I don’t know if I’m technically qualified to write a music column, but considering the fact that I saw the goddamn Olsen Twins on the cover of Rolling Stone a few weeks ago, it’s possible that I’m more qualified than the misguided hack who green-lighted that atrocity. So here it goes.
Hats off to Johnny Cash, who passed away this week at the age of 71. You didn’t have to be some cousin-lovin’, double-wide-livin’, "Hee-Haw" watchin’, s___-kickin’ redneck to find yourself liking the "Man in Black." The guy was like the Frank Sinatra of country music, commanding respect wherever he went and whatever he did. In a genre filled with drawling yokels and cookie-cutter cornballs, Cash stood out with one of the most identifiable voices in the music industry, singing legendary songs of tough living that seemed to register with the "every-man." No jukebox is complete without "A Boy Named Sue," "I Walk the Line," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Sunday Morning Coming Down," or "Ring of Fire" (a song that I’ve always seen as a warning against VD – "It burns, burns, burns"). For a good starter kit, pick up any of a number of "Best of" CDs featuring the aforementioned songs.
A lot of people feel Johnny Cash was finally ready for the grave after his wife, June Carter Cash, passed away in May. I’d be willing to bet it had more to do with the fact that Justin Timberlake gave him "props" at the MTV Video Music Awards. For a man like Cash to have some no-talent ass-clown like Timberlake pretending to be one of his peeps could very well have been the last straw. (P.S.-A special nod to Office Space for the term "no-talent ass-clown" – a great quote from a great movie.)
Of course, I couldn’t write about Johnny Cash without acknowledging the recent loss of another music legend, Warren Zevon, who succumbed to lung cancer on Sept. 7 after a long struggle. I have fond memories of sitting around the dorm room blaring Zevon and wondering just how the hell he came up with this stuff. He wrote songs that defined off-the-wall, like "Excitable Boy," "Lawyers, Guns and Money," "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner," and his most famous, "Werewolves of London." Yet despite his unorthodox subject matter, he was able to avoid being exiled into Dr. Demento obscurity with his powerful musical delivery and overwhelming talent. An ideal Zevon starter kit is his 1993 unplugged album, Learning to Flinch. And while I personally haven’t heard it yet, his latest effort, The Wind, has been praised by the critics and features a load of guest artists, including some guy named Springsteen.
So get over Ben and J-Lo, try to ignore who Britney is open-mouth kissing, tell Timberlake to go cry himself a river, forget about the Olsen twins (they’re never gonna turn 18 anyhow; it’s one of those great teases in life) and focus on music that matters from talent that will be around for awhile, no matter what MTV, Rolling Stone, or even some greater power might have to say about it.
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