Mudcat Café message #1725342 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #90789   Message #1725342
Posted By: Severn
23-Apr-06 - 12:01 PM
Thread Name: Johnny Cash - How come an icon?
Subject: RE: Johnny Cash - How come an acorn?
Simplicity can be an aspect of genius. Play a bit of one of those classic "boom-chucka-boom-chucka" intros and everyone will either know where you're going or at least where you're coming from and paying conscious or unconscious tribute to. Simple, accessable and backing up some good stories, and the mark of a good storyteller is not in the simplicity or complexity, so much as, in the end the fact that the story somehow gets across to the listener in some way or another. Johnny's stories got told effectively and got remembered generations down the line AND were easy to do so with the accompanyment they needed. People know that sound and immediately associate it with Cash, much as they'd talk of "Chuck Berry Riffs" and even more than they'd be able to acknowledge the endlessly recycled "Bo Diddly Beat" or "John Lee Hooker Boogie Riff" that also became basic building blocks of our music. He not only gave us good stories, but a simple model for a framework on which to tell stories of our own.

Deceptive simplicity can often be taken for granted, but, for example, if you ever thought Jimmy Reed's songs were overly simple and maybe a bit sloppy in execution, just listen to all the bad Jimmy Reed imitations and attempted style updates and you'll usually come back to the original, even though they are simple and fun enough that people will be playing them nonstop and covering them forever.

Cash put out a great deal of bad, indulgent stuff and went through some bad spells, but folks will be trying to match and surpass the originals of the great stuff, mostly in vain but not always, as long as there are pickers and singers. And often, especially in his last years, proved an able interpreter of the diverse material of others on some of the last American Music releases. Most people, even if not big fans, have taken some of his lessons and adopted them to their own use whether they know it or not, and most them actually know it. If you can somehow do that, you're an Icon with or without manufactured hype.