Today is the 80th birthday of Johnny Cash. I was raised on the man in black and when I was little, I was told that the song The Last Gunfighter Ballad (written by Guy Clark) was about my ancestor, rancher (and possible outlaw in his youth) Tap Duncan. The story laid out in the song and the actual last days of Tap’s life match up pretty well from a structural standpoint, but there is no actual evidence outside similarity that proves he was the inspiration. Still, as I child I bought it completely and would listen to the song constantly. Even now it holds a special place in my heart, because even if it’s not actually about Tap Duncan, it still is to me. Some other time, I’ll write about Tap and his influence on western culture, but here’s his ballad to keep you in the meantime.
There are a couple of books that I’d like to suggest that most people who dig Cash might not normally pick up but are really nice. The first is Cash: An American Man which provides a nice peek into Johnny’s life by Bill Miller, who was a friend of Cash.
Also, there is the graphic novel Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness by Reinhard Kleist. This book is wonderful and the only thing I don’t like about it is that I did not make it.
And since we’re here honoring the man, I also suggest giving a little time to this video of his last public performance.
Oh! Also, here is a link to a bunch of rarely seen photos from Time Magazine.