- 02 Oct 03
While Johnny Cash held what Nick Tosches called the “imprimatur of ageless cool” among the young punks, his repertoire, like that of Hank Williams, provided staples for the country ‘n’ Irish and showband canon, from the slickest old pros down to the most inept of part-time bar bands.
One could sit in the lounge of some country cattle shed and witness all manner of atrocities perpetrated upon music, but when even the most shambolic of combos kicked into ‘I Walk The Line’ or ‘Ring Of Fire’, for a few minutes you could forget about shooting the messengers and listen to the message. Cash’s songs were stitched into the secret pre-history of Irish rock ‘n’ roll, a glittering, guttering world of gold lame suits, shiny saxophones, mirror balls, brylcream, sweat and porter. Indeed, Cash himself wasn’t beyond the odd old chestnut like ‘Forty Shades Of Green’ – as recently as his last album, he was singing a fragile, mournful version of ‘Danny Boy’.
“I never got into any deep conversation with him about anything. He could be slightly dour and very quiet. The only thing I talked to him about was ‘Forty Shades Of Green’ – he said he got the idea for the song while flying over the country. But he was a gentleman; he’d always say, ‘Thank you sir,’ and he always delivered onstage. The thing he did for country music was he kept it alive when it wasn’t fashionable and he made it acceptable to the rock audience.”
“He played Las Vegas quite regularly over the years. I saw him there many years ago and again quite recently with The Highwaymen at the Mirage Hotel. Unfortunately I didn’t get to talk to him that night though I chatted with Waylon Jennings who is sadly gone too.”