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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Man in Black (and White)

Can't yet find the story these photos are linked to (if there even is one...if so, I'll update when I find it), but guardian.co.uk has a set of 9 great photos of Johnny Cash in the early days (circa 1959).

UPDATE: Seek and ye shall find:
They were sitting at the bottom of a wardrobe. After 45 years lost in the archives of Columbia Records, and then in the dark of a New York closet, these photographs of legendary country singer Johnny Cash were finally unearthed four years ago, beneath the skirts and the winter coats of Silvia Koner....

...What is striking about Koner's pictures is that they show a star poised on the edge of colossal success. A year earlier Cash had left Memphis's Sun Records for Columbia, and though he had already notched up several hits, he had yet to encounter the full wallop of fame. You look at him here, straight-faced and heavy-eyed, be-quiffed and pale-suited, and know that it was still all to come: the hits, the amphetamines, the marriage to June Carter, the collaboration with Bob Dylan, the shows at Folsom Prison and San Quentin jail, the Man in Black, the work with Rick Rubin that revived his career, the diabetes that would claim his life in 2003. They are pictures of a man before he really walked the line.
Some choice favorites:

God, I miss that man. And might I say, the Great Man's latter years, when he teamed with Rick Rubin as producer and recroded a series of phenomenal albums for American Records, may be his very best of all.

And y'all? That's saying something. For real.

I've seldom heard a voice filled with so much wisdom, so much knowing and knowledge, so much acceptance as in Johnny's last years of making music.. And openness at the same time. He was still at the top of his capacity, and the entirety his life, every single step that brought him to that point, every triumph, heartbreak and failure, resonates with every song. If you hadn't kept up those last years, please, let me do you a favor and recommend you treat yourself.

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.

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