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Johnny Cash: Remix

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird 

 

selective focus photo of guitar

Photo by Agung Pandit Wiguna on Pexels.com

Johnny Cash’s mother Carrie said to Johnny at age 15:  “You’ve got a gift, JR. You’re going to sing. God’s got his hand on you. You’re going to carry the message of Jesus Christ.”(1)  Cash saw the song ‘I walk the Line’ as his first Gospel hit.  He sang it not just to his wife, but also to God. (2)  His mother Carrie always believed in her son even through the worst of his addictions.  Sadly Johnny’s alcoholic father did not know how to bless his son.  When his older brother died tragically, his father unfairly blamed Johnny, saying “Too bad it wasn’t you instead of Jack.” (3)

Johnny Cash was a seventeen-time Grammy winner who sold more than 90 million albums in his lifetime.(4)  But his life was full of tragedy and heartbreak.  Johnny Cash self-medicated for much of his musical career, saying: “You know, I’ve had my years in the wilderness, had my years when the demons crawled up my back. That was only when the drugs started, and they’ve gone away now…I had to finally accept it, you know, that God thought there was something worth saving, so who was I to say, ‘You’re wrong?.’ I had to accept it and go along with it, and that’s what I did.”(5)

Cash said that he used drugs to escape but it devastated him, making it impossible to communicate with God.  Amphetamines and alcohol were literally killing him.  Cash admitted: “you’re on the suicide track when you’re doing what I was doing.”(6)

Through his addictions, many family members and co-workers were deeply hurt.  As part of his recovery, Johnny Cash worked hard to rebuild many destroyed relationships.  His son John Carter Cash said: “When Dad returned from the Betty Ford Center, he had a new lease on life, a new direction. Like the Apostle Paul, the scales were pulled from his eyes.” (7)  As Cash sang about painful broken relationships, many identified with his struggles.  Bob Dylan said of him: “If we want to know what it means to be mortal, we need look no further than the Man in Black.”(8) Cash was described as the poet for the common person: the cotton picker, the gravedigger, the roughneck, the coal miner, the train engineer, the lumberjack, the spike driver.(9)

 Cash’s music spoke up for the voiceless, the rejected, the abandoned, and the prisoner.  Who can forget when he did a live album in Folsom Prison? Time Magazine said that “Cash and his songs are rooted in the basic of country life: the land, lost loves, wanderlust, the seasons, lonely trains hooting across the still prairie night, preachers, prison and Sweet Jesus and home sweet home.”(10)

A major part of his recovery was the relentless love of his wife June Carter Cash. Johnny Cash said of June: “She loves me in spite of everything, in spite of myself…She’s always been there with her love and it certainly made me forget the pain for a long time many times.”(11)  June often flushed his drugs down the toilet, and prayed for him when he was near death with an overdose.  She and Johnny’s mother were there waiting for him when he pulled out of a suicidal tailspin at Nickajack Cave near Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Another key to Johnny Cash’s recovery was the loyal friendship of the late Billy Graham.  John Carter said: “When my father fell short, he could always reach out to Billy Graham.  Billy didn’t judge my father.  He was there as his friend unconditionally.  Billy would lift him up, support him and say, ‘You can do this. Stand back up. You know who you are.’”  He and June would eventually share and sing at nearly three dozen Billy Graham Crusades in front of nearly two million people. (12)

Many people don’t know that Cash wrote a novel about the apostle Paul, saying: “If God could embrace an avowed and bloodthirsty enemy of his son Jesus Christ, he’d make a place for Johnny Cash.”(13)  Few were aware that he was an ordained minister, even performing weddings, including  one for his daughter Kathy.(14)  Johnny Cash commented: “The Master of Life’s been good to me…He gives me strength to face past illnesses, and victory in the face of defeat.  He has given me life and joy where others saw oblivion.”(15)

In the last ten years of his life, Johnny Cash came back to his creative roots and was rediscovered by the younger generation of musicians.  Bono of U2 commented: “To me, Johnny Cash –with all his contradictions– was a quintessential character of the scriptures, or at least of the characters in the Bible that interested me. If God had time for these flawed characters, then God had time for me.” Bono said that he would rather spend a day with Johnny Cash than a week with most other pop artists. (16) Bob Dylan said: “Listen to (Cash) and he always brings you to your senses. He rises high above all, and he ‘ll never die or be forgotten, even by persons not born yet –especially those persons…”(17) As an artist, Johnny Cash wanted to make records that made a difference.

Johnny Cash finished well.  His last producer Rick Rubin drew out that which was best and truest about Johnny Cash, particularly in the video  Hurt.  Cash noted: “Rick saw something in me that I didn’t know was there anymore.”(18)  Johnny Cash rediscovered what made him tick musically. Rick Rubin commented: “When I asked artists what they admired about Cash, that’s what they often mentioned –that vulnerable, hurt aspect, that man who wouldn’t give up.”(19)  Bono said that Hurt was perhaps the best video ever made.(20)  It was raw and real.  Cash’s unshakable faith in Christ shone through this remarkable video.  His daughter Rosanne commented: “It’s so unflinching and brave and that’s what you are. I thought it was an enormously courageous . It was a work of art, excruciatingly truthful.”(21)

My prayer for those reading this article is that we like Johnny Cash may finish well, that we may be creative and faithful until the end of our lives.

 

 Hurt Video with Johnny Cash

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published for the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

(1) Robert Hilburn, Johnny Cash: the Life ( Little, Brown & Company, New York, NY, 2013), p. 23.

(2) Hilburn, p. 104.

(3) Hilburn, p. 20.

(4) Reinhard Kleist,Johnny Cash: I See the Darkness (Abrams ComiArts, New York, NY, 2009), p. inside Cover

(5) Johnny Cash: My Mother’s Hymn Book CD and notes, p. 15.

(6) Cash by the Editors of Rolling Stone, edited by Jason Fine (Crown Publishing, New York, NY, 2004 ), p. 162-163.

(7) John Carter Cash , House of Cash: The Legacies of My Father Johnny Cash. ( Insight Editions , San Rafael , CA, 2011), p. 73.

(8) Cash, edited by Jason Fine, p. 205.

(9) Michael Streissguth, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: the making of a masterpiece (Da Capo Press, Cambridge, MA, 2004),  pp. 13, 27.

(10) Hilburn, p. 363.

(11) Hilburn, p. 606.

(12) Hilburn, p. 370, p. 375.

(13) Hilburn, p. 506.

(14) John Carter Cash, p. 59.

(15)  Johnny Cash: American III: Solitary Man, 2000, CD liner.

(16) Cash, edited by Jason Fine, p. 139.;Hilburn, p. 538.

(17) Hilburn, p. 628.

(18)  Cash, edited by Jason Fine, p. 149.

(19) Hilburn, p. 546.

(20) Hilburn, p. 629.

(21) Hilburn, p. 603.


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Lessons I’ve learned from Steve Jobs

by Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

 

Like Steve Jobs, I grew up at a time when huge mainframe computers would fill entire rooms.  The concept of having one’s own personal computer was unthinkable.   In Palo Alto the future Silicon Valley where Jobs grew up, virtually everyone was an engineer or worked in electronics.[i]  My dream from Grade 3 to Grade 10 was to be an electrical engineer like my father.  I will never forget when my dad gave me my first microprocessor, replacing the old vacuum tubes.   While completing my Masters in 1980, I submitted two papers written on the University of British Columbia mainframe.  My professor commented that this was the first computer paper that he had ever read, but not likely his last.

In reading Walter Isaacson’s recent Steve Jobs biography, I was inspired to think about lessons that we might learn from Jobs’ life.  Jobs was a world-changer, a revolutionary, and an artist.  One of his maxims was “It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy.”  Jobs once even hoisted a Jolly Roger flag with the eye patch being the Apple logo.   He commented: “we were the renegades and we wanted people to know it.”[ii]

Jobs had a genius for creativity, innovation and excellence.  ‘Good enough’ for Jobs was not good enough.  He wanted people to stretch, to dream and to risk everything on the next technological breakthrough.  Jobs said: “There’s an old Wayne Gretzsky quote that I love.  I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”[iii]  Curiosity and the joy of discovery propelled Jobs to imagine the unimaginable.  Through Pixar, iPod, and iPhone, Jobs radically reshaped movies, music and phones.  I remember the buzz of waiting in line at Park Royal Shopping Centre in West Vancouver for the iPhone 4.  I was given the eighth of the eight phones delivered that day.  A lady from the jewelry store rushed over and told me that this would change my life. It felt somewhat over the top but she proved to be right. Using my iPhone probably shaved about one to two years off my doctorate.

Jobs had a remarkable gift at integrating technology and beauty, science and art.  Robert Palladino, a former monk teaching calligraphy at Reed College, radically shaped Jobs’ passion for design.  Bill Gates once said: “I would give a lot to have Steve’s taste.”[iv]

Like his Microsoft rival Bill Gates, Jobs was a technological rock star.  Eight times, he was on the cover of Time, over twelve times on the cover of Fortune, as well as the covers of Rolling Stone and Newsweek.  Bono called Jobs the hardware/software Elvis.[v]  Bill Gates once said: “Don’t you understand that Steve [Jobs] doesn’t know anything about technology?  He’s just a super salesman… He doesn’t know anything about engineering and 99% of what he says and thinks is wrong….”[vi]

In the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, Jobs accused Gates of stealing ideas from Apple.  Gates memorably responded: “Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”[vii]

Ejected from his own company Apple, Jobs picked himself up and dusted himself off, going on to a stunning financial success with Pixar’s Toy Story movie.  When Jobs returned to Apple, the company was very demoralized, just ninety days from bankruptcy.  Jobs rallied the troops, insightfully saying: “Apple didn’t have to beat Microsoft. Apple had to remember who Apple was.”[viii]

Our greatest weaknesses are often hidden in our greatest strengths.  Jobs’ passion for excellence often made him very painful to work with.  Many of his personal and business relationships were unable to survive his aggressive zeal for innovation.  Jobs’ ability to silently stare and then blow up at people allowed him to weed out unsuitable colleagues.  Karen Blumenthal commented that “he could be both charming and gratingly abrasive, sensitive and stunningly mean-spirited.”[ix]  Gates jokingly once said: “Steve is so known for his restraint.”[x]   In some ways, he was a Samson figure, talented and tortured.  At age 23, he abandoned his own child Lisa, denying his paternity, the same age that his birth parents gave him away.  Only fourteen years later, after naming a computer after her, did Jobs bring Lisa back into his life.[xi]

Raised in church, Jobs described his becoming disenchanted when the pastor seemed callous about the suffering of African children.  How sad that the pastor did not challenge Jobs to join him in making a practical difference in Africa.  The malnutrition of African children doesn’t have to be that way.  We can be Jesus’ hands and feet.  Steve and his good friend Bill Fernandez spent many hours walking and discussing spiritual matters: “We were both interested in the spiritual side of things, the big questions: who are we? What is it all about? What does it mean?”[xii]

Perhaps one of the best influences in Jobs’ life was Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.  Jobs and Wozniak’s partnership integrated the hippie and the nerd, bringing together vision and know-how.   Without Wozniak, there would have been no Apple.  Woz remarkably said that Jobs had been respectful to him on almost every occasion.  Ronald Wayne, another Apple co-founder commented: “Wozniak was a fascinating guy, fun to be with and the most gracious guy I ever met.”[xiii] Steve Wozniak observed: “Although I never went to church, I was influenced occasionally by stories about Christian things; values like the idea of turning the other cheek. If somebody does something bad to you, you don’t fight back. You’re still good to them and treat them with love from your heart. Values of caring about the communities I grew up in, the schools that I went to, the cities I lived in; putting proper value on that. Values of respecting other people; not being a criminal or stealing.”[xiv]  Woz embodied Jesus’ Golden rule to do unto others as we would have them do to us.

My ultimate lesson from the Apple co-founders is to be like Jobs in innovation while being like Woz in respecting people.

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


[i] Steve Jobs: the last thing PBS movie, 1999.

[ii] Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs (Simon & Schuster, New York , NY, 2011) P. 144-145.

[iii] Anthony Imbimbo, Steve Jobs: the Brilliant Mind Behind Apple (Gareth Stevens Publishing, Pleasantville, NY, 2009) Steve Jobs: the last thing PBS movie, 1999, p. 97.

[iv] Steve Jobs: the last thing PBS movie, 1999

[v] Karen Blumenthal, Steve Jobs: the Man who thought different (Fiewel and Friends, New York, NY, 2012), p. 263, p. 278.

[vi] Isaacson, p. 302.

[vii] Andy Hertzfeld,  A Rich Neighbor Named Xerox,  November 1983 http://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?story=A_Rich_Neighbor_Named_Xerox.txt (accessed Feb 10th 2014)

[viii] Steve Jobs: the last thing PBS movie, 1999.

[ix] Blumenthal, p. 2.

[x] Steve Jobs: the last thing PBS movie, 1999

[xi] Laura Collins, Daily Mail, UK, “Steve Job’s ex-lover’s book reveals Apple founder”, October 29th 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2478339/Steve-Jobs-ex-lovers-book-reveals-Apple-founder.html (accessed Feb 10th 2014)

[xii] Blumenthal, p. 13.

[xiii] Steve Jobs: the last thing PBS movie, 1999

[xiv] “An Interview with Steve Wozniak”, http://www.thetech.org/exhibits/online/revolution/wozniak/i_b.html (accessed Feb 10th 2014)