Friday, October 10, 2008

San Quentin Prison - Johnny Cash

I like pretty much all types of music. From old country, to heavy metal, to some rap, fusion, dance - pretty much anything and everything. If it is good music (and by good I mean touches the soul and makes you move!) then I am a fan. I don't really care if somethings mainstream or not, if it sounds good - then it is good.

That being said, one of my favorite artists of all time is Johnny Cash. I don't even think the man fits into a musical category to be honest. I know he was branded country, but he's a little country, rock, soul, etc. He probably would fit in many categories actually. He has written some of the most powerful story songs of all time, and even covered songs from bands like Nine Inch Nails.

There was a side to the "Man in Black", however, that is absolutely amazing to this day - a side of him that will live on for generations to come. He really wanted to help the lowest of the low in society, and tried to do many good things for them over the course of his career. One of these pursuits was his numerous live concerts within many American prisons, such as San Quentin, and Folsom State to name a few.

For those who don't know, San Quentin prison is the oldest prison in California. It's prison population has held (and currently holds) some of the worst criminals in American history. An entire gambit of prisoners call San Quentin their home, and since it first opened in 1852, many have been reformed and re-entered society successfully, while many others stayed in those concrete walls for a lifetime due to the horrific crimes they committed.

So what was Johnny Cash thinking when he did concerts right inside the prison? The answer is complex and simple at the same time, but the key words are compassion and faith. Johnny Cash was a Christian and actually did the rare thing of walking the walk while talking the talk - something rarely seen. He wanted to go to the "lowest of the low" in society and give what he could, which was his music - his artistry.

To some people who live free, this might not sound like a big deal, but to those within the walls of San Quentin and the various other prisons Cash visited, it was probably one of the best experiences in their prison time.

You will notice from the videos I am linking here that there was no barrier in between Johnny Cash and the prisoners, and he even shakes some of their hands heading to his small stage. So, to help keep the story going of this powerful piece of artistic history, here are some clips of the "Man in Black" from within the walls of San Quentin prison:

Some other noteworthy YouTube Cash vids:

Stars Pay Tribute to Johnny

Hurt (Originally from Nine Inch Nails)

Johnny Cash died less than four months after his wife June Carter Cash, on September 12, 2003, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Links of Interest
Johnny Cash
June Carter Cash
San Quentin Prison
Folsom State Prison
Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison
Johnny Cash at San Quentin

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