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Johnny Cash- A singer for the common man

by John G. Miller

MANAGING EDITOR

It's been more than a week now since we lost Johnny Cash.

It's amazing how little you realize how some people affected you until they're gone.

Cash was by all accounts a complex individual, but he had the talent to write and sing songs for the common man.

He did so in a fashion "us" common folk could appreciate. He didn't have the greatest voice. He wasn't the best-looking guy. And his all-black outfits didn't make him the best dressed.

But he was one of us. He sang songs we could identify with. He was one of the first singers I remember listening to as I was growing up.

From "I Walk the Line" to "Folsom Prison Blues," Cash had the ability to capture your attention with that gravel-like voice that drew you to the words of the song.

The past few days I can't seem to get his songs out of my head. There were so many: "Boy Name Sue," "Ring of Fire," "Sunday Morning Coming Down," "Ragged Old Flag," "Ballad of a Teenage Queen," "One Piece at a Time," "Hey, Porter," "Daddy Sang Bass" and "Long Black Veil."

I'm sure there are many, many others that you can remember.

It's hard to pick a favorite. I really like "Ragged Old Flag," for its pure patriotic message. The words paint a clear picture of love of country.

I also enjoyed the songs he sang as part of "The Highwaymen," a collaboration of country greats Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Cash. The songs "Highwayman" and "Desperados Waiting on a Train" are two that come to mind.

But of all the songs I've heard Cash sing, my favorite is a gospel classic, "Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)?" His rendition sends a chill through me each time I hear it.

That's the type of singer he was. He could make you feel the pain, the anguish, the love, the joy.

He didn't hide behind glamour or glitz. He bared his soul with each and every song.

As well-documented, Cash had his demons. The evils of drugs, booze and the like were his weaknesses.

But his strength, as outlined in "Cash: The Autobiography," was his faith in God.

In life, as in his songs, Cash was human. He had his faults. And he had his faith.

And he didn't mind sharing. Through his life, through his songs, he touched many of us.

As a eulogy to Cash, one of the many Web sites on the man listed a few lyrics from the song "Highwayman." It seems to fit:

"I'll fly a starship across the universe divide

And when I reach the other side

I'll find a place to rest my spirit if I can

Perhaps I may become a highwayman again

Or I may simply be a single drop of rain

But I will remain

And I'll be back again, and again, and again, and again, and again"

Johnny Cash the man may be gone, but his soul will live on forever.

Managing Editor John G. Miller can be reached at 626-1473 or by e-mail at jmiller@exponent-telegram.com