Robert Hilburn: Johnny Cash – The Life (Book Review)
With Johnny Cash – The Life author Robert Hilburn presents us with an in-depth picture of what made the Man In Black who he was—from beginning to end. Hilburn blends the memories, insights, and feelings of numerous friends, family members, fellow musicians—and Cash himself, whom Hilburn last sat down with just months before the singer’s death in 2003—with well-written narration that never judges. It’s all here: from the dirt farmer roots to the superstar years, from guitarist Luther Perkins’ discovery of that sound to Cash’s discovery of amphetamines, from the “Ring of Fire” that surrounded Cash and June Carter in the early days of their relationship to their health struggles in their later years. There’s also plenty on the big tours, Cash’s television show, the accolades and the busts. But more important, there’s much accounting of how hard Cash worked at his craft: where he found his inspirations and how he struggled when there were none to find. Hilburn pulls off the feat of making a bigger-than-life figure in modern American culture human—and all the more of a legend in the process.