God Spoke to Johnny Cash, then Johnny Cash Spoke to Me.

Firstly, thanks again for your comments on my blog. I certainly hope that you will keep on sending them and I have tried to make as many comments of my own as I can for the time being.
As for this new post, I have decided to talk about my absolute worship of Johnny Cash. For those of you who don'k know, Johnny Cash was a country singer who died at a grand old age very recently (only a few years ago) and left behind him some of the greatest songs and lyrics ever written. It was not only his songs, but also his life that was an inspiration to me and many more. I suppose many of you will have seen the film "Walk the Line", which was his biopic.
What enthralled me about Cash was his own personal demise into drugs and drink, which seemed to be echoed in his songs. To a large degree his songs were about sin and redemption, and perhaps, given his situation, his own. For while John was wiggling his hips like Elvis he was also dowining drink and amphetamines and being extremely promiscuous. What developed was a half angel, half devil character which seemed to haunt him all his life. And, after all, perhaps only he could write about a character who "shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die", but also talk about that character's redemption in the same song.
In this way Johnny Cash could legitimately go to prisons and perform concerts without being booed off stage as other "phonies" might have been. The prisoners seemed to know where he was coming from, and at one particular famous concert at St. Quentin he almost caused a riot. If you listen to that record even today, you can veritably feel the electricity in the atmosphere through the vinyl. And when asked by record producers why he would seek such an audience, that good christian folk would want nothing to do with such people, he simply replied that, "well, they 'aint true christians then, are they".
It was only through my experience of mental ill health that I understood Johnny Cash at all. It was through my depression that I began to feel that I was a "bad" person and so I think I began to feel as if I, too, like the characters in a Johnny Cash song, needed redemption. For me I began to view the world in a very religious, particularly Catholic way, where the world was divided into good and evil. I never really understood what I had done that was so wrong, but the feeling that I was somehow an evil person seeking redemption stayed with me with a granite immovability.
Later, when I began to have psychotic episodes, this religiosity took on an even more damaging aspect and I began to believe somewhat literally in scripture. But through it all, I listened to Johnny Cash and if nothing else his songs gave me hope, no matter how false the basis of that hope was.
As for now, I can look back on all this with a hint of disbelief and greater wisdom. I have come to accept that I am not a perfect person, but nor am I a particularly "bad" one. Even when I put on my Johnny Cash songs now I have something of a cynical view about the more religious ones. The world seems to me now to be made up of shades of grey, not explicit black and white. People are complex, sometimes irrational beings and if there is forgiveness out there, I think the least we can do is to begin to forgive ourselves.
In spite of all this, though, I have, once again, a short poem written in honour of Johnny Cash. May he long continue to inspire those who are down on their luck. The poem is entitled "God Spoke to Johnny Cash, then Johnny Cash Spoke to Me":

It was in a tunnel on Route '66,
Amphetamines had been his fix,
Where Johnny Cash drummed with sticks,
And got on his knees to pray.

It was at this time that John heard God,
He knew it was Him because His voice was hard,
And it spoke of tortures and wisdom,
And unspeakable wrath.

The voice boomed out from beyond the void,
The place where John had lost his voice,
And it told him to mend his ways,
Or prepare to die.

Knowing that God wasn't a joking man,
John began to set about a plan,
To resurrect his long lost spirit,
And stolen youth.

So he got up right there off the ground,
And sang out proud of his life new found,
Of how when all is done and the man comes around,
Sinners and all those like them will bask in judgement.

He went to prisons and he sang in yards,
Telling how life could be extremely hard,
But that mercy was always out there,
If you chose to find it.

So John listened to God and then I listened to him,
I put down my drink,
And purged myself of sin,
Because at this point I realised that there was nothing else for it.

For I knew that when John sang out loud,
God could cut me down with the back of his hand,
And it was only then that I could be truly free,
Because God had spoken to Johnny Cash, then Johnny Cash spoke to me.

So, that's all for now folks. Until next time, I remain your normal, average paranoid and delusional man.


klahanie said…
Hi David
"My name is 'Sue!' How do you do!" I remember the first time I heard the lyrics to that Johnny Cash song: 'Boy named Sue', way back when I was 12 years old. I must admit I was originally quite confused by that song. Then I kinda' worked it out.
Once again David, you have submitted another thought-provoking blog. I consider your writing and your poetry a fascinating, insightful expression of your life.
David you are indeed a throughly decent man. It is my privilege to know you. Thank you very much for your positive affirmation comments on my latest blog. We are a community that helps each other. You are an integral part of the ethos. Warm regards Klahanie.
sunseeker said…
Hi David

Mmm... the man in black was indeed a complex and inspirational individual. I do hope that he found the redemption that he seemed to spend so long searching for.

To be a 'perfect person'... what an incredibly difficult expectation to try to live up to. I think I’ll try for 'good enough' and hope that that'll do! If only we could all love ourselves in spite of our numerous faults...

Another famous songwriter once wrote that 'true perfection has to be imperfect' - much more achievable! Maybe I should make that my new personal motto...

Jack said…
Hi David I like Johnny Cash myself. Sometimes I used to blame myself for my illness. What I realised though was I was not to blame. I try to build my self esteem up. I enjoy your blog and poems. Be positive David and God bless you. Thanks for the comment. Take care.
dcrelief said…
Hi David:
I like your poem. It's rich and full of emotion. In great empathy, dcrelief

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