Saturday, May 19, 2012

Johnny Cash TV show a real hidden treasure

A great feeling we all experience is when we stumble across something wonderful without expecting it. It seems we spend a lot of time trying to find things that provide enjoyment or fulfillment, but often we find the best treasures when we are not even trying.
I love music. I love many different genres, and we are all fortunate we live in an area that is so musically diverse. You name it; we pretty much have it here. If a person does not believe this, then he should open his eyes. The MusicTree and Bonnaroo festivals in the coming weeks should provide ample evidence of this.
As for my own recent experience, it began by accident at Cracker Barrel. Like most people who eat there, I was going through the restaurant’s gift shop after eating a meal. I was looking through their DVD section, which is usually a mixed bag. Their selections to choose from are usually pretty random. For example, if a person is looking for Season Three of ‘The Sonny and Cher Show’ then this would be a good place to visit.
However, after looking through their selections, I found a real gem. ‘The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show (1969-71)’ includes some remarkable music. Even though Cash’s television show aired for only a couple of seasons, he crammed many remarkable performances into the show’s history.
If the DVD included only Cash performances, it would be a superior disc. And it definitely provides plenty of those. Well-known hits such as ‘I Walk the Line’ and ‘A Boy Named Sue’ are presented as well as lesser known performances of ‘Hey Porter’ and ‘Man in Black.’
Cash’s impact on country and pop music cannot be overstated, I won’t try to summarize this here. Last month, the Manchester Art Center hosted a tribute to his legacy and his impact is felt on communities like ours all over the world.
What causes this DVD to transcend from being ‘good’ to ‘great’ is the inclusion of guest musicians from all parts of the music scene back then.
From country music, there are performances by legends still at the top of their game. Merle Haggard sings a duet of ‘Sing Me Back Home’ with Cash. Loretta Lynn delivers a lovely version of ‘I Know How.’ Tammy Wynette performs her classic ‘Stand By Your Man.’ George Jones sings a medley of his hits that includes ‘The Race Is On’ and ‘She Thinks I Still Care.’
This is all overwhelming when taking it in one dose. But the greatness does not stop there.
From rock and roll, Creedence Clearwater Revival sings ‘Bad Moon Rising.’ At this point in 1969, CCR was well on its way to claiming the title of top rock band in the world as the Beatles were breaking up.
Cash’s friendship with Bob Dylan brought the legendary singer-songwriter to his show. On the DVD, Dylan sings ‘I Threw It All Away,’ and though it is not one of his major songs, any performance of his at the Ryman Auditorium (where the show was filmed) is of important historical significance.
Neil Young earned a standing ovation for his delivery of ‘The Needle and the Damage Done.’ Cash and Joni Mitchell collaborated on a wonderful version of ‘The Long Black Veil.’
Additionally, the DVD includes Ray Charles singing a version of ‘Ring of Fire’ that brings the house down.
I know this column has sounded like a commercial for this DVD, but it includes music that must be heard. The fact that I stumbled upon it by accident at a Cracker Barrel just adds to the good fortune that I feel for owning it.

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