And I only recently came back to Johnny in the last several years, I think since around the time "American III: Solitary Man" came out. I'd moved around in music over the years, but country -- and Johnny Cash -- was always hovering around in the background. When I came back to country music in 1989, it was the first time I heard things like "Highwayman" and I realized I'd missed a little. Back in the early 80's, my cowboy Dad turned off country radio because it was getting "too pop." I was in high school and in a desperate attempt to fit in just a little bit I shook off my country leanings and turned to pop and rock. So from about 1981 to 1989, I never really listened to much country music. A little snuck in, here and there, when I worked at a 7-11 where one of the supervisors was a country boy, but the station always got changed to rock when the rest of the morning crew got in.
In 1989, I remember hearing Clint Black sing "Nobody's Home," and country music called me back. Because I listened to a reasonable, Buck-Owens-owned station, KNIX, I didn't realize what was happening in country music as the 90's wanned. Then KNIX was added to the "Clear Channel Family" and, well, people who listen to mainstream radio of any genre know what happened then. I turned off KNIX for good after the careless way they treated Waylon Jennings' passing, and haven't bothered to see what crumbs they throw out for Johnny.
I had the honor of reviewing several of the reissues that came out last year, as well as his last album, "The Man Comes Around." (I hesitate to say "final," because with a body of work like Johnny's, I think they'll be able to give us "new" music for a while yet.) I think my words to describe him fall way short of accuracy, but I did the best I could. Here and here and here.
Rodney Crowell, Johnny ex-son-in-law (Rodney was married to Roseanne) and brilliant songwriter/artist in his own right, had this to say: "I am deeply saddened by the loss of my children's grandfather and my very dear friend. I loved big John with all my heart. The citizens of the world have lost one of their most enduring guiding lights. As a musical hero to millions, a trailblazing artist, humanitarian, spiritual leader, social commentator and most importantly, patriarch to one of the most varied and colorful extended families imaginable, Johnny Cash will, like Will Rogers, stand forever as a symbol of intelligence, creativity, compassion and common sense. I'm thinking Mt. Rushmore."