Johnny Cash didn't shot anyone in Reno, but he imagined he could. Just to watch him die. Some redneck Goethe who couldn't imagine a crime of which he wasn't capable. A walkin' contradcition, partly truth and partly fiction, his buddy Kristofferson called him. If he was damned so be ithe could ask for forgiveness, but he'd never take his salvation for granted. Johnny Cash always stood with humanity, flawed and hurt and hopeful.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Johnny Cash. Rest in peace, you old weird American monument head. I loved you. But can I tell you something in strict confidence, Johnny? I'm kinda glad you passed before they could prop you up and hand you the lyrics to "Oops I Did It Again."
Like most people, I'd anticipated Johnny Cash's passing for a long time. It was when June Carter Cash died unexpectedly--the media accounts alone had been heartbreaking enough, husband Johnny at her bedside in the hospital, sending out a request to everyone to please pray for her recovery--that I found myself pondering life and death, however. I just couldn't shake the mental image of Johnny sitting in his Tennessee home, alone in the dark, grieving for June, maybe asking himself some of the same questions we were asking. He was the hard-living one, right? The one with the recent health problems? The impossibly frail-looking man in that video of "Hurt"? The one who was supposed to go first? And I thought of my mother, upstairs in her room, alone with her TV shows, in the weeks after my father died. Did she ask any questions? Did she get any answers? Is that why she came to accept death with such grace and reserve?
Wadesboro, North Carolina
Despite what her justifiably proud husband said in his last autobiography, June Carter Cash was never one of the greats of country music. She had, however, have one of the great American lives. She co-wrote the indelible "Ring of Fire." She flirted with Elvis Presley and dated James Dean and studied acting under Lee Strasberg. If she hadn't wrung the drugs out of Cash and saved him for the rest of us, she might have developed her cornpone Little Junie Carter act and given Minnie Pearl a run for her money. She made the right choice.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Best New South: Bubba Sparxxx
Best Old South: Al Green
Best Really Old South: Geeshie Wiley (on Yazoo's The Best There Ever Was)
Best South London: Basement Jaxx
Best Southern Canada: Buck 65 (from Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia)
Best Southern Rock: Drive-By Truckers
Best Cover by a Southerner: Johnny Cash's "Hurt"
Gone but not forgotten: Tony Thompson.
Forgotten but not gone: Metallica.
Brooklyn, New York
It almost seemed scripted that, so soon before Bush's go-it-alone war, we should lose Mister Rogers, the last beautiful American. Hey, he was a singer-songwriter toand as far as "Won't You Be My Neighbor," "Tree, Tree, Tree," and all the rest go, we've seen worse material for boxed sets, and will again.
Mount Tabor, New Jersey
I'm 33, married, and have a two-year-old son. I saw Finding Nemo 34 times this year, more times than I heard any record.
At #9, I have The Cheetah Girls, but really I don't know anything about the album, just the single, "Cinderella." It's been in the Top Three of the Radio Disney Nightly Countdown for weeks now, mostly in the top spot. Youd know this, too, if you had an eight- year-old daughter with a voracious, encyclopedic, catholic taste in music, not excluding the sounds of her generation. "Cinderella" is a deliciously catchy pop tune, like nearly everything on Radio Disney; like "So Yesterday," like "Holes," and, like, so on. And the lyrics are protofeminist: "I don't wanna be like Cinderella/Sittin' in a dark cold dusty cellar/Waitin' for somebody/To come and rescue me/I'd rather rescue myself." Now, a doting dad like me probably reads more meaning into this than my daughter and her third-grade friends, who don't need a song to tell them how to act. One day I.m picking up my kid and one of her friends and they drop this on one of their male classmates who is standing there. Girl: "Hey, why do boys like smart girls?" Boy: "Uuuhhhh." Other Girl: "Opposites attract." And they walk away without even laughing, leaving the befuddled moax knowing he's been punked but unable to sort out the details.
"Yeah, yeah," folks snort about Amy Rigby, "raindrops keep falling on her head." But you can't convince me that she knows less about the look of love than you-know-who. And is there another major songwriter in the history of rock who's been so consistently dead- on and neglected? Amy's a great one because the thing in her songs that seems like fatalism actually evinces more hope, charity and non-religious faith than you'd find in the Bible. Makes me wonder if midlife ambivalence is too much for our allegedly aging population to deal with.