Change is in the air. Last night, Dan sparked an interesting conversation about the changes that readers would like to see in country music, inspired by the world events of this past week. Country Universe, of course, is undergoing its own series of changes. The best is (hopefully) yet to come. Some of the greatest country songs are about transition, whether they be tales of triumph or tragedy. Deaths, romantic dramas and job dissolutions (thank you, Mr. Paycheck) all fall into the category. For no particular reason, my choice at this moment is “I’ll Change for You,” from the Rosanne Cash album Rules of Travel. Recommend a track tonight, one that’s occupied with the grand notion of change.
Tag Archives: Rosanne Cash
As we gear up for the 42nd Annual CMA Awards and the possible surprises and disappointments that it might bring, I’m looking back to night and wondering:
What’s the greatest injustice in CMA history?
My first instinct was to note Conway Twitty, who lost all five of his bids for Male Vocalist and both of his bids for Entertainer. But at least he has four CMA awards to his credit, all of them shared with Loretta Lynn in the Vocal Duo category.
Then I thought about Sawyer Brown. Despite a hit run that lasted a good decade, they were never honored with Vocal Group of the Year, despite seven nominations. But at least they won a trophy back in 1985, when they were given the Horizon Award shortly after their Star Search victory.
So I’m going with Rosanne Cash. Despite strong record sales, critical acclaim and eleven #1 singles in the eighties, she went 0 for 11 at the CMA awards, including six failed bids for Female Vocalist of the Year. That’s not even getting into what the CMA failed to nominate, like her classic single “Seven Year Ache” and her landmark album King’s Record Shop. Even her 2002 collaboration with Johnny Cash, “September When it Comes”, failed to secure a Vocal Event nomination.
Written by Rosanne Cash
In the 1980s, Rosanne Cash earned 11 #1 singles, more than any female artist other than Reba McEntire. The one that still resounds most is her take on the seven-year itch. With “Seven Year Ache”, Cash showed a skill for writing (and performing) songs in the progressive country movement, songs with smarts and the ability to appeal to diverse audiences.
Throughout her career, Cash has created music that sends a distinct message, and “Seven Year Ache” is no different. The song matches a tough-girl delivery with a biting, cynical lyric about a man and his restless ways, culminating in another night out on the town. It’s a cutting indictment that is equal parts attitude and apathy, with Cash seeming both angry with her man’s transgressions and tired of scolding his behavior.
Her antagonist is “face down in a memory, but feeling alright,” no doubt gaining the pleasure in the female attention while experiencing the pain of past memories that haunt him. Both the men and women in the bar are entranced by his every move as he flirts and finds a way to inspire both jealousy and attraction. Cash admonishes her man for being “someone he’s not” and “looking careless” as he barely bothers to consider his surroundings, but instead searches for the next cheap thrill.
Cash’s ex-husband and former producer, Rodney Crowell, is often credited for inspiring “Seven Year Ache,” but, in an interview with Bill Deyoung, Cash said, “The real inspiration came for me because Rickie Lee Jones’ first album came out, and I was so moved by it, and so inspired, I thought ‘There’s never been a country song about street life, about life on the streets.'” This inspiration led her to write more than four pages of lyrics before trimming the song into a three-minute master class of love’s longing, loneliness and lingering frustration.
“Seven Year Ache” earned Cash her first Grammy nomination, and remains her signature song, a #1 single in 1981. It was the title track of her second country disc, a four-star effort in Rolling Stone, and a staple in modern mainstream country music in the early 1980s. Country fans were re-introduced to the classic song in 2001, when Trisha Yearwood (with some assistance from Cash herself) included her own take on the track on her album Inside Out. But it is Rosanne Cash, eloquent in her words and aware in her actions that defined love’s ups and downs with this trademark tune.
“Seven Year Ache” is the latest in a series of articles showcasing Classic Country Singles. You can read previous entries at the Classic Country Singles page.
Rosanne Cash has issued a statement regarding recent use of her father’s name for political purposes:
It is appalling to me that people still want to invoke my father’s name, five years after his death, to ascribe beliefs, ideals, values and loyalties to him that cannot possibly be determined, and to try to further their own agendas by doing so. I knew my father pretty well, at least better than some of those who entitle themselves to his legacy and his supposed ideals, and even I would not presume to say publicly what I ‘know’ he thought or felt. This is especially dangerous in the case of political affiliation. It is unfair and presumptuous to use him to bolster any platform. I would ask that my father not be co-opted in this election for either side, since he is clearly not here to defend or state his own allegiance.
Her dignified response might be in regards to this statement by John Rich while performing at a John McCain rally:
Somebody’s got to walk the line in the country. They’ve got to walk it unapologetically. And I’m sure Johnny Cash would have been a John McCain supporter if he was still around.
I think that Rosanne’s response strikes the perfect tone, since it doesn’t name names and appeals to both sides of the political aisle to refrain from speaking on her father’s behalf. It’s dehumanizing to use him as a prop, a cheap attempt to give your point of view more credibility.
It reminds me of the old saying: “You can safely assume a man has recreated God in his own image when it turns out God hates all the same people he does.” Cash the father and Cash the daughter are both worthy of emulating. Rich should be trying to learn from them rather than putting his own words in Johnny Cash’s mouth.
She was one of the dominant female country voices throughout the eighties, and the incisive words and music of Rosanne Cash were leagues beyond most of her contemporaries. She was also the daughter of a country music icon and legend, but her own music was so distinctively different from her father’s that one could be excused for not realizing she called Johnny Cash “Dad.”
The eldest child from her father’s first marriage, Cash was raised in Nashville, where she was teased at school for her hillbilly lineage. When her parents split, she moved with her mom to southern California, where she spent a good deal of her late childhood and teenage years. She also began traveling with her father’s road show, soon after she graduated high school. A job on laundry duty eventually developed into backup singing and occasional turns in the spotlight. However, it was believed that her stepsister Carlene Carter was the one with the bright musical future, and Cash was unsure that music was her path. So while she developed as a singer and writer, she also took acting classes and strongly considered pursuing drama.
I spend a good chunk of my salary on music, and it seems wasteful not to pass it on when I’ve made a particularly worthy purchase. Here are some recent purchases that I think are worth your money, too:
An album written in the aftermath of the death of her father, stepmother and stepsister, followed by the death of her mother as the album neared completion? The expecations are bound to be unreasonable. Somehow, Cash exceeds them anyway. This is a strikingly intimate, insightful and ultimately uplifting record that should be necessary listening for processing grief. The inherent wisdom in a song like “God Is In The Roses”, which follows the title by adding “God is in the roses and the thorns”, is just one poetic example of Cash’s writing on this project, which features some of the best songs she’s ever written. I can’t help but wonder if her stepsister Carlene Carter will also use her brilliant talent to process these events. Johnny & June were such significant figures in American culture, especially for country music fans; it’s a beautiful thing that Rosanne has used her own grief to help us process the loss we feel with their absence from the stage.
The Best of Linda Ronstadt: The Capitol Years
I realize that I’ve been threatening to do a long reissues post for months now, and I will do it, but releases like this help me reveal my philosophy about these things a little at a time. Here’s the conceit behind this 2-CD set: all four of Ronstadt’s Capitol albums, two of which had fallen out of print, collected together, digitally remastered with five unreleased tracks from the same era. Boom! With two CD’s for twenty bucks, you get everything there is to have from the developing years of one of the most important female artists in the history of country music. This is what labels need to do for the artists of that era, where two albums easily fit on one CD. Capitol is wisely doing the same for Merle Haggard, releasing ten of his classic albums on five CD’s next month. Carlene Carter and Rodney Crowell found their nearly-forgotten early work suddenly back in print by a similar approach last year. I can only hope other labels start doing the same thing. It is criminal that any work by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris or Waylon Jennings remains out-of-print. And I still can’t figure out why almost all of the Olivia Newton-John albums available on CD are the ones nobody bought in the first place, while her platinum-sellers can only be bought via import. Silliness, don’t you think?