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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: 4 / 4)

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  Johnny Cash

Was there a teacher that particularly inspired you? Was school important to you?

Johnny Cash: Yeah, I graduated from high school in 1950, in a little town in Arkansas. Actually, it was the biggest, what they call, cooperative school in the state.

I graduated from high school in 1950, in a little town in Arkansas. Actually, it was the biggest, what they call, cooperative school in the state. For a small country town, there were 1,100 students in this school. And I graduated as the vice president of my class. I wasn't all that high scholastically, because I was writing a lot of poems, and stories, and songs at the time, and I should have been studying more. But school was really important for me. And I was so disappointed in my self that I didn't make really good grades in math. In all the other subjects I did very well. But school was really important to me. My parents -- my mother and father -- I think they had an eighth grade education, which was adequate for what they did with their lives then. But they wanted me -- and they drilled in me -- I had to graduate from high school.

College was another hope that was almost unattainable for a cotton farm boy. There was no money for college, and the Korean War was breaking out, so I joined the Air Force.

Would you tell a kid today that school is important?

Johnny Cash Interview Photo
Johnny Cash: I've probably had the equivalent of college in the roads I've traveled since then, but it would have been great to go from high school right into college to study music and literature.

What are your goals now?

Johnny Cash: I don't set my goals too high now, at this time in my life. My goals are just to live each day and to keep doing what we're doing. June and I work hard and we travel more than we really want to, but we're doing exactly what we really want to do with our lives right now. It may not be the case a year from now, or five years from now, but right now we're doing what we want to do with our lives.

We do a little acting. We did a TV western that both of us were in. We've done seven movies of the week for television, and we still do that once in a while. We do TV specials. We have an appearance coming up in Washington for the Fourth of July celebration. Things like that, and like the Academy of Achievement, are high points of the year for us.

Can you talk about what your marriage has meant to you?

Johnny Cash: The big thing about the music in my life, we shared it. We have a sharing marriage, and we share the road, we share the bedroom, we share the backstage, onstage, we share the music, the feeling, and the emotion, and the joy of it, you know. And the pain and the sadness of it. We share the love of our children. It would be terribly lonely not to have someone to share those things with me. And she's not only a lady who I share my life with, but she may have been the person responsible for my still being alive. She and God. Because she came along at a time in my life that I was on self-destruct, and she saw what I was doing to myself and she helped bring me back up out of it. And we've fought and worked hard to keep our feet on the ground since then. But like I say, today is a good day.

If you could talk to someone you never met but had admired, who would that be and what would you talk about?

Johnny Cash Interview Photo
Johnny Cash: I would like to have been on the mountain when Jesus was preaching. I would like to have been listening. It's great to still have his words. I would like to have talked to John Wilkes Booth, and asked him "Why?" to satisfy my own curiosity. I'd like to talk to Pontius Pilate. I'd like to talk to the Apostle Paul. I'd like to talk to King John, at the time of the Magna Carta, and see what the reaction of the common people was.

The Bible is very important to you.

Johnny Cash: I wrote a book called Man In Black, and I dedicated it to E.J. Carter. That's my wife's father, who taught me to love the Word. He was a theologian and he got me into Bible history, and the Bible commentaries. I discovered the joy of discovering spiritual truths, and it is a great joy. The Bible is the source of the greatest joy.

What impact has that had on you?

Johnny Cash: It's a great moral stabilizer in a world that's run amok. It's an anchor for my own conscience, my own mind and my own life. It keeps my feet on the ground. It gives the answer to every problem you're facing, if you look for it.

Johnny Cash Interview Photo

It answers the question: Why?

Johnny Cash: God loves us. That's why he created us and gave us free will. Kind of like a farmer watching his chickens to see what they're going to do. It desires that we all come back to him. That's the way I think, that's my God.

I've heard you recite "The Cowboy's Prayer." Could you tell us what that means to you?

Johnny Cash: It was written by a guy named Badger Clark, in the '30s. I don't remember it all by heart. But you can get the spirit of it:

"Lord, I've never lived where churches grow.
I've loved creation better as it stood.
The day you finished it so long ago,
You looked upon your work and called it good.
Others seemed to find you in the light
That sifted down through tinted windowpanes
And yet I feel your presence here tonight
In this dim, quiet starlight on the plains."

That's part of "The Cowboy's Prayer."

That speaks of nature and God's presence.

Johnny Cash: Yes. Someone told me another definition of God is "Great Outdoors."

What characteristics are most important for success?

Johnny Cash: I could go by a lot of catch phrases like, "Know your own self," "To thine own self be true." Self-esteem and perseverance and confidence are all important, but the first thing is to know what you want to do. Set that goal out there and never lose sight of it, and work toward it. And know that there are going to be byways and sidetracks, but keep persevering and keep on, and do what you know that you want to do.

How do you know what you want to do?

Johnny Cash: A person knows when it just seems to feel right to them, something they want to do. Feeling has still got a lot to do with it.

Instinct is a very important thing to you.

Johnny Cash: Instinct is vital, yes. Listen to your heart.

Thank you so much for speaking with us today.

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