Music owes a lot to the man in black. That unique thump ditta thump of the bass in hits like “Walk The Line” has been adapted and replicated in a more furious tones in many a punk, psychobilly and punkabilly songs.
But did you know Johnny Cash was an activist for the Native Americans? Native Americans are so small in # it’s hard for them to play identity politics these days and things have become whitewashed and a bit one sided over the years.
It wasn’t a one sided war where the evil white man destroyed the Indians like we see so much in the movies today. War mongering Indians answered brutally to encroachment by the pioneers, throwing infant white babies up in the air and catching them with their spears, chopping the bottom of women’s feet off and then having them hop around on the stubbly grass in the prairie, scalping people alive, etc, etc. It was a pretty brutal time.
But the mass genocide committed by the U.S. Government, with the broken treaties, the sanctioned handing out of infected blankets with diseased viruses, and sanctioned lies is very true as well. Atrocities were committed on both sides as is often the case in war.
Of course we see today who won the battle and the fact that American Indians are THE poorest segment of U.S. Society is inescapable. Alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide, are not reserved for the adults. On some reservations, young children as young as 10-12 years of age have tried (and sadly some succeeded) to kill themselves so deep and crippling lies their depression. Only a few make it out.
Back in Johnny Cash’s day, he put out an entire controversial album dedicated to Native American Rights and played a benefit concert at Wounded Knee. It lacked support from his label and faced censorship from radio stations, but Cash put it out anyway, supporting it with his own money.
This part of Cash’s history has largely been removed or conveniently forgotten by Hollywood producers & scriptwriters but I think it offers clues as to why so many in the punk music genre respect if not adore Johnny Cash.
Just goes to show you even Rednecks can have heart.
Antonino Interview with Laura Flanders from Let Fury Have the Hour on Vimeo.