Rosanne Cash: a reluctant success

Rosanne Cash was born in 1955 to her father, singer, Johnny Cash and Vivian Liberto. Her parents separated in the early 60s and Rosanne was raised by her mom in California. After high school, she joined her father on the road.

Yet she wasn’t sure that she wanted to follow in her dad’s footsteps. Celebrity has been a constant companion in her life, a companion she’s been wary of… She traveled and worked as a secretary before testing out the waters of her own music career by writing songs.

Rosanne said she didn’t want to be the star singing them. In 1978 she recorded her first album, “Rosanne Cash.”  It took her another 10 years before she started to feel comfortable in her own shoes, she said.

Still, she decided to throw caution to the wind and press on in the family business. The decision was a smart one that resulted in a number of hits and a critically acclaimed career of her own.

Myers: Early on, you were considering being a songwriter for other people as opposed to writing for yourself. Why was that?

Cash: The idea of being a performer didn’t appeal to me that much. I just didn’t need that much attention (laughs). But it became very satisfying to perform my own songs. I am happy that it turned out the way that it did.

Myers: Do you think, because of the fame in your life when you were growing up and then the fame in your adult life, that there have been a lot of misconceptions about you?

Cash: Misconceptions? Yes. Misconceptions are definitively equated with fame. They are sort of the same thing. If you are famous you are going to be misinterpreted. But I don’t care. I don’t pay attention to it. I don’t do it because of what the public thinks. I do it because I am a working artist.

Myers: Do you think your fans have a more accurate perception of you?

Cash: I don’t know. I don’t know what other people think. It’s not my business.

Myers: In spite of the misconceptions, you have opened up and talked about a lot of personal issues on your album “Black Cadillac.” Was that hard to do?

Cash: It wasn’t hard to write the songs. They are not a diary. Nobody knows what the actual truth was but me. I certainly didn’t employ a fact checker to come in at the end of the songs and make sure that every detail was true. There is poetic license taken. But having said that, of course there are documented details from my life. I had a moment of clutching before the record came out, thinking did I really want to put this out? But I think that is the best kind of art. It’s personal, but it’s also universal. I am certainly not the first person to experience these things.

Myers: You said that some of the songs on that album couldn’t be ignored. They “couldn’t go back to the ether” was how you put it. That’s a great image. It reminded me of how Paul McCartney said “Yesterday” came to him.

Cash: He dreamed it…

Myers: Yes, is that how songs come to you?

Cash: Yeah, the best ones. Some of them I could patch together with just my skill and experience of 30 years as a songwriter.  But the best ones come from somewhere else. You feel like you are a vehicle for the songs. Sometimes I think that is what Heaven is, is a place with more beautiful music than we could ever compose. We just catch a glimpse of the edge of it in our peripheral vision and that is the song that we write. There is always that perfect song that I can’t get to, that I can’t write, that I want so badly.

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