Along with Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, who died in Nashville Friday of complications from diabetes after a battle with autonomic neuropathy, was the most important country artist of the modern era. Yet oddly enough for someone working in a tradition-oriented genre, he sounded like no one else and left no sonic heirs. If country music means white music, then Cash was very white—unlike his great fellow Sun Records rockabillies, Elvis and Jerry Lee, he showed no Afro-American influence. But he also never leaned on instrumental signifiers of country like fiddle, pedal steel, or banjo, and he never displayed the cultural defensiveness of country. He operated from a position of confidence that left him open to other influences,... More >>>