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Johnny Cash: The Life

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,899 ratings  ·  385 reviews
The national bestseller celebrated as "the ultimate Johnny Cash biography....Rock writer great Robert Hilburn goes deep." -- Rolling Stone

In this, the definitive biography of an American legend, Robert Hilburn conveys the unvarnished truth about a musical superstar. Johnny Cash's extraordinary career stretched from his days at Sun Records with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee L
Hardcover, 679 pages
Published October 29th 2013 by Little, Brown and Company
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 ·  2,899 ratings  ·  385 reviews

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Dan Schwent
Sep 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Johnny Cash: The Life is a biography of Johnny Cash.

I've been a Johnny Cash fan for couple decades but most of what I knew of the man was from his music and Walk the Line and a couple VH1 specials so when I saw this come up on Netgalley, I thought I'd give it a read.

The Life is a well-written chronicle of Johnny Cash's life and career, starting from his childhood in Arkansas to his time in the army and his steady rise into a music icon to his death. Walk the Line was just the sanitized tip of th
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
It feels as if I've been listening to Johnny Cash my whole life. My dad loved his music, so I grew up loving it, too. It was the soundtrack to a lot of family car trips when I was a kid, and I can remember lying in the backseat and hearing dad sing along as he drove. I didn't know anything about Johnny Cash the man, but I sure loved his deep voice.

A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit Nashville for the first time, and I took along this biography, in part because Cash had lived in Nashville,
Oct 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Johnny Cash fans
I feel this book is a must read for the hard-core Cash fan. If you think the story depicted in the movie Walk the Line is the whole story,(like I did) then read this and understand why Johnny Cash the man, was so different than Johnny Cash the legend and superstar. The book does get a little bogged down when discussing Cash's religious feelings, and spirituality, but I felt like it was necessary because understanding Cash's spiritual journey, is important in order to be able to understand Johnny ...more
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it
“Everyone I know goes away in the end”

Johnny Cash, defined the country music for much of his life. Robert Hilburn follows the iconic singer from his first steps in the music, to his bitter end.

Not only his musical career is examined, his personal life is also dealt with. His first marriage to Vivian, his second marriage with his true love June Carter. His addiction to drugs. His never ending urges to make music his way.

Although his succes waned during the latter years of his life, tragically, a
Nov 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
Three things I didn’t know about Johnny Cash:

* Billy Graham was a close friend, and Cash testified at many evangelical Christian “crusade” performances.

* Rick Rubin wanted him to cover Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” but he refused.

* He recorded (and later hated) a song called “The Chicken in Black.” The song is a story about Mr. Cash switching brains with a chicken. The video’s one of the worst ever made.

Beyond trivia, however, Robert Hilburn’s Johnn
J.M. Hushour
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I tend to not read biographies of artists I greatly admire because I usually end up finding them reprehensible and lose my respect for them as creative people. A recent attempt to read a bio of Van Gogh ended in disaster and I had to give up halfway through because his being-a-prick almost turned me off of him forever.
Luckily, I already knew the worst of Cash, his problems with drugs, his infidelities, and his problems with drugs. Even better, as this incredible, epic biography shows, Cash explo
In honor of my son's third appearance in a production of "Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash", I decided to listen to this bio of the Man in Black and get the real lowdown on Cash. It turned out to be a fascinating experience as I learned about his life, his struggles, his family & friends, and his music. Through the magic of Apple Music, I searched and listened to songs that were highlighted in the text as I went along and that was also enlightening and fun. I was introduced to many new son ...more
Wow - that was amazing.
Thought that I knew all about Johnny Cash but this book reveals everything in great detail, warts and all, and is so well researched. The author seems to have unprecedented access to all those nearest and dearest to Johnny Cash and some of the content is pretty shocking and could really only be published posthumously.
A great story of a flawed hero but so sad at the end.
My favourite biography of the year and an absolute must read for any Johnny Cash fan.
Jul 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Listened to this audiobook during several long road trips. This was interesting but VERY long & detailed. ...more
Clayton Bye
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographical

Johnny Cash: The Life
Robert Hilburn
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-316-19475-4
Hardcover, 680 pages

From touring with Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and June carter to his final days and perhaps the best song he ever recorded, Johnny Cash lived his life and managed his singing career on his own terms. This is the one thing Robert Hilburn makes abundantly clear in his exhaustive commentary regarding the career of Johnny Cash, a career that spanned 5 decades (1954-2003). It didn't matte
One More Chapter
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
I don’t typically read nonfiction. I think I maybe have ten on my bookshelves and a majority of them are by people like Tina Fey, Aziz Ansari, and Neil Patrick Harris. Nonfiction just isn’t really my thing. Lately I’ve been listening to audiobooks at bedtime, but I found that fiction keeps me awake longer because I accidentally get invested in the story. I thought that listening to nonfiction would help with that. No action or adventure, no cliffhangers, no epic twist I HAVE to stay awake to fol ...more
Feb 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-popsugar
If you loved Johnny Cash, you will love this biography. I would use the term exhaustive to describe it, but I can't say that I would edit it in any way. It learned so much about Cash that I didn't know. I have a better understanding of what motivated him in his music and life. The book is full of interviews with people who had relationships with him over the years. Those interviews are interesting in and of themselves.
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A word up front on my history with Johnny Cash. My cousins and I used to play wargames and D&D on a nightly basis when we were in high school back in the late 70s. To accompany the games, we took turns playing our favorite records - for me, Elvis Costello and Mott the Hoople, for my cousin Marc, Jimi Hendrix and Parliament, and for my cousin Craig, Johnny Cash. We listened to Cash's album "Silver" so many times we banished that one. Craig was a huge Johnny Cash fan and remains one to this day, a ...more
Laura Lee
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Long but exceptionally good, very detailed. Seems very sincere and honest. Blows holes in some previous events, telling the truth now. I ended the book liking Johnny Cash very much in spite of his flaws, faults and hardships. Probably because of them. He was a hard drinking pill popping womanizer, but very loving and spiritual. He found his greatest love at the end with God. Recommend this book. Excellent writing.
Becky Loader
Sep 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Hilburn definitely has a handle on Cash's life, but I got very bogged down in all the details of when he wrote a song, when he recorded it, when it was released, etc. Too much about the songs, not enough about the man.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I grew up listening to Johnny Cash but not appreciating him until I was much older. He was simply there, like water or air, on the radio, in my parents' small record collection, on TV. He was everywhere, man. It's still hard to believe he's gone.

There's so much more to the man who sang "A Boy Named Sue", "One Piece at a Time", and even "Folsom Prison Blues." The movie Walk the Line doesn't even come close. It's barely accurate and just wrong in a lot of places. If you want to get to know the rea
Clint Putman
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Our of the five or so books I've read about Johnny Cash, this book is one of the best and most in-depth. Like all musicians' biographies, sometimes the myths out-weigh the realities. In "Johnny Cash: the Life," the author Hilburn makes a point to breakdown the myths of Cash's life and dig deep to the humanity, the conflicts and the triumphs of one of the greatest Country singers that lived. The book is revealing in showing how Cash's drug addiction was a struggle throughout his life; Cash was a ...more
Becca Moss
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Prior to reading Johnny Cash: The Life, I admired and respected Johnny Cash, now I have different feelings for the Legend. He was a horrible person (mostly in his early days, but some in his late days too), he was a very selfish man and although I think he made peace with his past before the end, I think he was a very troubled man (and, June was a mess too). In them times, especially with fame it was an easy rabbit hole to fall into. Funny how when we dig deeper into famous people's lives how si ...more
Sep 28, 2018 added it
I beleive that this is the greastest country star jhonny cash. HE was raised in to a farm picking cotton so i thought okay he is a family farm. theonly sad parts that read was that his brother got killed by a saw when they were helping build a church. Then they rushed him to the hospital he survived for a little bit but then he died. they was a grave something cash i cant remember the name. so then after a while every thing was just slow like wow it was terrible for them. but then after some yea ...more
Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it
I have personal feelings, while reading this book: my younger daughter did a solo modern dance in high school to the song"Hurt," as a tribute to her dad, who had always loved Johnny Cash; I never felt much for him until then. I saw the Phoenix/Witherspoon movie a couple of times and liked it, but according to Hilburn, the movie differed significantly from his real life. For one, June was not such a resisting angel to Cash's overtures as the movie suggested. And once she had him pegged down, she ...more
Bill Leifholtz
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a detailed and honest account of the legend, Johnny Cash. In this lengthy biography, the Man in Black’s stunning story of success, compassion, addiction, love, tragedy, faith and brilliance is masterfully told.
Chris Griffith
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Outstanding biography of the Country Music Legend. As troubled as he was brilliant.
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Numbing detail of every record deal and recording. I didn't finish. Boring.
Andy Miller
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This great book makes Johnny Cash likable and larger than life not because it is a fawning biography but because it includes his mistakes and weaknesses which make his successes, comebacks and personal spirit even more believable and impressive

The thorough study of his life(the book is 668 pages long) starts with his early life in the depression and really picks up describing his early interactions with Elvis Presley, the early days of Sun Records including Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins and m
Oct 26, 2013 rated it really liked it

"Johnny was and is the North Star; you could guide your ship by him-- the greatest of the greats, then and now."

Bob Dylan wrote these words upon hearing of Johnny Cash's death and after reading Robert Hilburn's excellent biography Johnny Cash The Life I am inclined to agree.

This is not to say that Johnny Cash didn't have character deficiencies. He had them in spades. There's the well documented history battling pills (that went on much longer than the movie: Walk The Line would allow us to bel
Hands down the best celebrity biography I’ve ever read. I recently read Harry Belafonte’s biography and thought that was one of the best. And it was. But this one had the advantage of bumping ahead merely because it made me – a city girl, and country music hater – a huge fan of the late Johnny Cash. The man’s been dead for over 10 years and here I am – solely because of this book – watching his performances on You Tube, googling him, and downloading his music, so I realize I’m quite late to the ...more
patrick Lorelli
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This new Johnny Cash book was interesting and full of a lot of information. The author refers to books by other people and interviews he made from the family, friends and other people that worked with him. Some of the information is common knowledge but most of it is new at least to me. The book for the most part was a lot like his life first part exciting full of life and information. The middle part was slow it dragged somewhat and took a little bit of time to get through it. The last part of ...more
Timothy L.
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I liked this book about Johnny Cash. I’ve always thought well of Cash, though I was not remotely informed of his excessive life, which haunted him in one form or another for nearly his entire life. I still think well of Cash even though this book took a lot of varnish off my perception of him.

Robert Hillburn seemed fair in regard to how out of control and strange Cash was in the 1960s. Perhaps, if we were exposed to all the content Hillburn had access to and used to write this book, we’d be agha
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Up until a little while ago, I was not familiar with Johnny Cash or his life at all really. Only the name. Several years ago I watched the movie Walk the Line, but it was quickly forgotten. Recently I ran across the movie in a bargain bin, and I just had this feeling that I should watch it again, that it would be a much different experience than the prior. I was absolutely right. I was moved, intrigued, almost desperate to find out more about this fascinating man and his life (and I started list ...more
Keenan Johnston
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Really great book that brings Cash's constant internal struggles and conflicting lifestyle into focus. Johnny viewed himself as this flawed person who wanted to do good with his life. HIs addictive personality is well known, but I didn't know about his struggles with his family commitments and his faith. The comparison that Johnny makes to Frankenstein is a good one stating that Frankenstein "was a monster made of bad parts who was trying to do good. Johnny worried that he too had bad parts and ...more
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30 likes · 21 comments
“Cash said he was someone “made up of bad parts but was trying to do good.” 5 likes
“Cash said in return, “I’m a songwriter. I use my imagination. The important thing is the message of the song, not the imagery.” 1 likes
More quotes…