Johnny Cash was the first musician who made me listen past the “I don’t do Country” reflex that I and my friends developed growing up in the Bay Area in the 60s and 70s. Country was music we associated with everything we thought we weren’t, and we were just too damn cool for any plunketa plunketa stuff.
Cash blew all that away. He could flat out bring it — sex, bad boys, terrible loneliness, comedy, whatever. And the songs have such wonderful shape, two and half minutes or so with neither note nor word wasted.
So in honor of the day when he would have been 81, how about some impossibly young Johnny:
Here’s one reflecting a bit more experience, in company with June Carter, :
And one more: late Cash, with a voice so devoid of illusion it could scare the flame out of the devil:
Lots more there, of course; Cash would take on any kind of song that spoke to him, and sing with anyone who had the stuff to sing with him. Line up your own favorites in the comments.