There have been many books written about Johnny Cash, but ‘The Man in Song’: A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash’ (University of Arkansas Press), is the first to examine his incredible life through the lens of the songs he wrote and recorded. Music journalist and historian John Alexander has drawn on decades of studying Johnny’s music and life, from his difficult depression-era Arkansas childhood through his death in 2003, to tell a life story through songs familiar and obscure.
In discovering why Johnny wrote a given song or chose to record it, Alexander introduces readers anew to a man whose primary consideration of any song was the difference music makes in people’s lives, and not whether the song would become a hit. The hits came, of course. The legendary artist sold more than 50 million albums in 40 years, and he holds the distinction of being the only performer inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
‘The Man in Song’ connects treasured songs to an incredible life, exploring the intertwined experience and creativity of childhood trauma. It rifles through the discography of a life: Johnny’s work with the Tennessee Two at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios, the unique concept albums he recorded for Columbia Records, the spiritual songs, the albums recorded live at prisons, songs about the love of his life, June Carter Cash, songs about murder and death and addiction, songs about ramblers, and even silly songs.
Grammy® Award-winning country music legend Larry Gatlin, who credits Johnny as his mentor, penned the book’s foreword. “This book is a totally different light on Cash than I have ever seen before,” says Larry. “A masterpiece, written by a learned historian and renowned musicologist—and an expert on Johnny Cash and his music.”
Appropriate for both serious country and folk music enthusiasts and those just learning about this musical legend, ‘The Man in Song’ will appeal to a fan base, spanning generations. It is a biography for those who first heard “I Walk the Line” in 1956, a younger generation who discovered him through songs like his cover of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt,” and everyone in between.
‘The Man in Song’ will be available for purchase on April 16th wherever books are sold, as well as online here. I see this as an early Mother’s Day gift for any music enthusiast.