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Publisher's Summary

People don't just listen to Johnny Cash: they believe in him. But no one has told the Man in Black's full story, until now. In Johnny Cash: The Life, Robert Hilburn conveys the unvarnished truth about a musical icon, whose colourful career stretched from his days at Sun Records with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to his remarkable, brave and deeply moving 'Hurt' video, aged sixty-nine.

As music critic for the Los Angeles Times, Hilburn knew Cash well throughout his life: he was the only music journalist at the legendary Folsom Prison concert in 1968, and he interviewed Cash and his wife June Carter for the final time just months before their deaths in 2003. Hilburn's rich reporting shows the remarkable highs and deep lows that followed and haunted Cash in equal measure. A man of great faith and humbling addiction, Cash aimed for more than another hit for the jukebox; he wanted his music to lift people's spirits.

Drawing upon his personal experience with Cash and a trove of never-before-seen material from the singer's inner circle, Hilburn creates an utterly compelling, deeply human portrait of one of the most iconic figures in modern popular culture - not only a towering figure in country music, but also a seminal influence in rock, whose personal life was far more troubled, and whose musical and lyrical artistry much more profound, than even his most devoted fans ever realised.

©2013 Robert Hilburn (P)2013 Hachette Audio

What listeners say about Johnny Cash

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true story of the man in black

I knew bits and pieces of Johnny Cash's story but this book was a rollercoaster of emotions. As the career of the man in black starts and blossom I found myself smiling and feeling good then the drug years and bad decisions which sounded more hellish than I ever imagined. Then it goes to June and Johnny's final years and there were times there that I was tearing up. There's no doubt that Johnny Cash lived one hell of a life and this book does an amazing job retelling it in fine details.

At first I thought the narrator was a bit monotone and not into it but the more you listen (only takes a few chapters) you realise that no. His voice actually works really well for this type of story.

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Inspiring,emotional and exellent.

this book has made me respect Johnny Cash so much more than I already did. I both laughed and cried right thru out the book. honestly the very best book I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. I wish it never stopped. honestly best read ever. never felt so many different emotions thru out a book. really feel so much stronger about the man and his life and family and had no idea just how much he shaped the music industry until now. thankyou so much for such an exiting biography.

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Great insights for the true Cash fan

Great story about a complex artist. Not for the casual fan, and probably best suited to those with at least a passing interest in the process of making records, touring and country music. Narrator was good, although there were some minor issues with some sentences and some obvious re-recorded sections which was a tad jarring. However that's understandable for a 30-plus hour story. Overall, a great story that is well told.

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What a ride

This book goes deep into Cash. You feel like you are there the whole time.

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  • Kelvdog
  • 26-05-2018

Thorough Real and Enthralling

great book, well written well paced well researched, well read. will listen to this again.

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  • Joselo
  • 18-03-2020

Big River

It seems almost impossible not to like Johnny Cash, the Man in Black. Despite his great talent and charisma, his image was that of an everyday man. Born in Arkansas to a family of humble means, he went through some very tough early years. He began his recording career with Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 23, and rose to fame, competing for radio time with the likes of Elvis (another heavyweight from the same record label). Religion was important to Cash, but he wasn't a very strict Christian. He had a glow of mischief in his eyes and could relate well with other sinners, especially if life had dealt them a bad hand of cards. He made a point of it when he recorded two of his most legendary albums at the Folsom and San Quentin prisons in California. This biography shows his most human side, with its highs and lows. Like many other musicians of his era, he experienced an existential and commercial free fall at one stage of his life, due in great part to substance abuse. It's quite possible that singer June Carter, his second wife, may have saved him. In his late years, he made a series of albums with American Recordings that introduced him to a whole new generation of listeners. It's a very moving story.

'Big River' is the first Johnny Cash song that I remember ever listening to, back when I was in my late teens. Ever since, my appreciation for him and his music has grown. I owe this in part to this audiobook, which I listened to years ago. It is well written and I like that narrator Charles Pittard evokes the singer's signature bass-baritone voice.

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  • Phil
  • 14-08-2015

The unblemished, unflinching truth

First of all, if you've watched 'Walk the Line' (the 2005 Hollywood film of Johnny Cash's life) - that's the fairy story narrative of this man's life.

A generation of people will understand that Johnny Cash's life was basically a story of how he married young, to the wrong woman, Vivian. She resented his music and gave him a hard a time. He hit the drugs to keep going on the road and found the affections of June Carter - who he fell in love with. He divorced Vivian, and June understood him and saved him from his demons, which included drugs and the bitter memories of losing his brother as a child, and his equally bitter relationship with his father.

Ok - park that story there. Not only is it incredibly unfair on Vivian Cash, it's also incredibly indulgent on Johnny Cash. It also paints June as a saintly figure - and she was far from that in the way she went after the married Johnny Cash.

Johnny Cash was a bad man. Make no mistakes about it. He was wild. There were more women in his life than just Vivian and June. The film doesn't really look at his temper, his violence, his drugs, his missed tour dates (at one point he was missing more bookings than he turned up for). Somehow his incredible talent pulled him through both professionally and personally.

You have to read/listen to this book because the full story, the anecdotes, the legends are as incredible as they are true - and Robert Hilburn is unflinching in his determination to tell the fact from the fiction.

Johnny Cash is a great human being. He experienced the hell of surviving all his personal, emotional and psychological wrong doings and he distilled them to become bitter sweet dark dark chocolate sound of his country, rockabilly, folk and pop music. He was a champion for the underdog, he was resolutely non-judgemental of others, and he walked a line that few others could ever have survived.

Quite incredible man, and all credit to Robert Hilburn, quite an incredible account of it all.

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  • cornishman
  • 18-12-2018

A long book

I found this book to be full of information about JR cash's life it's not a book to be taken lightly .

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-04-2018

God Bless Johnny Cash

Thanks ever so for sharing the True Cash, Dad was No1. fan, I say was because he has passed away. it's nice to get to know the characters that inspired my Dad. Loved listening, can understand the Hell that he went through, guess that's why people love him so 😎

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  • Chris
  • 26-02-2014

The Man In Black

The was a fantastic review of the life of JR. I was already a Cash fan, and was pleased with each song or album which was discussed in the book, however the detail and insight in to Johnny's turbulent and intriguing life were fascinating. I already knew some rough outlines of JC's life, but the depth and honesty this book portrays is worth reading. This really is a 'warts n all' look at the life of Johnny Cash and can, in places be surprising. Do not enter in to this with a rose tinted view of Cash as a virtuous moral role model, but a man who battled against his own personal demons his whole life. I cannot highly recommend this book enough for any Johnny Cash Fan.

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  • Duncan
  • 14-12-2020

Extensively Researched & Read Brilliantly

This was a joy to listen to. The level of research that clearly went into this book clearly shows. It is a fascinating look at Mr Cash's life. The narrator was first class as well.

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  • a m wrightson
  • 13-06-2020

Misses the point somehow

I can see why Hilburn wanted to tell this side of Cash's story, however it is a partial view with a lot of important stuff missing. While the stressful backstage life of a touring performer, various breakdowns and crises and various experiences of his family are retailed in grim detail, his life in music is largely invisible, and after the early years his collaborations and friends in the worlds of songwriting and performance are well in the background of the narrative where they appear at all. 'Life with Johnny Cash' would be a better title.

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  • keith
  • 08-02-2020

Another great story

I love these biographies it is a good one of Johnny cashs life I have bill haleys also both great artists keep them coming worth the money great read would recommend a member of my family can't be wrong he loved country and western and I love a lot of johnnys songs

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 12-01-2020

Loved this audiobook.

What a great story beautifully read. Just made me like Johnny Cash even more.
A fitting tribute of his life.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 23-04-2019

The Cash

A good story if a little long seems to drag a little in parts a good over sight of he's life battling drugs.

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  • ROY HALL
  • 29-07-2017

brilliant

absolutely loved it a must for all fans of JC excellent reading could not put it down

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