what have I become?
my sweetest friend
everyone I know
goes away in the end
and you could have it all
my empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt
(Hurt by Trent Reznor, but made perfect by Johnny Cash)
I’ve just finished Reinhard Kleist’s wonderful graphic biography of Johnny Cash – I See A Darkness and have to say it’s every bit as good as Joe said in his review last week. In fact, Joe did such a good job of reviewing it that I’m not even going to try.
Here’s some of what Joe had to say:
Anyone who’s listened to Cash’s music over the years knows his songs came out of his life; the darkness and the light were both there, he lived through them, he pretty much lived his songs. And that’s part of the point Kleist makes here, how so many people … bought into Cash because his singing is honest; you feel the raw emotion in his voice, in the early work and even in the final years.
Its a wonderful read; in fact I found after I’d finish I had to go back and re-read it more slowly and enjoyed it even more on the second reading and I know its going to be one of those special books that I go back to every so often and read once more. Its a story of a 20th century icon, a man who bestrode pretty much all normal boundaries of genre to appeal to a far wider audience and a remarkable life….. But mostly its about a man, the darkness he sees around him that almost swallows him and the lights that lead him back out the edge of the darkness (although he’d never be completely free of it), the love of his mother, his lost brother, June.
All I can say is that I agree with him completely. I See A Darkness has a wonderfully true feel - this feels like Johnny Cash’s life, every dark moment, every song, every emotion. It”s a great read.
I’d add just one thing to Joe’s review – take a little time with this and soundtrack it – set up a playlist, get all those classic Cash songs on and you’ll realise just how well Kleist captures the essence of Johnny Cash. And be sure to end the soundtrack as Kleist ends his book; with Cash’s American Recordings work with Rick Rubin. End it with Cash’s voice, cracking and fragile singing his version of Hurt. Tears should flow.
Reinhard Kleist will be at the Comica festival on Sunday 22nd November in conversation with Charles Shaar Murray.