The Man in Song

$24.95 $18.71

A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash
John M. Alexander
296 pages, 8 × 8, 47 images, index
978-1-68226-051-7 (paper)
978-1-61075-709-6 (audio)
April 2017


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There have been many books written about Johnny Cash, but The Man in Song is the first to examine Cash’s incredible life through the lens of the songs he wrote and recorded. Music journalist and historian John Alexander has drawn on decades of studying Cash’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 Cash 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. Johnny Cash sold more than fifty million albums in forty 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. It explores the intertwined experience and creativity of childhood trauma. It rifles through the discography of a life: Cash’s work with the Tennessee Two at Sam Phillips’s Sun Studios, the unique concept albums Cash 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.

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. Here is a biography for those who first heard “I Walk the Line” in 1956, a younger generation who discovered Cash through songs like his cover of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt,” and everyone in between.

John Alexander is a lifelong historian of all things Johnny Cash and country music. He was Senior Music Editor at Reader’s Digest and a college professor, and he is currently a songwriter, music producer, and senior editor at the Brooklyn Eagle. Alexander lives in Brooklyn.

“A totally different light on [Cash] than I have ever seen before . . . a masterpiece, written by a learned historian and renowned musicologist—and an expert on Johnny Cash and his music.”
—from the foreword by Larry Gatlin

Chapter 1
Five Feet High and Rising:Autobiographical, Geographical and Societal Songs

Chapter 2
I Walk the Line: The Sun Years

Chapter 3
What Is Truth: Songs of Personal Conviction

Chapter 4
The Ballad of Ira Hayes: The Concept Albums

Chapter 5
Far Side Banks of Jordan: The Gospel According to Cash

Chapter 6
I Got Stripes: The Legendary Prison Recordings

Chapter 7
Ring of Fire: Songs for June

Chapter 8
Sunday Morning Coming Down: Kris Kristoffersonand the Great Singer-Songwriters

Chapter 9
Heroes: Hank Williams, Bob Dylan and Other Musical Influences

Chapter 10
Highwayman:Jack Clement, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Other Collaborations

Chapter 11
Delia’s Gone: The Murder Ballads

Chapter 12
Committed to Parkview: Drug Use and Abuse

Chapter 13
One Piece at a Time: The Great Story Songs

Chapter 14
You Wild Colorado: Deep Cuts and Buried Treasures

Chapter 15
I’ve Been Everywhere: Travelin’ Cash

Chapter 16
The Man Comes Around: The American Recordings

Chapter 17
Ain’t No Grave: The Songs Live On

Chapter 18
September When It Comes: Final Reflections

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