   #11
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Cool thread. If you're interested in Cash's faith, you HAVE to check out "The Man Comes Around: The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash." It's stunning. Seriously, it reads like an Old Testament story. I'm glad the movie had the parts about faith, especially the part BVS mentioned when they were trying to get the record company to back the live album at the prison, but there's So much more to his faith. Miraculous things took place in this man's life.

If you want to check out the book, go to www.relevantmagazine.com, then click on the red "store" link and go to books and do a search for it. These people also did "Walk On: The Spirtual Journey of U2," and they did one on Bob Dylan as well. Cool stuff.
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Old 12-06-2005, 11:21 AM   #12
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Originally posted by coemgen
but there's So much more to his faith. Miraculous things took place in this man's life.
That's what turned me off to the movie. While I enjoyed the performances, it seemed that the role that his faith played in his life was downplayed. Especially irritating was the role of June as his "savior." She was a driving support in his life and provided unflinching stability, no doubt, but let's not get carried away.
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Old 12-06-2005, 12:05 PM   #13
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I can agree with you, stammer476. I was hoping there'd be more of his faith in there too. It was a huge part of who he was. Personally, I think that book I mentioned above is better as far as a story. There's a part where it tells how Cash reached a low point and basically went into this dark, long, maze of a cave to die. He knew he wouldn't be able to find his way out (I think he was on a drug at the time) and so he figured he'd just get lost there, away from everyone, and die. He then felt a presence come over him and felt the urge to make his way out. He some how did make his way out and June was there waiting for him!!! He didn't even tell her he was going there!!! Stuff like this took place throughout his entire life. God was at work in many ways — it'll give you goosebumps.
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Old 12-06-2005, 12:06 PM   #14
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Plus, U2 is mentioned in the book. (Of course )
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Old 12-06-2005, 12:27 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by stammer476


That's what turned me off to the movie. While I enjoyed the performances, it seemed that the role that his faith played in his life was downplayed. Especially irritating was the role of June as his "savior." She was a driving support in his life and provided unflinching stability, no doubt, but let's not get carried away.
June is the one who brought faith into the forefront of his life. The reason you may have thought faith to be "downplayed" is that it didn't really take place yet, given the timeline of the movie.

The one disappointment I had was the minus of the cave scene, which coemgen describes.
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Old 12-06-2005, 07:21 PM   #16
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I did a quick Google search and found this article

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/011/4.60.html

Johnny Cash's Song of Redemption
How the coolest man in the music industry became that way while singing about Jesus and the Cross.
By Ted Olsen | posted 10/20/2003

JOHNNY CASH'S popularity had been higher than when he died September 12, but he had never been more hip. Nominated for MTV's video of the year, Cash was considered not just one of the last musical greats of his generation, but also a giant of contemporary artists. He had recorded with Elvis, Dylan, Bono, and Flea (and even some artists known by their full names). Memorials included quotes from the worlds of rap and bluegrass and everything between.

And against all popular wisdom, he became a celebrity's celebrity while singing more explicitly about Jesus than many contemporary Christian music favorites.

He didn't start that way. When Cash finagled his way into an audition for Sam Phillips's Sun Records in 1955, he told the producer he was a gospel singer.

"You know, I love gospel music," Phillips replied. "But unless you're Mahalia Jackson, or somebody that established, you can't even cover the cost of the recording."

Fourteen years later, Cash was the best-selling artist alive, outperforming even the Beatles. ABC gave the newly sober singer his own weekly television show, airing from the Grand Ole Opry, from which he had been banned only four years before for kicking out the stage lights in a drug-addled fury.

Introducing one of his gospel songs—which he was recording an increasing number of at the time—Cash told his audience, "I am a Christian."

The network sent one of the producers to order Cash not to talk about religion on the air.

"You're producing the wrong man here, because gospel music is part of what I am and part of what I do," Cash replied. "If you don't like it, you can always edit it."

They didn't edit it, nor any future reference, but Cash later wrote, "The worldly consequences of my declaration were severe, not just in lost record sales but also in some of the reactions from religious people."

The Man in Black (so nicknamed for his somber wardrobe) had by then recorded several gospel albums, but often had to push for them. "My record company," he lamented, "would rather I'd be in prison than in church."

At the end of Cash's career—or, more accurately, at the resurrection of his career a decade ago—producer Rick Rubin offered Cash to record anything he wanted. Rubin, whom Cash called "the ultimate hippie," isn't someone one might expect to embrace Cash's gospel side. His American Recordings label is known for the kind of rap, metal, and rock bands that most Christian entertainment watchdogs fill warning pages with. Nevertheless, he told Cash, "I'm not familiar with a lot of the music you love, but I want to hear it all."

The album, given the same name as Rubin's label, was unapologetically Christian. On "Redemption," he sang, "The blood gave life to the branches of the tree / And the blood was the price that set the captives free / And the numbers that came through the fire and flood / Clung to the tree and were redeemed by the blood." On "Why Me Lord?" he surrenders, "Now that I know that I've needed you so, Jesus, my soul's in your hand."

American Recordings won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album and was followed by three more collaborations with Rubin. The most recent, last year's American IV: The Man Comes Around, begins with the apocalyptic growl of the title track: "There's a man going 'round taking names / And he decides who to free and who to blame / Everybody won't be treated all the same / There'll be a golden ladder reaching down / When the Man comes around." No one wants to hear about hell and judgment, it's said, but American IV was Cash's most successful venture with Rubin, selling 500,000 copies before his death.

How did the coolest man in the music industry become that way while singing about Jesus and the Cross?

The most obvious answer is that Cash was nothing if not authentic. "I believe what I say, but that don't necessarily make me right," he told Rolling Stone in 2000. "There's nothing hypocritical about it. 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." (This "chief among sinners" attitude is what drew him to the Apostle Paul, about whom he wrote the novel The Man in White in 1986.)

The attitude was encouraged by one of his best friends, Billy Graham, who advised him to keep singing "Folsom Prison Blues" and his other outlaw tunes along with the gospel songs. "Don't apologize for who you are and what you've done in the past," he told Cash, who was then considering becoming a full-time evangelist. "Be who you are and do what you do."

Cash was so authentic, in fact, that many people refused to believe that he never spent hard time in prison. (He had only been jailed overnight seven times for his various drug-related behaviors.)

But Cash's resilient repute was about more than authenticity. Many musicians are authentic, including authentic thugs, authentic boors, authentic sex addicts, or authentic frauds. Cash's true strength was authenticity's elder brother, integrity.

Cash had integrity in the moral sense, certainly. Once sober, he made up concerts that he'd skipped or fudged during his amphetamine binges, for example. But Cash had integrity in the sense of being a whole. In his liner notes for American Recordings, Cash lists 32 subjects he loves in songs, from railroads and whiskey to Mother and larceny. But in all these songs he was really singing about one thing: the connection between sin and redemption. He saw that on either side of sin was enjoyment and death, and that on either side of redemption was Death and Enjoyment.

Cash never denied the pleasure of sin, and many songs reflect that pleasure honestly—but unlike those in other outlaw tunes, the subjects of Cash's songs rarely sin without consequences. "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die," regretfully sings the blue man in Folsom Prison. "I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my woman down," sings the prisoner of "Cocaine Blues."

Even Cash's love songs carry the theme: In "I Walk the Line," he worries about his own infidelity. In "Jackson," he tries to cover it up. "Ring of Fire," written by June Carter Cash and sung by Johnny while the two were flirting but married to others, carries unsubtle references to damnation.

But for Cash, the worst consequence of sin wasn't what happened to the sinner. Nowhere is this clearer than in the final moments of the MTV award-nominated "Hurt" video, where the lyrics "I will let you down / I will make you hurt" are illustrated with Christ's crucifixion.

In a 2000 interview with Rolling Stone, Cash compared drugs' spiritual consequences with their physical and emotional devastation: "To put myself 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."

Though he'd professed Christ at age 12, Cash wrote that by 1967, "there was nothing left of me… I had drifted so far away from God and every stabilizing force in my life that I felt there was no hope." He decided to crawl into Nickajack Cave on the Tennessee River, get lost, and die. "The absolute lack of light was appropriate," he wrote. "My separation from Him, the deepest and most ravaging of the various kinds of loneliness I'd felt over the years, seemed finally complete.

"It wasn't. I thought I'd left Him, but He hadn't left me. I felt something very powerful start to happen to me, a sensation of utter peace, clarity, and sobriety…Then my mind started focusing on God. He didn't speak to me—He never has, and I'll be surprised if He ever does—but ... I became conscious of a very clear, simple idea: I was not in charge of my own destiny. I was not in charge of my own death."

He found his way out of the cave, determined to get clean and sober. He made a good start, and he's been honest about the slips and relapses along the way—and not just with drugs. "They just kind of hold their distance," he told Rolling Stone. "I could invite them in: the sex demon, the drug demon. But I don't. They're very sinister. You got to watch 'em. They'll sneak up on you. All of a sudden there'll be a beautiful little Percodan laying there, and you'll want it."

The connection with God makes it all worth it, he said: "The greatest joy of my life was that I no longer felt separated from Him. Now he is my Counselor, my Rock of Ages to stand upon."

Cash, many obituaries suggested, seemed obsessed with death. It was something he denied. "I am not obsessed with death; I'm obsessed with living," he said in 1994. "The battle against the dark one and the clinging to the right one is what my life is about."

Living, he knew, was death to self. His favorite verse, he often said, was Romans 8:13: "For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live."

A paradox? Not to Cash, who encountered death shortly before accepting an altar call. His brother Jack, two years his senior, fell on a table saw, cut from ribs to groin. "Mama, don't cry over me," he said, as Johnny and the rest of the family stood by. "I was going down a river, and there was a fire on one side and heaven on the other. I was crying, 'God, I'm supposed to go to heaven. Don't you remember? Don't take me to the fire.' All of a sudden, I turned, and now, mama, can you hear the angels singing?"

She said that she couldn't, and Jack squeezed her hand.

"Oh, mama, I wish you could hear the angels singing," he said, and died.

Like Christ, Cash felt no shame or theological dissonance at crying in the face of death. But make no mistake: he never forgot the joy waiting on the other side. Now, on the other side of the river, the Man in Black wears glorious white, reunited with his brother and face-to-face with his Lord.

Later this year, it has been reported, American Recordings will release a CD boxed set, with as many as 100 outtakes of Cash's work with Rubin over the last decade. Among the CDs will be Redemption Songs and the long-delayed Songs from My Mother's Hymn Book. Surely in the other albums there will be tunes of death and sin. Taken as a whole, it will be unmistakable that Cash was correct from his first day at Sun Records: He really was a singer of the gospel.

Ted Olsen is online managing editor for Christianity Today.
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Old 12-06-2005, 07:31 PM   #17
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Singer Of Songs

I’m not a savior, and I’m not a saint.

The man with the answers I certainly ain’t.

I wouldn’t tell you what’s right or what’s wrong.

I’m just a singer of songs.



But I can take you for a walk along a little country stream.

I can make you see through lovers’ eyes and understand their dreams.

I can help you hear a baby’s laugh and feel the joy it brings.

Yes, I can do it with the songs I sing.

I’m not a prophet, and I’m not a priest.

I’m not a wise man who’s come from the East.

I wouldn’t tell you what’s right or what’s wrong.

I’m just a singer of songs.



But I can take you to a city where a man was crucified.

I can tell you how He lived, and I can tell you why He died.

I can help proclaim the glory of this mighty king of kings.

Yes, I can do it with the songs I sing.

I’m not a great man.I don’t claim to be.

But when I meet my Maker and He questions me,

I won’t hang my head.I’ll stand proud and strong

and say, “I was a singer.Lord, I was a singer.

Yes, I was a singer of songs


Maybe Bono could sing/write the same words and it would ring true, I think it would
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Old 12-07-2005, 08:42 AM   #18
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Those posts are awesome. Thanks.
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Old 12-07-2005, 08:53 AM   #19
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Those posts are awesome. Thanks.
Thank you - thanks for acknowledging them, I appreciate that

That's one thing I find so appealing about Johnny Cash, the way he humbled himself before God and also before man-I love these quotes from the article

"I believe what I say, but that don't necessarily make me right"

"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."

It's almost as if Johnny Cash wore the "sinner" black jacket years before Bono did, you might say
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Old 12-07-2005, 10:26 AM   #20
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Yeah, he was incredible. I consider him the godfather of the modern relevant faith movement. (See my avatar.) Then Bono's the man too. Both of have these lives that are just legendary. I seriously believe both will be looked at centuries from now as testimonies of faith. I think people will look at Bono's life just in awe of how much he changed things. Of course, what they're really seeing is someone fully allowing Christ to work through them.
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