Scholar, entertainer, poet, hoarder: the many faces of my father Johnny Cash

Scholar, entertainer, poet, hoarder: the many faces of my father Johnny Cash
John Carter Cash

My father had many faces. There was much that made up the man. If you think you ‘know’ John R. Cash, think again. There are many layers, so much beneath the surface.

First, I knew him to be fun. Within the first six years of my life, if asked what Dad was to me I would have emphatically responded: ‘Dad is fun!’ This was my simple foundation for my enduring relationship with my father.

This is the man he was. He never lost this.

Yet there was so much more….

For one thing — he was brilliant. He was a scholar, learned in ancient texts, including those of Flavius Josephus and unquestionably of the Bible. He was an ordained minister and could easily hold his own with any theologian. His books on ancient history, such as Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, were annotated, read, reread, and worn, his very soul deeply ingrained into their threadbare pages.

Still, it could not be said that any of this — darkness, love, sadness, music, joy, addiction — wholly defined the man. He was all of these things and none of them. What could be said that speaks the essential truth? What prevails? The music, of course, but also the words.

All that made up my father is to be found in this book of newly discovered poems and song lyrics, within these ‘forever words’.

When my parents died, they left behind a monstrous amassment of ‘stuff’. They just didn’t throw anything away. Each and every thing was a treasure, but none more than my father’s handwritten letters, poems and documents, ranging through the entirety of his life. There was a huge amount of paper — his studies of the book of Job, his handwritten autobiography Man in Black, his letters to my mother, and those to his first wife, Vivian, from the 1950s. Dad was a writer, and he never ceased. His writings ranged through every stage of his life: from the poems of a naive yet undeniably brilliant 16-year-old to later comprehensive studies on the life of the Apostle Paul. The more I have looked, the more I have understood of the man.

An interesting sketch of Johnny Cash. It sounds like his son was not using the word “hoarder” in the sense people unable to even throw out trash, but just some one who attached great significance to things like letters, poetry, and other writings - and to similar memorabilia. IOW, a historian’s dream rather than a psychiatrist’s nightmare.


A man tormented maybe by his own soul…

I also agree it is an interesting sketch of Johnny Cash! I find it to be quite enlightening, since I didn’t know all of those things about him.