JOHNNY CASH: SONG BY SONG (6 x 30' or 2 x 75')
DIRECTOR: BARBARA HALL
GENRE: MUSIC / PROFILE
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Each episode will set the cultural
landscape scene and unravel and reveal the contradictions
of this complicated man through the lens of a song. Each
song/story will provide a calibrated insight into the
unparalleled drama of a life fully lived and a career
fully exploited; resilience, fortitude, love, compassion,
rebellion and soul-searching? resilience, fortitude, love,
compassion, rebellion and soul-searching.
Cash spoke for the condemned man and his redeemer, the
downtrodden coal miner, the hopeless romantic, the junkie
and the righteous man. He bucked the system and created
his signature persona ? the Man in Black. The statement
was loud and strong: Johnny Cash plays by his own rules.
?How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on
between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a
chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man.? Johnny
Cash Do the songs reflect Cash?s resolve for justice, his
human failings, his passion, his grit and his search for
greater meaning? Why have they surpassed the industry
standards, held up stood the test of time? Was his
conflict an inner struggle or a struggle with the industry
or a bit of both?
I Walk The Line
Episode 1 ? 1955 The Hits began?along the Dark Period
Cash?s early career is defined by ability to remain
defiant against the status quo to achieve his destiny.
After working for hours in the cotton fields, they moved
to Memphis in the mid 50s, he found rock ?n? roll was in.
Much to the chagrin of pioneer producer Sam Phillips, Cash
stubbornly stayed true to his country roots. The lyrics
for ?I Walk The Line? came to the married Cash on the road
in Texas as he struggled to remain faithful to his wife,
Vivian. The temptations on the road for a musician are
like no other.
The song would also prove to be one of the first examples
of a complicated and contradictory artist. In many ways,
this song begins a dark period for Cash when there was
really no line he didn?t cross ? he left his wife Vivian,
became addicted to alcohol and amphetamines, and nearly
destroyed his life.
Ring Of Fire
Episode 2 - 1963 The Outlaw takes shape
Having found success on the charts playing the music he
wanted to play, Cash risked his entire career as the wild
man inside was unleashed from his cage. Although still
married, Cash was falling deeply in love with June Carter.
And despite his increasingly destructive behavior, June
Carter was falling for him. Those feelings of undeniable
attraction came to the surface in a song she was working
on with songwriter Merle Kilgore. ?Ring of Fire? would
become a huge hit for him but as Cash spiraled out of
control, he connected in the knick of time with the woman
who would not only write the biggest song of his career,
she would one day prove to be his salvation.
Episode 3 ? 1967 His love for ?the forbidden Other Woman?
When Johnny Cash had the chance to meet June Carter as an
artistic equal, the ?fever? was there?but complications
(both were married) kept a forbidden love from taking the
next step. Cash increasing dependency on drugs and outlaw
ways made June Carter hesitant to commit to him. Just one
month after the release of their duet, ?Jackson,? the Man
In Black hit rock bottom as he crawled into the Nickajack
Caves with no intention of leaving alive. Fate, however,
showed Johnny Cash not only showed him way out of the
darkness and into the light. It lead him into the arms of
the woman who would be his wife for 35-years and ?Jackson?
would become the theme song of their fiery romance.
A Boy Named Sue
Episode 4 1969 - Bad Boy image takes hold
After early success in the 50s and 60s, Cash?s career
began to crash in the late 60s. Cash once again found
himself being pushed out by a second coming of rock ?n?
roll. It was up to The Man In Black to save himself. Cash
made the controversial decision to record inside the walls
of two of the nation?s most notorious prisons. During his
performance at San Quentin, Cash nearly caused an uprising
and sent a message for his doubters ? the famous picture
taken with Cash giving the photographer the middle finger.
The cross-over success of a ?Boy Named Sue? ? a song he
performed for the first time in San Quentin -- managed to
cement Cash?s reputation as radical .The Man In Black was
Sunday Morning Coming Down
Episode 5 ? 1970 ?TV Revival?
Johnny Cash was ready for primetime with his own network
series on ABC, but primetime wasn?t ready for Johnny Cash.
With his show filmed every week Johnny Cash shared with
viewers the music he wanted to hear: Bob Dylan, Joni
Mitchell and Neil Young acts that would alienate his own
longtime and old friends that would puzzle his new
generation of fans (Bill Monroe, Louis Armstrong, Pete
He bucked against the Network?s wishes by talking about
Vietnam and defiantly singing the lyrics ?Lord, I?m
wishing that I was stoned? in Kris Kristofferson?s classic
?Sunday Morning Coming Down.? ABC canceled the
controversial show, but its impact on future musicians
would echo for years to come.
Episode 6 ? 2002 ?Revival and Redemption?
Although Johnny Cash had a body of work already deemed
worthy of induction into the any music Hall of Fame, by
the 1980s his career was teetering on the edge of
relevancy. But the longtime rebel wasn?t going down
without a fight.
An unlikely creative partnership with a hard rock/rap
producer proved Cash?s career with his third and final
act?but it almost didn?t happen. Cash was hesitant to sign
with Rick Rubin?s label, but Rubin?s persistence to keep
the music true to Cash?s roots paid off.
Cash?s series of American Recordings over his final years
? most featuring just the artist and his guitar -- lead to
Cash delivering the most acclaimed work of his career. It
also gave Cash a chance to give his musical epitaph with
the astounding cover of Trent Reznor?s ?Hurt? and the
accompanying music video will continue to fascinate and
haunt music lovers for the rest of time.