When things get really bad, you just raise your glass and stamp your feet and do a little jig, and that’s all you can do
– Leonard Cohen
“He (Bob Dylan) said, ‘I like this song you wrote called Hallelujah.’ In fact, he started doing it in concert. He said, ‘How long did that take you to write?’ And I said, ‘Oh, the best part of two years.’ He said, ‘Two years?’ Kinda shocked. And then we started talking about a song of his called I And I from Infidels. I said, ‘How long did you take to write that.’ He said, ‘Ohh, 15 minutes.’ I almost fell off my chair. Bob just laughed.”
~Leonard Cohen (quoted in Telegraph 41, p. 30)
Leonard Norman Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016) was a Canadian singer, songwriter, poet, and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality, and romantic relationships. Cohen was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour.
I like Johnny Cash a lot. I like everything he does really.
-Bob Dylan (Autumn 1965 – Nat Hentoff (The Playboy) Interview)
John R. “Johnny” Cash (born J. R. Cash; February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003) was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and author. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 90 million records worldwide. His genre-spanning songs and sound embraced rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel. This crossover appeal won Cash the rare honor of being inducted into the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.
.. Johnny was and is the North Star; you could guide your ship by him – the greatest of the greats then and now. I first met him in ‘62 or ‘63 and saw him a lot in those years. Not so much recently, but in some kind of way he was with me more than people I see every day.
~Bob Dylan (Statement on Johnny Cash – Sept 2003)
Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs. I remember when Kris Kristofferson first brought him on the scene. All that stuff about Sam Stone the soldier junky daddy and Donald and Lydia, where people make love from ten miles away. Nobody but Prine could write like that. If I had to pick one song of his, it might be Lake Marie. I don’t remember what album that’s on.
-Bob Dylan (to Bill Flanagan in 2009)
John Prine (born October 10, 1946) is an American country folk singer-songwriter. He has been active as a composer, recording artist, and live performer since the early 1970s, and is known for an often humorous style of country music that has elements of protest and social commentary.
Our favourite bootleg from 1969: The Dylan / Cash sessions
And now it will be officially released with a lot of extra tracks!
The latest chapter in the highly acclaimed Bob Dylan Bootleg Series revisits Dylan’s pivotal musical journeys to Nashville, from 1967 to 1969, focusing on previously unavailable recordings made with Johnny Cash and unreleased tracks from the John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, and Self Portrait sessions.
Disc 1 finds Dylan in Columbia’s Studio A in Nashville recording alternate versions of compositions written for John Wesley Harding (October 17 and November 6, 1967) and Nashville Skyline (February 13-14, 1969) while introducing a new song “Western Road” (a Nashville Skyline outtake).
Discs 2 and 3 are centered around Dylan’s collaborations with American music icon Johnny Cash including the much sought-after Columbia Studio A sessions and on-stage performances at the Ryman Auditorium (May 1, 1969) for the recording of the premiere episode of The Johnny Cash Show (originally broadcast on ABC-TV on June 7, 1969).
Disc 3 closes with tracks recorded on May 17, 1970 with Grammy Award-winning bluegrass banjo legend Earl Scruggs for the PBS television special, “Earl Scruggs: His Family and Friends” (originally aired January 1971).
[Bob Dylan]…the greatest writer of our times
– Johnny Cash (introducing “Wanted Man” on the album “At San Quentin”)
“I was deeply into folk music in the early 1960s, both the authentic songs from various periods and areas of American life and the new ‘folk revival’ songs of the time, so I took note of Bob Dylan as soon as the Bob Dylan album came out in early ’62 and listened almost constantly to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in ’63. I had a portable record player I’d take along on the road, and I’d put on Freewheelin’ backstage, then go out and do my show, then listen again as soon as I came off.”
– Johnny Cash (Cash, autobiography)
..Johnny was and is the North Star; you could guide your ship by him – the greatest of the greats then and now. I first met him in ‘62 or ‘63 and saw him a lot in those years. Not so much recently, but in some kind of way he was with me more than people I see every day.
– Bob Dylan (Statement on Johnny Cash – Sept 2003)
“Of course, I knew of him before he ever heard of me, In ’55 or ’56. ‘I Walk the Line’ played all summer on the radio, and it was different than anything else you had ever heard. The record sounded like a voice from the middle of the Earth. It was so powerful and moving.”
– Bob Dylan
They recorded together at the CBS studios, Nashville, TN February 17-18, 1969, and it resulted in our favourite Bob Dylan (and Johnny Cash bootleg from 1969), The Dylan / Cash Sessions. It was released in 1994 and re-released in 2004.
The background story goes something like this:
Johnny Cash wrote the young Bob Dylan a letter, and they began writing back and forth. They met at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival and Cash gave Bob Dylan his guitar (This is a Country Music Tradition and is seen as a gesture of great respect and admiration).
When Bob Dylan was in Nashville recording his ninth studio album, Nashville Skyline, Johnny Cash was recording in the next door studio. Cash joined Dylan at the end of the sessions. On February 17 and 18, 1969, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan laid down 15 tracks (that we know of). Only one, Girl From the North Country, was included on Nashville Skyline.
This is a bootleg of historic significance and a great recording. It is a document of two giants recording together, and even if it’s a bit loose and “hit and miss”, it is a joy to listen to. It’s a must have.
“The song is the thing that matters. Before I can record, I have to hear it, sing it, and know that I can make it feel like my own, or it won’t work. I worked on these songs until I felt like they were my own.”
October 17, 2000
John Carter Cash, Rick Rubin
American III: Solitary Man is the third album in the American series by Johnny Cash released in 2000 (and his 85th overall album). The album was notable for being Cash’s highest charting (#11 Country) solo studio LP since his 1976 One Piece at a Time, an album that reached No. 2 Country based on the title cut. To the present day, Cash’s studio albums for American have continued to sell & chart extremely well, as evidenced by the platinum #22 POP, #2 C&W American IV: The Man Comes Around (released one year before his death) and the gold, #1 on both charts, American V: A Hundred Highways.
I see a darkness (with guest Will Oldham, the composer of the song):
Between Unchained and Solitary Man, Cash’s health declined due to various ailments, and he was even hospitalized for pneumonia. His illness forced Cash to curtail his touring. The album American III: Solitary Man contained Cash’s response to his illness, typified by a version of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”, as well as a version of U2’s “One”.
One (so much better than any other versions!):
American III: Solitary Man, just like Cash’s two previous albums produced by Rick Rubin, was a Grammy winner, taking home the award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for Cash’s version of the Neil Diamond classic “Solitary Man”. Cash continued to receive critical appreciation for his American series of albums—on aggregate review site Metacritic.com the third album in Cash’s American series received a score of 80 (despite middling reviews from publications such as L.A. Weekly and Rolling Stone magazine) (from Wikipedia)
I Wont Back Down
That Lucky Old Sun
I See A Darkness
The Mercy Seat
Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone)
Field Of Diamonds
Before My Time
Mary Of The Wild Moor
I’m Leavin’ Now
“You can stand me up at the gates of hell/ But I won’t back down”
But American III‘s high point is its two-song centerpiece. The first is Will Oldham’s “I See a Darkness”, on which it becomes clear that, perhaps because of his neurological disorder, Cash’s voice isn’t as sure and strong as it once was. When he quavers, with Oldham singing backup, “Is there hope that somehow you can save me from this darkness?” the effect is absolutely devastating. You won’t listen to the song the same after this. The shivers will eventually leave your spine, but the residue remains.
The Mercy Seat:
That song’s transcendent power also stems from its production, which, although still sparse, is relatively lush. The organ and piano that rise to match the guitar remain in use for Nick Cave’s “The Mercy Seat”. Chronicling the first-person thoughts of a man being executed, this song, more than any other on the album, was written for Cash. Building to a rumbling crescendo, he belts out, “And the mercy seat is smokin’/ And I think my head is meltin’.” This would’ve brought even Gary Gilmore to tears.