When I was just a young boy my mother told me son,
Always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns...
Then I sang that fateful line...
I began to sing the next line of the song... But she interrupted me.
"Daddy," she said. "What is that song?"
"It's called by Folsom Prison Blues, sweetheart."
"Did you write it?" she asked, still gazing at me through the mirror.
"No baby," I answered. "It's a song by Johnny Cash."
The look on her face went from mild concern to genuine fascination. "Sing it again!"
Johnny Cash would have turned 78 years old tomorrow (February 26) had he not died six and a half years ago. Religion was just as much a part of his life as were the drugs he abused and his revolting attitude. In many ways I see myself through the eyes of Johnny Cash, without the fame of course, and the knack for writing great songs... But more in the aspect that he and I shared that same tortured soul syndrome... With a list of bad choices made throughout our lives, but the ability to humble ourselves in the eyes of God. Johnny meant so much more to me than just a song writer. I literally looked up to him as a figure of hope when my life would fall to shambles and as a halo of light when times were good. His beacon was bright, and it carried me through many hard times. His loyalty to God did not go unnoticed, and sometimes during the bad times the combination of his voice and lyrics would bring a tear to my eye as he sang the gospel... Just as his outlaw songs might other times bring out the cause for a whiskey celebration.
Like my daughter, my introduction to Johnny Cash was through my father. I loved to sit and listen to my dad play his guitar when I was a small boy, usually around a campfire with a notebook full of song lyrics that my mother had hand written from listening to a stack of vinyl records. He would play the songs of Ernest Tubb, Kris Kristofferson, Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson. But the moment I would get most excited was when he would pick out that intro to Folsom Prison Blues on the guitar and start singing those lyrics. Anybody who happened to be sitting around the camp fire immediately seemed to fall into a hypnotic state as he sang the words... Well I hear that train a comin'.
Happy birthday, Mr. Cash. As you so eloquently sang with the Highwaymen, you may simply be a single drop of rain; but (you) will remain. And (you'll) be back again...
And again and again and again and again.