Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Johnny Cash: The Life

Robert Hilburn, Johnny Cash: The Life. Little, Brown and Company, 2013. ISBN 978-0-316-194754.

I have for a very long time enjoyed Johnny Cash's music. I knew bits and pieces of his life from various sources. I guess I learned a little more about his life when I watched the movie: Walk the Line which I have watched several times. I also knew that he made many appearances at Billy Graham's crusades. I think I thought that he was an unbeliever and converted to Christ and then he served him faithfully after his conversion. Hilburn's fine book, Johnny Cash: the Life showed me that my knowledge of Johnny Cash was minimal at best, and erroneous at worst.

Robert Hilburn was music critic for the Los Angeles Times for over thirty years. He interviewed Cash throughout his long career. He was even at Cash's famous concert at Folsom Prison. Hilburn's "journey on the book began in early 2009" when he asked Lou Rubin about "how much of the Johnny Cash story had been told." Rubin told him only about 20 percent. Many of Cash's family and friends were very generous in sharing personal information about Cash, even uncomfortable information. They, like Cash, wanted the full story told. I am glad that an effort has been made to tell the full story in these pages because it shows how much Cash overcame in his life. It shows a sinner, but a sinner who had a genuine faith that was tested repeatedly. It is not always pretty, but redemption is not always clean and pure.

Hilburn concentrates on Cash's musical career and his art. Not all questions about Cash's life will be answered in this book, but many are. Johnny Cash: the Life shows a man who struggled with sin all his life. It also shows how God worked in his life and offered him grace. This is book is quite readable owing to Hilburn's long experience as a journalist. This book is highly recommended to all readers who are interested in the life of Johnny Cash.

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