Rock Reads: The Resurrection of Johnny Cash: Hurt, Redemption, and American Recordings by Graeme Thomson

Reviewed by Kevin Wierzbicki

By now the legacy of Johnny Cash is well-known as the late Man in Black has taken his rightful place in music history as one of the most significant American artists ever. Things could have ended very differently for Cash; after an early-'70s zenith brought about by two hit albums and a popular television show, the singer fell into a decades-long slide into obscurity that he only pulled out of once he started working with producer Rick Rubin. The early chapters of this book, in order to facilitate the remainder, necessarily document Cash's fall from grace. But the bulk of the book, while very blunt in laying out the fact that this was no easy task, is uplifting. Cash's agreeing to work with Rubin sets a whole positive universe in motion, introducing Cash's work to a younger audience, re-connecting him to older fans and arguably producing the best work of his life. Thomson does lots of interpretation here; facts and figures that could be only droll are boosted to interesting thanks to Thomson's insight, and throughout he inserts commentary from Cash family members and insiders like Nick Lowe, Rodney Crowell, Roseanne Cash and John Carter Cash in just the right places in just the right doses. There is not much commentary from Rubin here but that's not really surprising. As the book makes clear, Rubin only facilitated Cash's comeback; what kept Cash from becoming a mere footnote in history was the fact that Rubin allowed Cash to be himself, to quit trying to please everyone and instead spill a lifetime's worth of pent-up emotion into his music. Thomson has put together a good read for all fans of Johnny Cash but those who hopped on the bandwagon late (or some would say, just in time) during the Rick Rubin American Recordings era will find The Resurrection of Johnny Cash an especially warm read.

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