I have a desk job, and my work is pretty solitary. I can go a whole day without saying a word to anyone. So, my lifesaver is my Dell DJ (think iPod, but made by Dell). Well, the other day, good ole Johnny Cash popped up on the playlist, and a strange thing happened. I got really emotional. I had to actually hold back tears. For the life of me I could not understand why.
See, I think of Johnny Cash as one of the first punk rockers. To me, punk is pretty much anything that says Fuck You to the status quo. I don’t mean in an ignorant, mohawk, anarchy type way, either. I mean those who passionately speak for the underdog, the poor, and the disaffected. It’s kind of hard to explain, but I know it when I see it. Johnny has too many songs to list about prisoners, workers, racism, war, take your pick. As you can see, I don’t necessarily define punk by the sound. So in my punk worldview, Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, Public Enemy are punk rock, Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, Fall Out Boy, and New Found Glory are definitely not. In fact, they are the opposite of punk, whatever that is. You may disagree with me, but you shouldn’t, because I am right.
I should also mention that I truly do love Johnny Cash. It’s become quite cliché lately to love Johnny Cash. I mean who doesn’t, right? The same thing happened a couple of years ago with Sinatra. But my love goes beyond the later American Recordings albums and “Ring of Fire”, and I’ll love him when the hipsters move on to the next retro-cool artist. I’m not trying to be elitist; it’s just a simple fact that a large percentage of Johnny Cash fans have only probably heard a few songs, but they know they should like him, so they say they do.
What was I talking about again?
Oh yeah, so how does this old school punker Johnny Cash get me weepy?
I’m still trying to figure that out. So far, I have three theories.
Theory Number One is that this guy I love is dead. And hearing him reminds me of that, same as when I listen to the Ramones or The Clash. It reminds me of my own mortality, and that’s not exactly a cheery notion.
Theory Number Two has to do with my parents. My mom and dad listening to “I Walk The Line” on the record player is my earliest memory involving music. They, like Johnny, are both now gone. You do the math.
Theory Number Three is the sheer beauty and simplicity of the music and lyrics. Today’s lame emo bands try as hard as they can to come up with a clever metaphor for their pain and/or feelings (sample retarded lyric from Fall Out Boy: “We’re making out inside crashed cars, We’re sleeping through all our memories, I used to waste my time dreaming of being alive”, man, I’m gonna be sick.) My friend eats up that bullshit like candy, and I tease her mercilessly about it. It’s just complete stupidity, and the fact that they try that hard to be clever but end up sounding like seventh grade poetry makes me doubt their sincerity all together. Johnny was different. How does a guarded soul with a penchant for doing the wrong thing express his devotion to the woman he loves? Not with stupid metaphors about guarding doors like goalies in the playoffs or making out in crashed cars. “Because you’re mine, I walk the line.”
I guess it’s a little bit of all of these theories. That, or deep down, I’m just an emo pussy myself.