cover image Johnny Cash: The Life

Johnny Cash: The Life

Robert Hilburn. Little, Brown, $32 (688p) ISBN 978-0-316-19475-4

A decade after his death, Johnny Cash still towers over the landscape of country and rock music, a legendary figure whose work with figures as diverse as Bob Dylan, Cowboy Jack Clement, Kris Kristofferson, and producer Rick Rubin illustrate Cash’s embrace of musical eclecticism and his deep devotion to finding that musical moment when tune and lyrics blend to make a great song. Drawing on his own interviews and personal experience with Cash, former L.A. Times music critic Hilburn exhaustively chronicles, almost year by year, Cash’s rise to fame from his childhood in Dyess, Ark., through his stint in the military, the peak of his success in the 1970s with the Johnny Cash Show, and on to his slow decline in health in the 1990s. A spellbinding storyteller, Hilburn traces Cash’s musical journey from the Man in Black’s record deal with Sam Phillips and Sun Records, his early songwriting successes, his move to Columbia Records, and his famous 1957 San Quentin Prison show (which moved Merle Haggard to start playing country music again). At the center of Hilburn’s portrait stands an iconic singer who struggled with addiction at the same time that he was driven by a deep Christian faith, a man who struggled to balance the dark forces of violence and disloyalty with the light of his love for family, their love for him, and his love for music. Agent: Luke Janklow, Janklow & Nesbit. (Nov.)