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If you like Johnny Cash's story, you might also like:
Sheryl Crow,
Vince Gill,
Naomi Judd,
B.B. King,
John Grisham,
Wynton Marsalis,
Johnny Mathis
and Quincy Jones

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Johnny Cash in the Achievement Curriculum section:
A Passion For Music

Related Links:
Johnny Cash Music on Jango
Johnnycash.com

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Johnny Cash
 
Johnny Cash
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Johnny Cash Interview (page: 2 / 4)

Country Music Legend

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  Johnny Cash

Was there a particular person that was very important to you as a kid?


Johnny Cash: In my little world, in northeast Arkansas on a cotton farm, it was my brother, Jack. He was my inspiration. He was two years older than I and he was killed at the age of 14. I always wanted to be like him. He was a strong person, he was a Bible student, he was in perfect shape, physically. I always wanted to be like him. And when he died, my best friend was still my mother, and she always encouraged me to sing. As a matter of fact, we were very poor and she took in washing from the school teachers, washed their clothes to make money to give me singing lessons, voice lessons. After about three lessons the voice teacher said, "Don't take voice lessons. Do it your way."


I was glad for my mother that I didn't have to take them.

You didn't mention your father.

Johnny Cash: My father was a man of love. He always loved me to death. He worked hard in the fields, but my father never hit me. Never. I don't ever remember a really cross, unkind word from my father. He was a good, strong man who provided for his family. That was his sole purpose in life when I was growing up.

It sounds like your parents were supportive of your path.

Johnny Cash Interview Photo
Johnny Cash: They were. Especially my mother. She was the most musically inclined in the family. She played a little guitar and piano, and loved to sing. From the time I started trying to sing when I was a kid, she always encouraged me to do it. I told her when I was about 12 that I was going to sing on the radio. She encouraged that dream.

Musically, my inspirations were whoever was popular on the radio: Jimmy Rodgers, the Carter Family -- which is my wife's family -- black blues, black gospel and white gospel groups, like the Blackwood Brothers, and the Chuckwagon Gang. Or cowboy singers like Gene Autry, and Bob Wills. I liked the image of the man with the white hat correcting all the wrongs out there.

Your voice does not sound like anybody else's voice. You must have had a lot of confidence that you had a voice.

Johnny Cash: I did.


It goes back to that music teacher when I was 12 years old. After the third lesson, I was singing some popular country song of the day. I forget the name. I think it was a Hank Williams, no, it was too early for Hank Williams, I guess. Whatever the song was, I didn't sing it like the artist had sung it on the radio. And she said, "You're a song stylist." She said, "Always do it your way." And from the age of 12, I didn't forget that. But that was the way I had to do it, because it was the way it was with me. I had to do it my way. I couldn't read those notes, singing those great songs, like a lot of those singers could, but I could do it my way -- the way it felt good to me. And that's what music is all about, emotion.

[ Key to Success ] Vision


Could you talk about a couple of moments that were highlights for you.

Johnny Cash Interview Photo
Johnny Cash: When I married June Carter, March 1st, 1968. My son was born, March 3rd, 1970. My induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, which is the ultimate for a country singer, in 1980. Then, of all things, the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. They recognized my Rockabilly roots, I suppose. But the big one for me, the one that meant the most to me was the Songwriter's Hall of Fame. To recognize a talent that comes from God through a person. That means more to me. It's on a little stand just as you come in my door. It's the first thing you see when you come in my house. I'm extremely proud of that.

What are the most important qualities for success in music?

Johnny Cash: To love who you are and what you do, and to have faith in your ability to do it. You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way.

I'm not talking about ego, and arrogance, and grandiose feelings. I'm talking about self-esteem and confidence. That's vital: self-esteem and confidence.

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This page last revised on Dec 06, 2013 13:04 EST
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