Arts & Culture

Johnny Cash and His Jewish Pals

With the sixth installment of Johnny Cash’s "American Recordings" out this week, we get what is possibly the last output of an American music titan.  While Cash’s legend was created and cultivated alongside Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis in … Read More

By / February 22, 2010

With the sixth installment of Johnny Cash’s "American Recordings" out this week, we get what is possibly the last output of an American music titan.  While Cash’s legend was created and cultivated alongside Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis in Sun Studios around the late 1950′s, it wasn’t until the mid-60′s when Cash really earned his reputation as a true country music outlaw, and became legend he is viewed as today.  What’s largely ignored though, is the cadre of Jewish artists that heavily influenced Cash’s work from that same time period.  For example: 

Bob Dylan By the early 60′s, the folk craze that was sweeping across America had it’s grip on Cash.  One artist in particular blew The Man in Black away like no other: "I had a portable record player I’d take along on the road, and I’d put on [The] Freewheelin’ [Bob Dylan] backstage, then go out and do my show, then listen again as soon as I came off." Johnny Cash would go on to become one of Dylan’s earliest champions, recording 3 of his songs on the 1965 album, Orange Blossom Special. He was also invited to duet with Dylan on his 1969 album, Nashville Country Skyline. The mutual admiration and friendship lasted for years.

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott A cowboy born in Brooklyn, Elliott (born Elliot Charles Adnopoz) provided plenty of inspiration for Cash.  When introducing Elliott on his television program, The Johnny Cash Show, Cash said of his guest:

"Nobody I know-and I mean nobody-has covered more ground and made more friends and sung more songs than the fellow you’re about to meet right now.  He’s got a song and a friend for every mile behind him.  Say hello to my good buddy, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott." Shel Silverstein When I think of Silverstein, I automatically remember his books of poetry and illustrations for children that are a cornerstone of most elementray school libraries.  But among his many other accomplishments and talents, people fail to mention his work as an acclaimed playwright, and his illustrations for the early incarnation of Playboy Magazine that documented his world travels during the Cold War.  While those accomplishments alone are enough to peg Silverstein as an incredibly dynamic artist, and a jack of all trades, the mere mention of "Shel Silverstein, member of the Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame" cements the title.  Yes, it’s true, the same guy who wrote Where the Sidewalk Ends wrote songs that were covered by country legends like Loretta Lynn and Kris Kristofferson, but it’s his contribution to Cash’s songbook that gained him the most praise.  Believe it or not, Silverstein wrote one of Cash’s most famous songs, "A Boy Named Sue".