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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,
Quincy Jones,
Wynton Marsalis,
Johnny Mathis
and Bernie Taupin

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

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Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash
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Johnny Cash Interview (page: 3 / 4)

Country Music Legend

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  Johnny Cash

What do you think Sam Phillips saw in you that made him take a chance on you?

Johnny Cash: I think Sam Phillips saw the originality and my difference. As a matter of fact, he said so. I think that's what it was all about with Sam Phillips and me. That's why he said, "Bring some musicians tomorrow and let's record," after he heard me the first day. He heard something that was different. Not necessarily something that was good or exceptional, or even good, but different. He had had a lot of success recording people that sounded different.

That's a talent in itself.

Johnny Cash: If it works. It's like a novelist writing far out things. If it makes a point and makes sense, then people like to read that. But if it's off in left field and goes over the edge, you lose it. The same with musical talent, I think.

If you can hold your listener, hold their attention, and you're sure you know what you're doing, and know that you're communicating -- you know, performance is communicating. You've got to communicate. You've got a song you're singing from your gut, you want that audience to feel it in their gut. And you've got to make them think that you're one of them sitting out there with them, too. They've got to be able to relate to what you're doing.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

How do you do that?

Johnny Cash: I don't know how you do that. I just know when I'm doing it, and I know if I'm not doing it. After 38 years experience, I pretty well know if it's going to work or not, usually.

As a song writer, do you feel confident enough about, yes, that works, or is there a lot of insecurity about that?

Johnny Cash: There's no insecurity about my song writing.

I start a lot more songs than I finish, because I realize when I get into them, they're no good. I don't throw them away, I just put them away, store them, get them out of sight. When I get an idea for a song it would gel in my mind for weeks or months, and then one day just like that, I'll write it. Songwriting is a very strange thing as far as I'm concerned. It's not something that I can say, "Next Tuesday morning, I'm gonna sit down and write songs." I can't do that. No way. If I say, I'm going to the country and take a walk in the woods next Tuesday, then the probability is, next Tuesday night I might write a song Creative people have to be fed from the divine source. I do. I have to get fed. I have to get filled up in order to pour out. Really have to.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

What feeds you?

Johnny Cash: God and inspiring people, like around here at the Academy of Achievement. These people inspire me.

What are you most proud of?

Johnny Cash: I'm most proud that, after all I've been through, God has let me be alive and well today, and still with June Carter.

Did you ever imagine that you were going to have this tremendous success?

Johnny Cash: No. I had no idea, even when my first record was released. For two or three days I heard it played over a Shreveport, Louisiana radio station, and I thought, "That's too far away. That doesn't matter. It's too far away from Memphis." It was a couple of months before I realized that the whole world was out there.

Johnny Cash Interview Photo
Johnny Cash Interview Photo

Did you have trouble dealing with success when it came?

Johnny Cash: Yeah. I had a lot of trouble dealing with success. I think it was harder for me to handle than failure would have been. I had a hard time dealing with it. I had lived a simple life and life on the road as an entertainer is anything but simple. It's very complicated, very trying, very taxing, very tiring. I had my ups and downs, as is well documented.

What advice would you give a young person to avoid some of those pitfalls.

Johnny Cash: I heard a speaker talking about drugs, alcohol, artificial stimulation, and the instant gratification syndrome. He said, youth itself is enough to ask for, with all its fire and energy, enthusiasm, exuberance, eagerness and hunger. Youth shouldn't be clouded by any chemical or anything. Somebody my age can easily know that too, but youth is too wonderful a thing to mess with while you've got it.

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This page last revised on Aug 21, 2015 13:37 EDT
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