Monday, February 13, 2012

Johnny Cash -- "Thirteen"

Bad luck wind been blowin' at my back
I was born to bring trouble to wherever I'm at
Got the number 13 tattooed on my neck

Johnny Cash was always a larger-than-life figure.  I'm not sure which was more impressive -- his musical talent or his personal charisma.  

Cash's American Recordings album was released in 1994, when he was 62 years old.  It was the first album released by Rick Rubin's label after he changed its name from Def American to American Recordings, and it revived Cash's career.

Rick Rubin
Rubin and Cash are one of the most unlikely producer-performer pairings in music history.  Rubin is best known as the co-founder of Def Jam records, one of the first hip-hop labels.  Def Jam's acts included the Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, and Public Enemy.  Rubin subsequently produced albums by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, Green Day, the Dixie Chicks, Neil Diamond, Metallica, and many others.

American Recordings was the first of six albums that Cash recorded with Rubin -- two were released posthumously.  Cash was diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease in 1997, and died in 2003.  His wife June died four months before Cash did.  He recorded 60 songs during those last four months -- he did not go gentle into that good night.

This song was written in 20 minutes by Glenn Danzig, who not only founded the first horror punk band (the Misfits) and gave his name to a heavy metal band (Danzig), but also owns a record label and an adult comic book publishing company.

Johnny Cash
"Thirteen" was a perfect song for Cash.  He was a devout Christian who once recorded the entire King James Bible, but was a heavy drinker and drug user for years and described himself as the "the biggest sinner of them all."  

Cash wouldn't have denied that these lines from "Thirteen" summed up his life: 

Got a long line of heartache, I carry it well
The list of lives I've broken reach from here to hell

Here's Johnny Cash's "Thirteen":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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