Taking A Close Look at The Political Life Of Johnny Cash With "Citizen Cash"

§ I received a copy of this book via NetGalley to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel. § 

As the title of the book already suggests "Citizen Cash" looks at the political side of Johnny Cash. There are various speculations on which "side" of the American political spectrum Cash had been. Some say, he was a democrat while others claim he was a Republican. What could possibly be "the truth"? 
“Yes, he was a patriot,” I replied, but I pointed out that some people think he was pretty liberal, what with that whole wearing black “for the poor and the beaten down” line from “Man in Black.”“Oh, sure,” she replied, “he was a Christian—he cared about people. But he was definitely a Republican. You’ve heard ‘Ragged Old Flag,’ right?” Citizen Cash, page 11
Foley looks at this from a different perspective: Instead of treating it as a yes or no question, he suggests that Cash was neither. Foley argues that Cash participated in politics of empathy. Through the book, Foley explains and provides evidence of this hypothesis. 

As such "Citizen Cash" always shines a light on Cash's personal experiences. Foley tells us about Cash's poverty ridden childhood, seeing chaingangs and POWs work on fields in brutal conditions as well as his military service and drug addiction.

However, this book is not a biography. Instead, these moments help to explain where Cash's empathy came from, as well as from which experiences he drew from to write songs that cut so deep. Alongside Cash's ability to empathise with the misfit, outlaw, and other minority groups because has lived through similar struggles. 

Foley covered the topics poverty and hard work, patriotism, racism, prison life, religion, and war (all related to Johnny Cash's works, of course) within 7 chapters. 

All of these are written with a formality of a scientific paper, providing insight, sources, and explanations. Yet, the language in which it is written does not require any academic knowledge. Instead, it feels like a YouTube series made by a well-educated fan - just in book form. 

A lot of background information about American history is needed to truly understand Cash, but Foley does not skim over those subjects. Instead, he provides all these infos, assuming that the reading has never heard of it before. This was extremely helpful, especially considering that American history is not the center of every country's history lessons. 

As such, "Citizen Cash" acquired some length. There is not one chapter to explain all, instead if the same topic is touched upon again, there is a quick reminder. This in turn means that the book is not a quick read at all. It is a slow progress and the reader really needs to take the time to sit down and soak the information in. 

Yet, I believe that "Citizen Cash" is worth the time you need to invest. It did not only provide me with new and valuable insight about Johnny Cash but it also offered sources and inspiration to look at other things related to the man. This is a great book for fans, and music nuts. 

Citizen Cash: The Political Life and Times of Johnny Cashby Michael Stewart Foley
Published2021by Basic Books
Genres: Non-Fiction
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