Friday, March 17, 2006

MIB

Frankly, I had never listened to a single Johnny Cash song until I got intrigued by Hirak's post on the man. And I was quite impressed. I downloaded some of his songs and since then, I have found myself regularly listening to them. The first one I listened to was the famous 'I walk the line'. As as been noted, the thing that struck me the most was the sheer simplicity of the lyrics and music. No gimmicks, no guitar or orchestration fillers. Cash sounds simply like a 'been there done that' guy. A man who sang because he felt like it, that's it. Simple. I think I would like to call Cash the 'Kumar Gandharva of western music'! In this age when complexity so overwhelms us that we simply cannot see the trees for the forest, it was refreshing to listen to the Man In Black. '25 minutes to go', 'It ain't me babe', 'I fought the law', 'Burning ring of fire' are but some of his renditions that I found salutary. It sounds like music you want to listen to when you want to contemplate or just unwind at the end of a complicated day.

Cash's voice itself is earthy, somewhat crude, but boasting a melodic richness that's quite unique. Again, his singing is simplicity itself, and you cannot make out any attempts at fashion in it. Cash sounds like a man who sings only for himself, and yet without a trace of selfishness. The songs have still to sink in, but the style of some of the songs made me think right away about Bob Dylan, until I realised that it was Dylan who sounds like Cash, since Cash came first. Many of his songs also have the classic 'on-the-road' quality that evokes vintage nostaligia and a yearning for a simple life. The Beatles also have made simple music, but because their lyrics and background notes are quite profound and complex sometimes, they don't always end up staying simple. A few of Cash's songs at some level also reminded me of the transcendental quality that is present to a lesser extent in Coldplay's music.
I also happened to chance upon a telecast of an old Cash show in Switzerland. The simplicity in his voice and music was neatly reflected in his bearing on stage. Dressed in his quintessential black, Cash did not indulge in any frills; no going down on knees with contorted facial expressions, no acrobatic guitar balancing, no deliberate efforts at constant communication with his fans. Just him, his guitar, and his voice. Minimum style, maximum effect. And yet you cannot but be impressed and Cash cannot but help endear himself to you. I look forward to listening to more of Johnny.

All throughout history, there have been emergent movements- Renaissance, Impressionism, Classicism, Romanticism- which have engulfed entire genres of the arts and have spanned much of social thinking and influenced cultural trends. Today, I think we are in need of an emergent movement of 'Simpleism'. Music like that of Cash is a good augury. Maybe it will help us revive simplicity, and hopefully before everything becomes too complicated for us to even appreciate that increasingly rare quality.

2 Comments:

Blogger Hirak said...

Great to see that you are now a Cash convert! The man never fails to fascinate. My respect for him is not only for his music but also for the fact that he never compromised his music for what he truly believed.
Yes, the man was like his music - completely honest, straight and in-your-face like the famous poster.
* *
Try seeing his video of "Hurt".

8:26 AM  
Blogger Kapilmuni said...

No doubt, cash is always the best. I love cash. Cash is king!

10:42 PM  

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