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Johnny Cash: The Life – Reviewed By Weston Hine


“Johnny Cash: The Life” (2013) offers a definitive description of one of  America’s most beloved songwriters and performers of the twentieth century. Author Robert Hilburn is a rock music critic who wrote for the Los Angeles Times from 1970 to 2005. At an early age, Hilburn fell in love with the music of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, and his work includes every high profile band and musician from the Sex Pistols to Stevie Wonder. Hilburn has written four books devoted to the topic of rock ‘n’ roll, including “Corn Flakes With John Lennon” (2009). Just as a time capsule preserves old artifacts, Hilburn’s biography carefully preserves Johnny Cash’s winding and colorful story, and surely without leaving a single fact behind. 

I will never forget the first few times I “digested” Johnny Cash. As a millennial growing up in the South, I started listening to Cash albums through headphones when I was around 18 or 19. I had heard Cash’s hits many times before, but you never fully know something until you are alone with it. I immediately connected with his tunes. The somber narrative, combined with a commanding vocal, cuts straight to the heart and gut. For these reasons I was elated to find “Johnny Cash: The Life” under the tree last Christmas and started reading. What I found most compelling about this book was the straight-to-the-point story telling. Hilburn doesn’t waste a second of a reader’s time with any fluff, and provides an unveiled look at a star who had many ups and downs in his life, just like any person might have. As a reader and an artist, I found myself rooting for Cash throughout many of the pages, even if I happened to disagree with his actions or antics. My takeaway from “Johnny Cash: The Life”, is this: Don’t waste your life. Feel every moment. Don’t be afraid to take risks and certainly don’t let other people control your outlook or life decisions. I think on an artistic level the book also taught me to trust my gut because, without that artistic intuition, we might not have Cash’s “At Folsom Prison” live album to listen to, and I don’t think I want to live in a world missing out on Cash’s brilliance!


Weston Hine grew up in Panama City Beach. A fulltime musician who now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, Wes fronts the rock band MYFEVER (www.myfeverband.com). He enjoys time with friends and family, and his dog Wilco. Like book ends, reading frames the beginning and ending of his day. He starts in the morning with a few scripture passages, followed by the news, and then ends with some relaxing reading before bed. As a musician and artist, Wes enjoys rock and roll biographies in particular.

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