Johnny Cash on Failure

“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”

Here’s another iconic image of Johnny Cash. I love this one, and like to think this is a good representation of my own attitude towards failure. The story of the image is told by Alex Selwyn-Holmes on his interesting website Iconic Photos. After the quote is a 1959 video of Johnny Cash playing Folsom Prison Blues.

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

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As he grew old, Johnny Cash came to resent the Nashville country-music establishment, which all but abandoned him and the other aging “country” artists who had defined the genre to embrace new pop-oriented country artists like Garth Brooks. His late album Unchained (1996) was virtually ignored by the establishment.

However, the album won a Grammy for Best Country Album. Cash and his producers American Recordings posted an advertisement in Billboard Magazine with the above image as a ”thank you” to the Nashville country music industry after winning the award. The infamous photo of Cash giving the middle finger to the camera was taken back in 1969 during his San Quentin prison performance.

A tireless advocate for the prison reform, Cash began performing concerts at various prisons starting in the late 1960s, leading to two highly successful live albums, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (1968) and Johnny Cash at San Quentin (1969). In the latter prison, when Cash performed his prison song “San Quentin” (“I hate every inch of you/May you rot and burn in hell/May your walls fall and may I live to tell”), he nearly caused an uprising. The definitive, iconoclastic image made its way into Cash’s Hollywood biopic, Walk the Line, but the gesture was actually shot during a rehearsal session toward the annoying cameraman, the concert’s official photographer Jim Marshall.

Here’s JC in 1959 singing Folsom Prison Blues:

Want to learn more about the best ways to practice? Get an e-mail with a discount code when The Practice of Practice is published (June, 2014). To learn more about the book, check out a sample from The Practice of Practice.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Clyde Morgan says:

    Jon,

    Have you caught the interview with Doc? 2hrs long and lots of repeat material, but there are several segments that are gems! Practice, lessons with great teachers, mentors and mentoring, the professional journey- getting there v.s. keeping the job, AND grade school / high school music teacher as Hero! Found myself getting bored at times, then suddenly- OH Yeah! Rewind! Here’s the link:

    Doc Severinsen speaks at Illinois State April 2, 2013

    Oh, is it o.k. to send stuff to you in replies to your blogs? I want to express my appreciation for your work by sharing great mentoring licks back at ya, but want to respect your gig & your lead!

    1. Thanks, Clyde! I sure love Doc. I got to talk with him at length when I was a scrawny freshman undergrad at UOP in California when he came out. Superb human being and what a player! I hadn’t seen this talk, so many thanks for pointing it out. I’m going to post it to the trumpet blog in the next day or two and will be sure to give you credit.

      I’m incredibly grateful for anything you’re willing to share, Clyde! The more conversation and interchange the better, but I do appreciate you making sure. You’re a scholar and a gentleman.

      cheers,
      Jon

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