I got to work this morning to find out that Johnny Cash was dead.
I don't know if people realize how profoundly Johnny Cash has changed our culture and reached out to millions. Back when country music was well on its way to becoming just a commodity of the recording industry, there were only a few rebels who insisted on creating music that could express the beauty and agony of life without compromise. Johnny Cash was one of those rebels, donning black garb while most of his contemporaries were dressed in rhinestones. While he was never really a rock musician, his brash, hellraising attitude--as well as his early Sun Records releases--proved formidable in the shaping of rock and roll. His music was always aimed at the outlaws and the outcasts, the poor of money and the poor of spirit, eager to lift us all up through the power of his songs.
Old legends die so that new ones may be born. I don't know who'll be the next one, or when we'll know, but this loss will fade as a new generation, emboldened by Cash's contributions to the world, rise up and carries off a bit of the darkness on their own backs.
Tonight, I'm buring a candle for Johnny, and then I'm going to play Mojo Nixon's "Let's Go Burn Ole Nashville Down". If Johnny Cash is still around in some form, I think he'd appreciate it, and cast one last defiant middle finger at the soul-stripping machine before ascending to glory.