As Johnny Cash’s 86th birthday approaches on Feb. 26, I realized something sadder than the fact that a chlamydia epidemic is currently ravaging Australia’s koala population: Not that many people know who Johnny Cash is, and those who do don’t fanatically love him like I do.
Take, for instance, how my previous columns in praise of Johnny Cash have been received. In response to my Feb. 24, 2017, column titled “Fact: Johnny Cash is the Greatest Musician Ever,” a certain anonymous Internet vagabond known only by the assumed name Goldie ’08 left several pedantic comments. One included a list of 16 musicians Goldie deemed superior to Johnny. Unfortunately, Goldie referred to them only by surname, so I really have no idea who any of them are, with the exception of “Pastorious,” whom I assume to be Olympic sprinter and convicted murderer Oscar Pastorious. I would find his inclusion on this list utterly baffling, but it confirms my hunch that Goldie isn’t the sharpest toothpick in the redneck’s gummy mouth. And how many upvotes did Goldie get? Zero. And they probably deserved fewer than that. Comment on this article, Goldie! I dare you! I’ve got a whole army of Yugoslavian trolls with fake Disqus accounts just waiting to take over the Yale Daily News website.
Even more alarming, though, is the youths’ ignorance of Johnny Cash’s artistic supremacy. Throughout last semester, as part of the YDN’s heeling process — the process by which reporters join our staff; it’s like being initiated into a cult, but with more work — fresh-faced heelers came to the WKND Lounge to ask me and my co-editors questions about ourselves. Of course, they were assigned what questions to ask, and I wrote all of the questions, so they were all about me. One of them was a layup for anyone with minimal electrical activity in their brain: Who is Josh’s favorite musician? For some reason, everyone guessed Beyoncé. I don’t even know who that is. It sounds like a shampoo brand. Whenever I finally told them, after progressively more specific clues — he’s a country singer, his surname is a synonym for money, he was born in Kingsland, Arkansas, on Feb. 26, 1932 — the majority of these bowl-cut-bearing twerps sat there slack-jawed. They had no idea who Johnny Cash is. And this, dear reader, is why potbellied Baby Boomers say we’re snowflakes, and also why Hillary lost the election.
I decided to raise awareness about an issue that hasn’t been getting a lot of coverage in the mainstream media — Johnny Cash erasure. For some reason, Johnny Cash is gradually being erased from popular culture in favor of living people who can lip sync at the Super Bowl halftime show. I figured Johnny’s birthday would be the perfect occasion to make my stand. And, since WKND is the only semblance of a platform I have, I decided to appropriate an entire issue in celebration of Johnny Cash.
First, I had to secure Johnny Cash-related content for the issue. I did what any intrepid journalist would do and Googled “johnny cash yale.” I was at once surprised, honored and deeply disappointed to find that the first two results were columns I had written in praise of Johnny. The only other items of interest that came up were a few miscellaneous news articles detailing how, in the ’90s, Johnny actually performed at Toad’s Place with the Whiffenpoofs. It was truly the nadir of his career.
But I remembered that Johnny had a son, appropriately named John Carter Cash, who probably didn’t have much going on and might be available for an interview for our Backstage section. I sent him a gushing message on his website, in which I asserted that I was “his father’s #1 fan,” “pathologically passionate about Johnny” and that I “would not be ignored.” A few days later, I received a reply from his PR lackey informing me that an interview would not be possible. Now, I could turn this entire column into a polemic against John Carter Cash — how he’s sanitized his father’s life to make it more marketable; how “Out Among the Stars,” the album he compiled of unreleased music by Johnny, was abysmal and a clear money grab; how he’s a ginger — but I refuse to do so because I’m classy and emotionally mature. I will say, though, that Johnny would be very disappointed in h his son. And that Rosanne is the most talented of the Cash siblings.
What options did I have left? What more could I do? If you want something done right, dear reader, you have to do it yourself. That’s why I’m writing this column — to inform you that this is, in fact, the YDN’s official Johnny Cash issue, and also to let you know that this is the full extent of our exclusive Johnny Cash-related content.
While I’ve got your attention, though, I should also educate you with a few facts about Johnny Cash:
Fact #1: He is generally regarded as the most important musician of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
Fact #2: His daddy left home when he was three and he didn’t leave much to his ma and him, just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze. Now, we can’t blame him ’cause he run and hid, but … you get the idea.
Fact #3: At the moment of his birth, an angel clothed in flannel burst into his family’s RV and handed the newborn Johnny an obviously regifted guitar. Though disappointed that the angel hadn’t put more effort into the present, baby Johnny proceeded to play the gee-tar with his preternaturally hairy and man-sized hands while singing in his trademark bass-baritone voice.
So happy birthday, Mr. Cash! While I am no angel swaddled in a lumbersexual getup, I hope you will accept this column as my gift to you, and that you may read this WKND issue as you utilize Heaven’s nicest outhouse, and that it may make you more proud than John Carter Cash ever has.
Joshua Baize | firstname.lastname@example.org