Friday, September 12, 2003

Paupers, punks and millionaires and me

The death of Johnny Cash makes me sad, but it's gratifying that he leaves behind such an awesome, fully realized body of work. Many great artists don't get that chance.

I saw Johnny perform twice, both times in Chicago: once with the Highwaymen at Rosemont Horizon, and once in a club show at the Cubby Bear. The latter was spectacular: it was October 30, and when the clock struck midnight he observed Halloween with a terrific version of "Ghost Riders in the Sky."

I went to grammar school and junior high with Johnny's son, John Carter, and the Man in Black had a big presence at the school. In sixth grade it was, for some reason, my duty and privilege to ring the 8:00 bell in the principal's office, and I remember the morning Johnny walked in at about 7:58 for a word. There he was, inches from me and Mrs. Caruthers, the secretary. She and I both were awed. He was dressed in black.

Here are the lyrics to one of my favorite Johnny Cash songs, "Backstage Pass" from his extremely overlooked 1989 CD Boom Chicka Boom. And here is a letter I wrote to the Chicago Reader about the Man in Black in 1992.

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