Johnny Cash

The Life
Narrated by: Charles Pittard
Length: 21 hrs and 42 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (314 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The definitive, intimate, no-holds-barred biography of Johnny Cash.

People don't just listen to Johnny Cash - they believe in him.

Although part of his life has been told on film, there are many compelling layers to his story that have remained hidden - until now. Robert Hilburn tells the unvarnished truth about a musical icon whose personal life was far more troubled and his artistry much more profound than even his most devoted fans have realized. As music critic for the Los Angeles Times, Hilburn knew Cash well throughout his life - he was the only music journalist at the legendary Folsom Prison concert in 1968, and he interviewed him extensively just before Cash's death in 2003.

Drawing upon his personal experience with Cash and a trove of never-before seen material from the singer's inner circle, Hilburn gives us a compelling, human portrait of one of the most iconic figures in modern popular culture - not only a towering figure in country music, but also a seminal influence in rock.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2013 Robert Hilburn (P)2013 Hachette Audio

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Awesome!

Because the movie Walk the Line is my all-time favorite movie I almost didn't listen to this book thinking I knew enough of the story. I didn't know a quarter of the story. I am 39 years old and even though I am a life long country music fan I didn't know much of what was in this very complete biography of Johnny Cash. Gonna start it again now and listen again but it's just sad that it's over. The narrator does a very good job unlike some of the reviews state. Easy to listen to and enjoy and learn. I now want to go back to Hendersonville and see the grave again and visit the House of Cash museum. Already a fan this book made me a fanatic!

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great but long

It was written very well. An insight we haven't had yet. The performance made it easy to listen to. I got this on audio book because it was taking me forever to read. It was easier to follow and listen to on audio but it was still long.

I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to know Cash

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Great Book - Poor Narrator

Would you try another book from Robert Hilburn and/or Charles Pittard?

The story is well written. The Narrator was terrible. Did not sound interested In reading the story. Monotone and hesitating in many parts making the reading hard to understand.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Charles Pittard?

I would have liked to hear Grover Gardner reading this book.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Deep Voice Makes Sense to me

I adored listening to this audio book and am grateful it was made. Learning the narrative of Johnny Cash's life has made my life a better one. Suddenly I feel an awareness of the complexities of the ins and outs of living a full life, especially starting with very little, and moving on to really making something with his life. This book could not have done as much justice if it had been abbreviated.

I read this biography seeking a story that I did not find. I wanted to see if Johnny was a gambling addict, because I was writing an article I thought about gambling and I thought that would be a neat spin on it. I guess Johnny was a bit of a "gambler" but it seems moreso that he was addicted to life itself and that can't be seen as a detriment. Not that I was seeking to out Johnny, I have always loved and admired him, his voice, his music, and now I love the story that his life tells.

It seems that a big part of his success was in persistence, though he was probably the most delicious person to listen to sing I have heard of, he came from such limited means, and was even raised in a guinea pig project town, Dyess, which to my convenience sounds like "dice" (like those square objects you roll when betting.) I thought the story of the town was remarkable, which I won't give away entirely, but the race oriented picking of towns people really spoke to the times, and also Cash's ensuing open mindedness regarding people who were different from him speaks to Johnny.

When his brother died so tragically and then his father wished it had been Johnny, it surely wasn't a symptom of weak character for that to make Johnny sensitive. Not at all. Of course, Johnny would have been better off with a sympathetic, loving, father, but he made it through pretty well with the hand that he was dealt. With a budding sense of social justice that probably is his most impressive attribute, even though I am a pacifist, I was impressed by Johnny's service in the Air Force. He set out to operate those spy radios and actually became quite a success in the art of Morse code operating. Generally it is impressive when a person makes as much musical talent as Cash, but to also be a skilled spy was pretty cool.

Then adding to the joy of the story line, he was a miserable salesman. Poor guy lived a life deserving of a 22 hour book, and any person who also undergoes the complications his life had, yet comes out with such a legacy should be honored to have their story so told.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent Story, Horrible Narration

What did you like best about Johnny Cash? What did you like least?

The story was fantastic, and I learned a lot about Johnny Cash that I didn't know previously. On the down side, the narration was flat.

What did you like best about this story?

Details about Johnny Cash's personal life.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narration was flat and boring. This is the worst job of narration that I've ever heard, and I have over 200 audiobooks.

Could you see Johnny Cash being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Yes. I don't have any idea who the stars should be.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A Genuine American Artist

What did you love best about Johnny Cash?

Hilburn presents an unvarnished yet heroic tale of one of America's most outstanding artists. He brings insight to Cash's deep and abiding interest in singing, writing, family, relationships, underdogs, and gospel. He details Cash's his successes, struggles, determination, drug addled behavior, faith, falls, and resurrections. But throughout Hiburn gives us a very well written, riveting, and human story of a monumental figure in the annals of music.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The book's subject, John R. Cash.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

At times one is touched by the enormous decency of this focused and gifted man and at times one is repulsed by the depths of his addiction and its abhorrent consequences. As one reads the book, it is compelling to also pause and listen to the music he created. It is amazing that he did so much work on stage as well as in recordings even during the darkest of times. Hilburn's account, commensurate with the magnitude of his subject, evokes every form of emotion. That Johnny Cash could finish his career and his life under the supportive and inspiring umbrella of Rick Rubin and the songs they recorded is a gift for all who cherish music and musical interpretation nonpareil. That Robert Hilburn has told the personal story of music's foremost chronicler of the American experience is a gift for everyone.

Any additional comments?

While Hilburn writes of Cash's magnetism, sound, commanding performances, and ability to imbue songs with his enormous imprimatur, he does not delve much into describing that unique resonant baritone quality that instantly identifies Johnny Cash to any and all listeners. Perhaps Hilburn's understatement in this regard is understandable. Written words can describe the force and extent of the man's artistry and influence, but simply cannot describe the auditory impact of Johnny Cash's voice and music. But this book surely will motivate readers to seek out his recordings and be rewarded anew by the auditory and emotional power of Cash's sound that extends so far beyond his recognized hits. Example? Try "Danny Boy" sung as Johnny Cash, in a hoarser voice, nears the end of his life. It is a tour de force rendition of a song you thought you knew. Hilburn points out others.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • PT
  • 05-15-14

Pretty Comprehensive

What did you love best about Johnny Cash?

The writing was pretty straightforward.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No.

Any additional comments?

The voice recording was disappointing. I tried tuning it with my iPhone's equalizer settings but I couldn't get rid of enough bass.

The few times I've listened to NPR, I've marveled at how extraordinarily well their microphones transmit voice. Why can't all audio books be more like that?

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The Man Behind the Legend

What I liked best about this book was full unfiltered history about Johnny Cash. I love his music, and Walk the Line was a great movie. But to get the story about the “real” Johnny Cash was eye opening at times. It’s a story about a man who wanted to make his dad proud, a man who struggled with addiction, and nearly ruined his career because of it. Infidelity, true love, and redemption. Johnny Cash was a living American Legend, he lived hard and loved hard. And I still firmly believe after June died, his heart could not handle the strain of being alone with his rock who stuck with him through a lot of bad and a whole lot of good.

Highly recommend this book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Difficult worts and all listen for fans of Cash

I cannot fault the performance, research and skill from the author and narrator. It really is an in depth narration of the life story of the man in black Johnny Cash. That's sadly also where the problem is, are you sure you want to know these stories?

I have been a fan of Johnny Cash from my teenage years and thought I knew many of the darker stories about Cash and his troubles with drugs and dark thoughts. This book has some eye opening, deeply disturbing and sometimes distressing insights into the life of Cash. There we're several inspiring chapters, stories and events in the book but the scales unrelentingly tip towards side of Cash that don't paint him in a positive light. There are stories from this book, when learned, that cannot be unlearned and many of them you'd probably rather not know.

I don't mean to purposely deter anyone from listening to this work. Only forwarn folk who do to brace themselves to tales that may cumulatively change your image of Johnny Cash from someone you admire to someone you may not. the Author acknowledges his conflicting feelings about releasing many of these tales out to the public and I understand why. However I believe him when he says that Cash himself would have wanted the whole truth out eventually. It's up to you to decide if you want to hear it.

It's not entirely tragedy, doom and gloom and destructive behavior. There are several uplifting, funny tales and focus on the driving force and impact cash had on friends, family, peers and the public. Unfortunately everytime I would enjoy things I was hearing there would be another chapter of disturbing content ready to bring me right down again.

You may feel something different from this book than what I did, I honestly hope you do. Personally I'm gonna stick to his records and try and forget as much as I can about the deeply disappointing stuff I heard. Maybe that's unfair of me to judge and be disappointed but I can't change how I feel.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Worth the journey

Johnny Cash will always be a true legend in spite of or perhaps because of his pitfalls through life. His unending faith carried him throughout. Reading the final chapters left me with as many tearsas I had on the day I heard he has passed on. Very respectfully and lovingly written.