Recently I listened to the Garden & Gun magazine podcast Whole Hog. It was episode 3 of season 2 and was entitled “Rosanne Cash’s Arrow to the South” and host John Huey speaks with Cash about storytelling; the influence of her father, Johnny Cash; speaking up politically; and the ability of songs to mean something different to each listener. They also discussed her memoir, Composed, so I checked it out at the library.
I’m a faithful listener of this podcast. Frankly, I could listen to John Huey, former editor-in-chief, Time Inc., read the back of a shampoo bottle. I love his voice. But more importantly, I love the questions he asks of guests with a way of opening a dialogue that makes you realize you never thought of something that way before.
I follow Rosanne on Twitter. I’ve read her New York Times opinion piece and am totally in agreement with her dislike of Trump. Is hatred of him too strong a word? I don’t think so. I also read the two articles in Rolling Stone magazine about the use of her dad’s name on a tee shirt worn by a Neo-Nazi and a white nationalist radio show. I applaud her for standing up for that nonsense.
There was some of the book that I didn’t really know a lot about what she was talking about in regards to the music industry such as mixing music, being in the studio, etc. But that didn’t matter much.
I enjoyed reading about her life in trying to be independent of the large effect her father’s life and influence had on her. She includes the eulogies she wrote for her mother and father’s funeral and they are hauntingly beautiful.
But, If I’m honest I’ll tell you that I never really listened to that much of Roseanne’s music. Oh, I remember her hits from the 80s and 90s and liked them and have them downloaded to my iPhone. My favorite is Seven Year Ache but I also love Burn Down This Town from the Black Cadillac album. But I’m talking about her other music. The music she writes about that changed her life in her book. That’s the music I haven’t heard. Those are the lyrics that haven’t spoken to me as they spoken to her. But now, after reading her memoir, I want to listen. I want to hear the words that made her write so eloquently in her book that moved me to tears. Words that hit me in my heart such as the ones quoted below. Words that I could have sworn I wrote myself.
“It was never too late to undo who you had become.”
“I have taken every sorrow in my life to the ocean – the deaths of my parents, my grandparent, my aunts and uncles, friends who died untimely deaths, my stepsister Rosey, and my best friend from eighth grade, the baby that never came to term, the broken relationships, divorce, the terror of the addictions of those I love – I have taken all of it to the sea. I have performed many rituals of release while immersed in salt water or walking on the shore. The ocean, for me, is what those in a twelve-step programs call a Higher Power.”
“We all need art and music like we need blood and oxygen. The more exploitative, numbing, and assaulting popular culture become, the more we need the truth of a beautifully phrased song, dredged from a real person’s depth of experience, delivered in an honest voice, the more we need the simplicity of paint on canvas, or the arc of a lonely body in the air, or the photographer’s unflinching eye. Art, in the larger sense, is the lifeline to which I cling to in a confusing, unfair, sometimes dehumanizing world. In my childhood, the nuns and priests insisted, sometimes in a shrill and punitive tone, that religion was where God resided and where I might find transcendence. I was afraid that they were correct for so many years, and that I was the one at fault for not being able to navigate the circuitry of dogma and ritual. For me, it turned out to be a decoy, a mirage framed in sound and fury. Art and music have proven to be more expansive, more forgiving, and more immediately alive. For me, art is a more trust-worthy expression of God than religion.”