Book Review: Johnny Cash The Life by Robert Hilburn


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4 out of 5

johnny cash the life

Johnny Cash
The Life
by Robert Hilburn
published by: Little, Brown and Company
released on: 10/29/2013
provided by: NetGalley

This is an incredibly in depth, well researched biography of Johnny Cash. Instead of just inferring events as some biographers do, Robert Hilburn has went out of his way to exhaustively research Cash’s life. My qualms with this book are few and are massively outweighed by the knowledge I gleamed from it on JR. In case you are wondering though, they are as follows: it’s hefty at 688 pages but in truth I relished in reading this book for an extended period of time, it can be slightly dry at times due to the author’s thoroughness (but as I said, I appreciate that) and sometimes when events are laid out Cash is presented in a more favorable light than what is listed to have actually happened. I totally understand this though as it’s a book about him and you’re most likely reading it because you are a fan of Cash. As you can see, these are barely quibbles, as they make sense and are helpful at times.

Despite watching Walk the Line a few times, listening to a variety of Cash albums and seeing some of his specials I realized quite quickly into this book that I actually knew very little about the Man in Black.

It turns out that Cash himself did release a couple of autobiographies during his lifetime but he was a known exaggerator. The author was able to use his autobiographies, family autobiographies, actual interviews with Cash and a myriad of news clippings on him to give us a well rounded look at Cash’s life.

From his youth, to his time in the service, his first marriage and then his later marriage to the beautiful June Carter Cash we definitely get to learn about his personal life. The scandalous tales of drugs and car wrecks are also included.

What I highly appreciated though is the information regarding how Cash crafted his songs. I can write a lot of things but lyrics are not one of them. It was so interesting to delve into his process. From his early acclaimed work, through some experimental tunes to his later revival, info on all of it is right here, in one book! Cash has been gone for a while now so the end of the book focuses on how he balanced a myriad of health problems with his work. It is tear jerking. I literally cried several times and I’m no softy.

The author is even completely honest in his opinion on Cash’s work. In the index he gives you a list of his recommended Johnny Cash albums. I found this incredibly helpful while looking for more Cash to listen to.

While casual Cash fans may not be able to get through such a lengthy book this is ideal for those of use who have admired his work for years. It would also make a great gift for any friend or family member who is into both Cash and literature. Snag this masterpiece today!

(Note this is an affiliate link.) You can purchase this book here from Amazon.

For more on Robert Hilburn:
official twitter
official Facebook

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