THE JOHNNY AND THE CASH


The Darker Side – by Tim Pepper

I’ve been trying very hard lately to seek out lighter things. I’ve been hunting for beauty and goodness in life. As part of my seeking I recently read one of those “happiness” books; you might say it’s a self-help book. In her research the author stumbled upon an idea that is considered to be a fact among the behavioral scientists that study such things: Left to our own devices and, importantly, left alone, most people tend to veer slowly and effortlessly into negativity. As a species we are not very good at being alone. Families and friendships and the whole assortment of human relationships are a necessary thing for us if we are to achieve any sort of individual happiness.

 

As a young songwriter I was intrigued and drawn in by music that was full of anger and angst and sadness. I thought that kind of music was somehow much cooler than happy and positive music. I never considered myself to be one with much dark energy in my soul. I rather tended to think that I was too light and fluffy to write anything of substance as a songwriter. Listening to the screams and howls of 90s rock made me wish I’d had a few unfortunate events in my life. If being sad and angry is what it took to write great music then I wanted to be a little more sad and a little more angry.

 

I think I’ve had a taste of that kind of writing now. Through no greatly unfortunate circumstances I found myself falling into a kind of depression over the past few years. There was some sadness and darkness in my soul after all. There was anger and disenchantment and disappointment too. My journeys and life in general have taught me that these things were there all along. I reason that if all of that rests in my soul then it must certainly be present in that of those less fortunate than I.

 

Whatever the case may be I discovered that it’s not as cool as I thought it might be to write the kind of songs I’d always wanted to write. Those pensive, broody numbers that suggested things too sad and weepy to describe were awesome to listen to when I was a teenager because I had never experienced anything like the reality they hinted at. Listening to those songs was like watching some kind of disaster on t.v. where you get all the excitement and none of the pain.

 

I don’t want to suggest that my life has been unduly painful or morose. I also don’t want to suggest that I don’t still appreciate the songs that come from the darker places and the more difficult things of life. There is a certain strength to be gained in adversity and of course every person and every songwriter must go through the challenges of life. By all means I want to always remain connected enough with the core of myself that I can capture something of every experience in a song, even if that means capturing sorrow or pain or difficulty.But I’ve come to think that there’s enough of the darker side in me and in the world that I don’t want to dwell on it too much.

 

They say that Johnny Cash was like two people. He was Johnny, a nice, respectable, lovable man and he was Cash, a man that nobody liked very much. Personally I think that it’s Cash’s music and Johnny’s personality that made him the figure he is today. As a songwriter I always want to be able to write something like the music of Cash; the dark and weighty and substantive stuff that makes people stop what they’re doing and just listen and maybe even say, “whoah…that’s something.” As a person though it’s all too easy to dwell in that place and be the “Cash”. I don’t really want to be the “Cash” because nobody wants to hang out with him.

 

We look at the “Johnnies” of the world and we kind of look down our noses at them. It’s hard to imagine that anyone who is respectable and lovable and kind and good-hearted is actually real. But that’s the thing about Johnny….he was everything that Cash had to strive to be. Cash was the guy that he became when he stopped trying to be better than just a guy living in a difficult world. It was only by fighting against the nature of the world that Cash was able to become the Johnny that we all wish we could have hung out with.

 

We tend to spiral towards the negative and the dark in life because there is so damn much of it out there. Maybe we always will write the best songs when we are in those places that we find down there. But if you want to find beauty and positivity and light you have to search for it; you have to really dig in and make an effort. It’s a constant struggle against the nature of ourselves and the nature of the world that we live in. Fighting that fight is a good thing I think and I think it’s a thing to find strength in and I think that there’s something very cool about that.Share on Facebook

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