This is utterly marvelous.
Then again, would you expect anything less from two time Oscar winner Barbara Kopple?
With cheap video equipment, today everybody is a documentarian, especially in the music sphere. But the result is oftentimes unwatchable, because of lack of talent.
But not “Tricky Dick And The Man In Black.”
If you watch this, and I don’t expect many youngsters to do so, you’ll get what I talk about when I speak of the spirit of the sixties, of music having a voice, of having power.
Then again, back then most of the youth was on the same side. Whereas today, that’s not the case. ROTC has come back to university campuses. Young Republicans have triumphed not only at Dartmouth, but so many other institutions.
Then again, none of them had to worry about getting their ass shot off.
So we see pictures of Johnny Cash’s boyhood home, in Arkansas. We’ve had a recent President from Arkansas, but I doubt many people from the coasts have been there. And neither have I. The closest I got was the view across the river from my hotel room in Memphis. What makes people move to such a place?
Opportunity. That’s what the government used to give people, a chance to start over, to get ahead.
But the Cash family didn’t make much headway, and Johnny’s father Ray kept putting his brooding, sensitive son down. Telling him he should have died in the farming accident, not his older brother.
And no matter Johnny’s achievements, Ray never thought they were much. So Johnny kept at it, kept trying, to prove his worth to a man who would never acknowledge it.
This is the foundation of an artist.
It’s not usually the foundation of an entertainer.
Today our scene is loaded with entertainers, thinking about the opportunity to become rich and famous, not that either of those have anything to do with art. But the internet tools have allowed everybody to play. And not only does mainstream media want to amplify the antics of these no or little talents, so do websites set up for just such a purpose.
It seems if you’re an artist, you’re a loser.
Cash went to Vietnam, he was learning, searching for truth. That’s what an artist does, experience the world through their eyes and then feed what they see back to us. They give us insight into the world we inhabit, insight that we oftentimes don’t have ourselves. This was not only the mission of rockers in the sixties, but rappers in the nineties.
Now, we’ve just got tattooed media properties. And just because you have a good voice, that does not mean you’ve got something to say. I’ve got nothing against Ariana Grande, but the media anoints her a new Joni Mitchell, as if she had gravitas, but she doesn’t.
But Mitchell did. As did Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, all of whom appeared on Johnny Cash’s TV show.
And Cash was for the war before he was against it.
You could change your mind in the sixties.
But not today.
So Nixon believes he can use Cash to shore up his southern base. He insists Johnny play “Okie From Muskogee” and “Welfare Cadillac” at the White House.
You may have never heard “Welfare Cadillac.” It’s exactly what you think it is, a guy with ten kids and a shack driving a Cadillac. He’s a “taker.” Some things never change.
Johnny refuses to sing Nixon’s requests, instead he sings a new song about the youth wanting truth
Sound familiar today?
Nixon lied all the time. But usually about big things, like the war winding down as opposed to amping up. Trump lies about everything. To the point where there is no truth. And the Democrats are afraid of the millennials, afraid to run to the left, but if they don’t, the millennials don’t vote.
They call that the generation gap. It’s still alive today. Baby boomers are always talking about the bad work habits of millennials. Then again, the millennials are all about supporting charities while they struggle to pay off their student loans.
But let’s not argue about today. Because it’s a no-win situation. Used to be we all got our news from Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather and John Chancellor. Now we’re in our silos. And misinformation reigns.
And there’s no hope.
We’re beholden to Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. Apple seems to be a bit more on our side, but you can’t challenge these behemoths, loved by Wall Street for their wealth creation.
But back then…
Many were only one step removed from poverty. Some were still in poverty. And the President was not a buffoon, but a skilled man with flawed ideas.
Then again, Nixon opened China and Trump wants to close it.
And most of the population never lived through the sixties, never mind the seventies, they don’t know that Nixon had to go because the Republican Senators told him he had to. It’s gonna go down the same way today, if it happens at all.
But in the sixties, the youth, with their long hair and their music, were aligned against the establishment. And Johnny Cash aligned with them. He felt young people did not get an honest shot based on their appearance, never mind their ideas. But long hair was a statement, face tattoos are a fad.
So if you’re a boomer, you’ve got to see this documentary, it’ll remind you of who you were and maybe still are.
If you want to learn about history, if you want to be inspired, if you’re a young ‘un, you should view this too.
Then again, the youth always think they know everything. They don’t need any lessons.
But back then the youth stood up and had impact, they stopped the war.
And their leaders were musicians.