Johnny Cash

The Life
By Robert Hilburn (Trade Paperback, 2014)
The definitive biography of an American legend

In Johnny Cash: The Life, Robert Hilburn conveys the unvarnished truth about a musical icon whose colorful career stretched from his days at Sun Records with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to the remarkable creative last hurrah, at age sixty-nine, that resulted in the brave, moving "Hurt" video. As music critic for the Los Angeles Times, Hilburn knew Cash well throughout his life: he was the only music journalist at the legendary Folsom Prison concert in 1968, and he interviewed Cash and his wife June Carter for the final time just months before their deaths in 2003. Hilburn's rich reporting shows the remarkable highs and deep lows that followed and haunted Cash in equal measure. A man of great faith and humbling addiction, Cash aimed for more than another hit on the jukebox; he wanted to use his music to lift people's spirits and help promote what he felt was the best of the American spirit.

Drawing upon his personal experience with Cash and a trove of never-before-seen material from the singer's inner circle, Hilburn creates an utterly compelling, deeply human portrait of one of the most iconic figures in modern popular culture - not only a towering figure in country music, but also a seminal influence in rock, whose personal life was far more troubled, and whose musical and lyrical artistry much more profound, than even his most devoted fans ever realized.
  • Little, Brown and Company
    • Format: Trade Paperback

    • Price: $20.00 US/$22.00 CAN

    • ISBN-13: 9780316194747

    • On Sale Date: 11/04/2014

    • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

    Formats Available: Hardcover Book, Trade Paperback, Electronic Book, Audiobook, Audiobook

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  • Audiobook Excerpt

The definitive biography of an American legend

In Johnny Cash: The Life, Robert Hilburn conveys the unvarnished truth about a musical icon whose colorful career stretched from his days at Sun Records with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to the remarkable creative last hurrah, at age sixty-nine, that resulted in the brave, moving "Hurt" video. As music critic for the Los Angeles Times, Hilburn knew Cash well throughout his life: he was the only music journalist at the legendary Folsom Prison concert in 1968, and he interviewed Cash and his wife June Carter for the final time just months before their deaths in 2003. Hilburn's rich reporting shows the remarkable highs and deep lows that followed and haunted Cash in equal measure. A man of great faith and humbling addiction, Cash aimed for more than another hit on the jukebox; he wanted to use his music to lift people's spirits and help promote what he felt was the best of the American spirit.

Drawing upon his personal experience with Cash and a trove of never-before-seen material from the singer's inner circle, Hilburn creates an utterly compelling, deeply human portrait of one of the most iconic figures in modern popular culture - not only a towering figure in country music, but also a seminal influence in rock, whose personal life was far more troubled, and whose musical and lyrical artistry much more profound, than even his most devoted fans ever realized.

Robert Hilburn was the chief music critic and pop music editor for the Los Angeles Times for more than three decades. The author of the bestselling memoir Cornflakes with John Lennon, Hilburn has reported extensively on most of pop music's legends, including Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and Johnny Cash.
  • "The result of Hilburn's wrestling with his subject's life and with his own moral compass is perhaps the richest biography of a musician I have ever read, and one of the best biographies I have read, period.... Hilburn knows how to organize a life in print skillfully.... Hilburn is a first-rate stylist. His sentences often sing." -- Atlanta Journal Constitution

  • Praise for CORN FLAKES WITH JOHN LENNON:

    "So many great memories came flooding back to me when I read 'Corn Flakes.' A must read for genuine music lovers."

  • "The ultimate Johnny Cash bio.... Rock writer great Robert Hilburn goes deep...." -- Rolling Stone

  • "Hilburn's amazing resilience and commitment for music shines through his decades of reportage and reviews of music."

  • Named one of this fall's hottest biographies by Kirkus

    "Veteran music writer Hilburn...masterfully separates fiction from fact in an exhaustive, but never exhausting, biography of the legendary musician...The personal knowledge aided by extensive archival research and always compelling, accessible writing makes this an instant-classic music biography with something to offer all generations of listeners." -- Kirkus (starred review)

  • "I've always felt that Robert Hilburn made the utmost effort in capturing how artists ticked.  I felt he always cut to the real chase without chasing so to speak."

  • "Drawing on his own interviews and personal experience with Cash, former L.A. Times music critic Hilburn exhaustively chronicles, almost year by year, Cash's rise to fame from his childhood in Dyess, Ark., through his stint in the military, the peak of his success in the 1970s with the Johnny Cash Show, and on to his slow decline in health in the 1990s.... Hilburn is a spellbinding storyteller." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • "A page-turner." (Rolling Stone (4 stars)).

  • "Hilburn's "Johnny Cash: The Life" is the big biography Cash's fans have been waiting for since the singer's death in 2003 and Hilburn doesn't let them down." -- Jeff Baker, The Oregonian

  • Praise for Robert Hilburn

    "As a writer, his words have an economic sense and frugality that put him across the street from other great commentators and critics of the rock era....For three decades at the Times, he steadily deciphered the shouts and hollers, whispers and miasma of a music business that rose and fell over the period he sat at his desk."
    (from the Introduction to Corn Flakes with John Lennon).

  • "It's always tricky to call a biography "definitive," but this one must surely come close." -- Booklist

  • "Arguably the ultimate biography of The Man in Black." -- The San Antonio Current 

  • "A riveting new biography of the Man in Black.... From Cash's birth in Kingsland, Arkansas, to his triumphant last decade, Hilburn covers it all through seven hundred pages of intimate and startling detail. It's the Man in Black in full." -- William Welch, Garden & Gun

  • "I listened to that stark unrelenting country as a kid. He was a hero of mine. I met him, finally, in a john at the Waldorf Astoria. He was taking a pee, and I broke out into 'Loading Coal.' We both zipped up and sung the final chorus together. One of my most cherished moments. You don't get much closer than that. Hilburn has written a brilliant story of an even more brilliant songwriter, warts and all." -- Keith Richards

  • "Johnny Cash was a man both extraordinary and ordinary. Every man could relate to him, no man could be him, and only one man could get inside his head like Robert Hilburn." -- Bono

  • "Robert Hilburn displays a deeply felt affinity with his subject, illuminating Johnny Cash as the moral compass of country music." -- Patti Smith

  • "It's a rare gift to be given the opportunity to step far back from the confusing miasma of one's own childhood to see the entire soaring arc of a parent's life, and to be able to look clear-eyed at the puzzle of his character and the kaleidoscope of pain and beauty. This is the breathtaking gift Robert Hilburn has given me in a definitive biography of my father that is excruciatingly honest, rigorously researched, and has the depth and integrity that his subject demands. I had to take many breaks while reading this book to assimilate all the stories I knew, but had never put in a narrative context, being claustrophobically close to not only the events themselves but the resonance of those events. I felt dizzy from the sense of time travel and from the odd notion that Hilburn's masterful organization of the paradoxes and the fullness of who Johnny Cash was--and is--satisfies not only my father's family and fans, but himself as well. To those who fiercely cling to a one-dimensional view of my father to satisfy their own ideals--dark or light, saint or sinner, right or left--I challenge them to read this book and begin to understand a far, far more interesting and complex man: a truly great, visionary artist, a deeply flawed human being capable of experiencing inconceivable amounts of both love and pain, and a huge spirit who now belongs to the ages." -- Rosanne Cash

  • "Johnny Cash and Robert Hilburn are two of the true blessings of my life. Both the best at what they do and each a gifted artist. It's a killer combination." -- Kris Kristofferson

  • "Between his love of music, his experience as one of the nation's leading music critics, and his long personal friendship with the subject, there is no one on earth more qualified to write this definitive book on the roller-coaster life of Johnny Cash than Robert Hilburn. Between the amount of research and the degree of detail he's put into this book, even Johnny would have learned something about himself if he were here to read it. Highly recommended!" -- Rick Rubin

  • "With straightforward prose, and through years of meticulous research, Robert Hilburn unravels the sometimes dark and magical life of one of music's greatest legends. Oftentimes this is a chronicle of pain, whether Hilburn is detailing Cash's early loss of his beloved brother, or the anguish he talked to Rick Rubin about feeling upon the death of wife June, but Hilburn gives much insight into what drove Cash's work. This is a harrowing story of addiction, musical genius, and enduring faith that goes far deeper than any film biopic ever will. In the end, Hilburn has achieved what is most certainly the definitive Johnny Cash biography." -- Charles R. Cross, author of Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

  • "Robert Hilburn put his heart and soul into this book. Johnny would have proud that there is now a comprehensive chronicle of his life and music." -- Lou Robin, who managed Johnny Cash from 1973 to 2003

Product Details

Johnny Cash
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Price: $20.00 US/$22.00 CAN
  • Pages: 688
  • Physical Dimensions: 6" x 9-1/4"
  • ISBN-13: 9780316194747
  • On Sale Date: 11/04/2014
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