America is number one — in incarceration. Over the past several decades, the country has built the largest prison population in the entire world, with the second-highest prison population per capita behind the tiny African country of Seychelles.
An incredible interview with Johnny Cash from the archives:
“That’s some cotton from Dyess, Arkansas,” he said offhandedly as we passed it, as though just any city superstar would be as likely to have erected some little shrine to childhood hard times—a roach or a rat in formaldehyde, say.
At my request, he enacted picking cotton, and he did it with no self-consciousness or hesitation. He bent over and began picking, his legs spread and his heavy trunk overhanging a cotton row, humped, fingers flying, cotton to sack, cotton to sack. “You take these fingers here in between the burrs and pull the cotton out. Just kind of twist it out, something you have to learn to do real fast. The burrs stick you in the fingers. If you pick cotton all day, your fingers are stuck all over with wounds from the burrs.”
He came erect, his body suddenly huge with pride, rearing his thick-maned head back, his mouth sucked in, judging me and challenging me to come across the line and understand what was in his heart then, what was in his blood, and I think I did: His eyes were bright with the romance of his blessed childhood stigmata.
If there are better cover versions of songs, or better music videos, they are few in number.
I’ve always liked Johnny Cash, how could I not do after seeing a rerun of Live at San Quentin? His final albums with Rick Rubin weren’t needed to cement his reputation as a legend – he’d already done enough – but his extraordinary covers of songs like Hurt and I Can See A Darkness took him to another level.
So it was great to find this footage of Johnny Cash at the height of his fame in 1969 taking time to listen someone try and break into his industry. It’s a lesson we’d all do well to learn from.