The Man In Black

Johnny Cash died today; he was 71.

The trials and achievements of his life and career are well-documented elsewhere; that the man could go from a hit in 1956 featuring slap bass and a simple muted single-note line on a Telecaster to winning an award just a few weeks ago for a cover of the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt from the mostly-acoustic but not-at-all simple American Recordings project gives an idea how far he cast his shadows. I'm not a singer, so I can't pretend to comment on the content and delivery of his messages; however, the simplicity and straightforward honesty of his music reached even me; At Folsom Prison is one of the main reasons I fixed my old turntable this summer. Johnny Cash recorded more than 1500 songs; he was husband to June Carter Cash, who died a scant four months ago from complications following heart surgery.

Johnny Cash even impacted long-haired, loud, too-many-notes-at-a-time rock guitar players. In the years after Eddie Van Halen expanded the vocabulary of hard rock guitar solos with two-handed tapping, a backlash developed wherein real guitarists would never get caught with both hands on the neck. "Except for Johnny Cash," they'd allow, referring to his habit of strumming his guitar around the 12th fret (the middle of the string, which produces a mellower, less biting sound than, say, strumming near the bridge). "That's cool. Johnny Cash can do whatever he wants."