Throughout his career, Johnny Cash was depicted, and depicted
himself, as a walking contradiction-social protestor and establishment patriot,
drugged wildman and devout Christian crusader, rebel outlaw and
elder statesman. Author Leigh H. Edwards investigates the allure of
this incongruous image and its cultural significance, asserting that Cash
embodied irresolvable contradictions of American identity that reflect foundational
issues in the American experience: the tensions between freedom
and patriotism, individual rights and nationalism, the sacred and
the profane. Edwards illustrates how this model of ambivalence is a vital
paradigm for American popular music and American identity as well.
In Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity, Edwards
focuses on Cash's media image and the ideologies and social critiques within
his work. Utilizing sources such as Cash's autobiographies, lyrics, music,
liner notes, and interviews, Edwards also pays equal attention to depictions
of the artist by others. Vivian Cash's publication of his letters
to her, documentaries and music journalism about him, Walk the Line, and
fan club materials found in the archives at the Country Music Foundation
in Nashville help to complete this captivating portrait of an American
legend and icon.
Leigh H. Edwards is Associate Professor of English at
Florida State University. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida.