Music

Rosanne Cash: More Than Just a Legend's Daughter

Photo of Rosanne Cash found on The Chicago Reader

Rosanne Cash’s lyricism plays on the page as if she’s on stage with guitar in hand. You can hear the music as you read. PopMatters Jaime Karnes talks with this gifted writer of songs and stories.

In her introduction to her memoir Cash writes, “I dream of songs. I dream they fall down through centuries, from my distant ancestors, and come to me”. In many ways this memoir unfolds like a dream—seamlessly transitioning from one memory to the next like the best authors of our time—and you will fall into this book as easily as one of her albums.

If you’re expecting a tell all – a confessional from Johnny Cash’s daughter – don’t bother with this memoir. If you’re expecting the sadness or the whole, raw truth in the likes of Joan Didion or Elizabeth McCracken, this memoir may not be for you. However, if you love Johnny Cash, if you love Rosanne’s music and want a good story, Composed: A Memoir is lyrical and insightful and full of beautiful memories.

Cash knew, at a young age, that she “was a writer”, and that writing “would save her”. When she asked a deliveryman (carrying cakes, pies, tarts, and breads) how he brought his truck home at night and resisted the urge to eat its contents, he said “Well, if you’re around it all day, you want to get away from it when you go home,” and followed it with “Does your daddy sit around and sing all day when he comes off the road?” Rosanne’s answer: Well, no. But she recognizes now (and even then) that “it’s not just the singing you bring home,” that it’s “the constant measuring of ideas and words if you’re a songwriter, and the daily handling of your instrument if you are a musician, and the humming and scratching and pushing and testing of the voice, the revealing in the melodies if you are a singer.”

Book: Composed: A Memoir

Author: Rosanne Cash

Publisher: Penguin

Publication date: 2010-08

Format: Hardcover

Length: 245 pages

Price: $26.95

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/book_cover_art/k/karnes-composed-cvr.jpgCash’s lyricism plays on the page as if she’s on stage with guitar in hand. You can hear the music as you read.

What's surprising are the relationships in the book. Cash and her father. Cash and her mother. Cash and the Carters. Her memories are vivid and rendered with a certainty that this is not the family we may have presupposed; not the people of the 2005 movie Walk the Line. For example, after her apartment was robbed in her early 20s, everything taken from her, her father sent her “a new piece of jewelry every week…a pair of pearl earrings would be accompanied by a note saying ‘My love is more precious than pearl earrings.’”

This memoir, Cash has said, started as a series of essays. She put the pieces together, and surprising (even to her), she had a story to tell. This story is not the story of a drug addicted absentee father and the lonely journey of his daughter. Instead, it’s quite the opposite. Johnny was integral in her formation as both a young woman finding her way in the world and as a father. Why would we question that? Because a movie said that was the truth? The truth, if you want it, is in the pages of this book: a coming of age story in the very best sense.

Vocal polyps prompted its writing, she admits. She couldn’t sing; thus, another outlet was found. Brain surgery gave her a sense of her life being “more than half over”, and because of that we have this honest, yet restrained account of the daughter one the most beloved and influential musicians of the 20th century.

Cash admits, “Documenting one’s life in the midst of living is a strange pursuit.” She always “wanted to live as beginner, and writing a memoir in some ways defies that notion”. Yet Cash doesn’t consider this a finished story. It’s “ongoing” and “there’s more to come…more is always to come.”

This memoir feels like a testimony: to music, motherhood, love, and the resilience of an artist. Reading it is like a dream. The kind you wake from and remember and scribble on a piece of paper so as never to forget.

Next Page
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.