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A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears
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A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  37 ratings  ·  6 reviews
"A Heartbeat and a Guitar" tells of the collaboration of two distinct yet connected musicians--iconoclast Johnny Cash and pioneering folk artist Peter La Farge--and the album they created, "Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian." It also tells of the unique personal, political, and cultural struggles that informed this album, one that has influenced the likes of Bru ...more
ebook, 297 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Nation Books (first published 2009)
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johnny cash's 1964 concept album "bitter tears: ballads of the american indian" is certainly one of the finest (and most underrated) records of his career. d'ambrosio's book a heartbeat and a guitar: johnny cash and the making of bitter tears, while well-researched and mostly fascinating, is perhaps somewhat mistitled. though cash's album, devoted to the vicious and unfair treatment of indigenous peoples, is the pivot upon which the narrative depends, a majority of the book is spent relating the ...more
Gary Anderson
I expected this book to detail the actual recording of Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears album, one of the few albums that I distinctly remember in my parents' record collection.

Instead, I was blown away by the detailed context D'Ambrosio provides about the Native rights movement, the flowering of folk and protest music in the 20th Century, a thorough treatment of the life of Peter LaFarge, composer of "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," and Ira Hayes himself.

Without being overly academic, D'Ambrosio provides
Soon after Johnny Cash signed on with Columbia records he became friends with Peter LaFarge, a songwriter and fervent sympathizer of the plight of the American Indian. LaFarge had written a ballad immortalizing Ira Hayes, one of the marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima in WW2 and celebrated in the iconic photograph. Cash wanted to record a song utilizing the LaFarge lyrics but executives at Columbia sought record-selling hits from Cash and nixed the idea. Cash fought back and eventually the s ...more
Nicole Lemke
I just couldn't get into this book. I just marked as read to get it off my currently reading list. Found the Ira Hayes story interesting, and I would have liked if the book was more about the shories behind the music than the music scene/producer//song writer stuff I (as a music industry layperson) have no interest in.
Interesting read which gives the history of the 40's-60's (especially the 60's) mainly through the stories of 3 men: Cash, Peter La Farge & Ira Hayes.
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