Johnny Cash: “I Don’t Give Up.”


A friend sends an article on Johnny Cash from a surprising source: Investor’s Business Daily.  It’s under the topic heading, “Management: Leaders and Success,” so presumably it’s meant as an object lesson.  A boxed pull quote makes this clear:

True To His Roots

Cash’s Keys
Icon of American music sang hits for five decades.

  • Overcame: Poverty and drug addiction.
  • Lesson: Learn from failure and persist in your purpose at all costs.
  • “You build on failure. You use it as a steppingstone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”

To buttress this lesson, the article by Mary O’Neill briefly retells how Johnny Cash got the attention of Sam Philips at Sun Records:

Cash determined he would audition for the head of Sun Records, Sam Phillips. When he couldn’t get an appointment, he scouted out Phillips’ commute and waited at the studio’s front stoop for him to arrive at work.

“You can ask the people around me,” Cash said in an interview with Larry King. “I don’t give up … and it’s not out of frustration and desperation that I say I don’t give up. I don’t give up because I don’t give up. I don’t believe in it.”

In 1955 Phillips, quick to spot maverick talent, signed Cash and branded his two self-trained buddies the Tennessee Two. They remained in the band for life. . . [my emphasis]

While clearly determination and self-reliance are essential qualities in any field, one wonders whether the author is also a fan and was looking for an excuse to write about Johnny Cash.  The piece is definitely worth reading, if just to refresh our memories of what an exceptional figure he was, how the graphic power of his voice drove his songs across all genre barriers, and lent even the simplest lyric an enormous authority and conviction. /CL

Johnny Cash Was The Outlaw Who Made Country Cool

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”

That simple opening became the go-to phrase that would represent the Man in Black: humble, commanding, guttural, poetic.

He first used it to kick off a concert at California’s Folsom State Prison, knowing that 1,000 maximum-security inmates wouldn’t respond to a fussy approach.

The crowd roared its approval. It was a Saturday morning in January 1968, the start of a watershed year in American history.

Social divisions were erupting in the culture — protests, riots, sit-ins, boycotts — but Cash (1932-2003) proved to be an unexpected unifying force. His lyrics were so perceptive that everyone, including convicts, believed he had been to prison; really, he had just short jail stints. Even those suspicious of outlaws came alive when they heard that signature baritone.

His “At Folsom Prison” live album went gold in five months, and eventually triple platinum — 3 million in sales — as every demographic took him as its hero.

Michael McCall, a historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., told IBD: “He was one of the only people in all of American culture who could connect to presidents and bikers. Who else is a close friend with Bob Dylan and Billy Graham?”

Cash drew those polar opposite factions by not pandering to any of them. He didn’t care that everyone else was on a magical mystery tour; he sang about train whistles. . .

Click here for the whole article.

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