Roseanne Cash

Roseanne Cash

Rosanne Cash on finding her voice. The oldest daughter of legendary singer Johnny Cash has a new memoir on growing up in the context of her family legacy. She also has a new cd of what her father called essential country songs.


  • Rosanne Cash Singer, songwriter, author of "Rosanne Cash Composed: A Memoir." Her latest cd is "The List."

Johnny Cash and Rosanne Cash Perform “September When It Comes”


  • 10:06:54

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Rosanne Cash has been writing and performing on stage for more than three decades. In her new memoir titled "Composed," she writes, "I've often attempted to explain my experiences to myself through songs." Part of those experiences involving the daughter of the legendary singer, Johnny Cash. Rosanne Cash has recently released a CD based on a list her father gave her when she was a teenager. He called it 100 essential country songs. This CD is entitled "The List." And let's listen to one of those songs.

  • 10:08:56

    MS. DIANE REHMRosanne Cash, what a pleasure to meet you.

  • 10:09:00

    MS. ROSANNE CASH(laugh) My honor to be on your show.

  • 10:09:02

    REHMThank you. And to hear you sing that Patsy Cline song -- tell me what it was like for you to sing that song, which I know was a favorite of your mother's.

  • 10:09:17

    CASHThat was perhaps the most intimidating song to approach from "The List..."

  • 10:09:23


  • 10:09:23

    CASH...and thinking about recording it. In fact, I kept saying to my husband John, who produced and arranged the record, I said, I just can't do -- I can't do a song that Patsy Cline did. And he said, well, think about it. It's been over 40 years since she sang that song. There's a whole generation that perhaps never heard it. And ultimately, I think a great song deserves a lot of interpretations.

  • 10:09:46

    REHMSo your interpretation finally felt as?

  • 10:09:52

    CASHIt felt often authentic. At one point in the studio, I asked Patsy to help me.

  • 10:09:59

    REHMAnd I'll bet she did.

  • 10:10:00

    CASHWell, in a metaphorical way, maybe she did.

  • 10:10:02

    REHMI'll bet she did. This -- the title of your memoir, "Composed..."

  • 10:10:09


  • 10:10:10

    REHM...has lots of meanings, I would think.

  • 10:10:12

    CASHSure. Well, its references some measure of grace that I hope I retained at this, well, you know, my old age. (laugh) But also, it's about compositions, you know, writing music for all of these years.

  • 10:10:28

    REHMBut that state of feeling composed...

  • 10:10:32


  • 10:10:33 something takes long line.

  • 10:10:37

    CASHIt does. I mean, if you grow in to learning a skill, you grow in to becoming a good wife and mother, you grow in to being -- feeling at home on the stage, or at least I did. And, you know, ultimately, I got rid of my reflex resistance to my dad's legacy and trying to do this on my own. I wanna carve out my own spot, which is totally appropriate as a young woman, but not very graceful as a middle-aged woman. So that's -- the title, "Composed," also references some kind of authenticity that I feel at this point.

  • 10:11:14

    REHMHow difficult was it to find out who you were in the face of that extraordinary legacy?

  • 10:11:25

    CASHWell, it's was a challenge. I mean, I always say I think it would have been harder if I'd been a boy. (laugh) But, you know, to go in the same field where my dad cast such an iconic shadow, it was complicated for me. Fortunately, he understood how complicated it was.

  • 10:11:45

    REHMHe really did.

  • 10:11:46

    CASHHe did. And he was not hurt or offended by the fact that I wanted to push away and not immerse myself in what he was doing, and very respectful, very loving.

  • 10:12:00

    REHMWhen did you accompany him on his concert? How old were you?

  • 10:12:06

    CASHWell, that was straight out of high school. And that was just -- that was not a professional thing. That was just a chance to be with my dad.

  • 10:12:14

    REHMAnd to be with him to see him in his element, do you remember how you felt?

  • 10:12:24

    CASHWell, of course, it wasn't the first time I've seen him on stage. But it was like immersion therapy to see him every night for, you know, nearly three years. I was on that tour with him. And to see how he worked out all of his problems in the spotlight and how he had this unique relationship to an audience. He felt very safe with an audience, safer than anywhere else, I think. And that was -- you know, I begin to realize that I couldn't be resentful about sharing my dad with the world anymore...

  • 10:13:02


  • 10:13:02

    CASH...because he had a large mission that was in the world.

  • 10:13:05

    REHMInteresting. You wrote that sometimes he would look out into the audience and see somebody yawn or somebody's eyes who were glazed and he'd have to get pass that.

  • 10:13:22

    CASHSure. I think any performer does. That happens to everyone. I -- you know, I wrote about that very thing in my book about -- a friend told me I was complaining about having a bad night. I wasn't connecting with the audience. They weren't paying attention, whatever. And he said sing to the 6 percent who are poets. They will always hear you. And I just keep that in mind. Whenever I'm having a tough time on stage or I'm not connecting, I think, the 6 percent are out there.

  • 10:13:52

    REHMAnd they're so with you.

  • 10:13:55

    CASHThere's so with me.

  • 10:13:56

    REHMAbsolutely. This is -- seems to me both a spiritual and kind of the metaphysical memoirs.

  • 10:14:10

    CASHAnd yet, grounded in real world artifacts and real world experiences and memories, spiritual in the most ecumenical sense of the word I would say, meaning art and music are spiritual to me, the deepest kind of spirituality, I find in art. So that is pretty much the framework to my book in my life, you know, how art can infuse everything.

  • 10:14:37

    REHMYou told your dad about working on this book in 2001...

  • 10:14:44


  • 10:14:45

    REHM...when he was in the hospital. Would you read that portion for us?

  • 10:14:49

    CASHSure. Now, this comes at the end of a chapter I wrote about a six month sojourn in London when I was very young. I was 20 years old. And it was a coming of age experience for me. Twenty-five years later, my dad was having a serious of health crisis and he was in intensive care. And I visited him in the hospital and told him that I was writing this book. He harrumphed emphatically, one of the peculiar ways he liked to communicate. I described one of the chapters to him. I'm sitting on a beach in Jamaica staring at the sky and letting the title role of my own future wash over me and draw me forward. I am full of my unlived life and the joy of anticipation for it is taking me apart, cell by cell, and putting me back together in ways that could accommodate a thousand potentials. I am certain to outgrow myself. I can feel it all coming from me and I am running to meet it in my deepest heart in London.

  • 10:16:02

    CASHI was deliberately eloquent for him describing my feelings in detail. The anticipation and the smell of the sea and the darkness, the brightness of the stars, my young smooth feet in the sand and the two silent boys at my side like gargoyles protecting my dream. He grew still and stared straight ahead through the glass doors to the nurse's station while I talked. When I finished, he turned to me with surprise. You got me with that chapter. He thought for a moment. I didn't know you felt all those things then. Neither of us spoke for a moment or two then softly I said, well, I did. Dad's eyes glazed a bit and he said quietly, just to think of you makes my heart swell with pride.

  • 10:16:55


  • 10:16:56

    CASHThank you.

  • 10:16:57

    REHMAnd I'm sure that when you heard those words, you must have been so taken.

  • 10:17:08

    CASHI still carry those words with me.

  • 10:17:10

    REHMI'll bet.

  • 10:17:10

    CASHWhenever things get hard, sometimes I think of those words. That was that moment that was the microcosm of my dad's love.

  • 10:17:20

    REHMYou said in those words, I'm certain to outgrow myself. What did that mean?

  • 10:17:29

    CASHI had that feeling that I think a lot of young people have where you sense your potential but it's beyond your reach still. And I wanted it so badly and had no idea how to get there. I wanted to be a great writer. I wanted to be a songwriter. I wanted to figure out who I was apart from my very big family -- influential family. And I thought I might have to move across the ocean to discover all those things. And truly, those six months in London was -- were the beginning of me discovering that. And feeling my potential just a little bit more took me years to start getting there.

  • 10:18:10

    REHMRosanne Cash, her new CD is titled "The List" and her new memoirs is "Composed." We're going to open the phones in just a few moments. Join us, 800-433-8850.

  • 10:20:02

    REHMAnd welcome back. Of course you just heard "Silver Wings," and Rufus Wainwright was also singing on that recording.

  • 10:20:13

    CASHHe comes in a little later than my own cut, yes.

  • 10:20:14

    REHMYes, yes.

  • 10:20:15

    CASHHe's a wonderful singer.

  • 10:20:17

    REHMYour parents actually split up when you were 12. Your dad married June Carter. What was your relationship with her?

  • 10:20:28

    CASHIt was very good. It didn't start out complicated like some step relationships did, and it never got that way, really. She -- I was very lucky that I had two very strong women in my life -- my stepmother June, my mother Vivian -- and they both provided opposite things. (laugh)

  • 10:20:51

    REHMWell, they were so different.

  • 10:20:52

    CASHThey were so different. My mother provided a lot of discipline, structure, kind of attention to detail. June provided this sense of expansion and a great template as a performer because she was exactly the same offstage as she was on. It was really remarkable.

  • 10:21:15

    REHMNow, when your father left your mother...

  • 10:21:20


  • 10:21:20

    REHM...Vivian, how did you feel about his leaving her behind?

  • 10:21:28

    CASHWell, he didn't leave me behind. And I felt -- even at the age of 12, 11 or 12, I thought, when I knew they were gonna break up, I thought, well, maybe they both have a chance to be happy now. Of course that is a very adult thing for a child to think, and I'm sure that I was compensating for my feelings in some way by giving it a philosophical, you know, overtone. But they did become happy apart from each other, and that just was for the better.

  • 10:21:59

    REHMShe was not comfortable with your father's public life.

  • 10:22:04

    CASHNot only that, but at that time, you know, my father was deep in his addiction, and my mother had no understanding and was not equipped to deal with that.

  • 10:22:14

    REHMHow did she?

  • 10:22:16

    CASHWell, she was angry. She got very bitter for a while, you know. And she was Catholic, too, so to get divorced back then, that was just horrendous. She couldn't even conceive of it. So this really turned her life inside out.

  • 10:22:30

    REHMAnd did you stay with her...

  • 10:22:34


  • 10:22:34

    REHM...for quite some time?

  • 10:22:36

    CASHI did. I did see my dad. You know, like any divorced families, you see your father on weekends and holidays. But I grew up in Southern California with my mother.

  • 10:22:46

    REHMAnd stayed with her until you were how old?

  • 10:22:48

    CASH18. I actually left the day after I graduated from high school. And then I pieced together a little college (laugh) along the way.

  • 10:22:56

    REHMBut then, you know, this time that you spent with your dad after high school have to really have had an impact on you.

  • 10:23:07

    CASHAn enormous impact. It was life-changing. And that was the tour that very summer that he gave me the list of songs, which I held up as, you know, how great songs were written. I studied these songs. I asked him how each one went. How does this go? How does this go? And that was what made me think I wanted to be a songwriter.

  • 10:23:30

    REHMThe song "500 Miles" is from that list. Tell us about that song.

  • 10:23:36

    CASHThat is a quintessential American song. It's been covered by many, many people: Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, Bobby Bare. And sometimes it's kind of a campfire song, but this version is very sad.

  • 10:25:50

    REHMAnd that's your daughter?

  • 10:25:52

    CASHThat was my daughter joining in on the end.

  • 10:25:53

    REHMSinging in harmony.

  • 10:25:54

    CASH(laugh) I know.

  • 10:25:55

    REHMHow wonderful.

  • 10:25:56

    CASHShe just released her first record last year. She's a wonderful songwriter.

  • 10:26:01

    REHMYou know...

  • 10:26:02

    CASHI don't know where she gets it. (laugh)

  • 10:26:05

    REHMConsidering the fact that you saw all the difficulties of a public life up close, it's remarkable that you chose to follow that route.

  • 10:26:20

    CASHThat shows, I think, the strength and passion I felt about music and writing. And I had to grow into a life as a performer because I was -- you know, I had children. I didn't wanna leave them, and I have balanced that pretty well, I think. I have never gone on a really long tour because of my kids. But my mother had a lot of anxiety about that lifestyle, about a musician's lifestyle. I mean, from what she knew, you got addicted to drugs…

  • 10:26:46


  • 10:26:46 were always gone...

  • 10:26:47


  • 10:26:47

    CASH...and your marriage fell apart.

  • 10:26:48


  • 10:26:48

    CASHWhy would you wanna do this? (laugh) But I've, you know, got a happy marriage, not on drugs, raised my children and I love my life.

  • 10:26:58

    REHMYou've, however, had some pretty serious medical problems.

  • 10:27:04

    CASHYes, I have.

  • 10:27:05

    REHMAnd before the program began, you were warming up your voice...

  • 10:27:11


  • 10:27:12

    REHM...something every performer has to do. But you had some particular problems with your voice for a while.

  • 10:27:20

    CASHI did. I lost my voice for 2 1/2 years. I had vocal polyps, and I got pregnant. And for some reason, the hormones of pregnancy made them grow and grow and grow...

  • 10:27:30


  • 10:27:30

    CASH...which is kind of science fiction, but it's true.

  • 10:27:33


  • 10:27:34

    CASHAnd I didn't know if I'd ever get my voice back. And I was -- it really shook me to the core. I had always thought of myself as a writer, but then losing my voice made me realize how deeply important and precious my voice was to me.

  • 10:27:49

    REHMAnd then the polyps simply disappeared or what?

  • 10:27:53

    CASHThey did after I finished nursing my baby and the hormone settled back down. It took a long time. It took 2 1/2 years. But then my voice was wrecked and I had to rebuild it from scratch.

  • 10:28:05

    REHMBut they did not have to...

  • 10:28:06

    CASHDid not have to do surgery, thank God.

  • 10:28:07

    REHM...remove. Yes. But then...

  • 10:28:10

    CASHThen... (laugh)

  • 10:28:11


  • 10:28:12

    CASHI had brain surgery.

  • 10:28:14


  • 10:28:15

    CASHI had a structural problem in my brain. The short version is that my cerebellum was too low and it was crushing my brainstem. So I was really -- I mean, headaches for years, but I was becoming incapacitated. It was getting worse. And my husband was go great, greatest patient advocate ever and found the best neurosurgeon. And I'm doing well. I mean, it's been a hard recovery, but I'm doing very well.

  • 10:28:42

    REHMHow long ago was...

  • 10:28:43

    CASH2 1/2 years.

  • 10:28:44

    REHMJust 2 1/2 years?

  • 10:28:46

    CASHYeah. The first year was very tough.

  • 10:28:47

    REHMOh my.

  • 10:28:48


  • 10:28:49

    REHMAnd now here you are...

  • 10:28:51

    CASHAnd here I am.

  • 10:28:52

    REHM...with a new CD and a new memoir.

  • 10:28:55

    CASHYeah. I -- you know, looking at your own mortality lends a sense of urgency about the things you wanna do in your life. And when I started to recover, I thought, what do I really wanna do? I wanna finish this book. I wanna make the list. So I've done those two things.

  • 10:29:12

    REHMHow are your children? How old are they now?

  • 10:29:17

    CASHMy stepdaughter Hannah, who I claim as my own, is 34. And Katelyn is 30, Chelsea 28. She's the one who just made the record. Carrie is 21, just left home. She's in college and she just moved out of the house. It just broke both of our hearts. And my son Jake is 11.

  • 10:29:40


  • 10:29:40

    CASHSo I've covered the spectrum of motherhood.

  • 10:29:42

    REHMYou really, really have. We've got a number of callers. And here's a message from a number of callers. And here is a message from Dee (sp?) on Facebook, who says, "Rosanne Cash is an amazing singer and songwriter. I'd like to know when she wrote her first song, and did performing come naturally coming from such a talented family?"

  • 10:30:10

    CASHI wrote -- well, there's two different questions. I wrote my first song...

  • 10:30:14


  • 10:30:14

    CASH...or my first good song? (laugh)

  • 10:30:17

    REHMThat's a good question.

  • 10:30:18

    CASHRight. I wrote my first song at 18. I wrote my first good song at 21.

  • 10:30:22

    REHMWhat happened to the song you wrote at 18?

  • 10:30:25

    CASHOh, hundreds of them, Diane. They've just...

  • 10:30:27


  • 10:30:27

    CASHThey're that I tossed, just trying to learn the craft.

  • 10:30:30


  • 10:30:32

    CASHPerforming did not come naturally. I had to grow into that because I was naturally pretty reticent. I didn't feel I wanted that much attention. And also, I had a great performer as a parent. And I thought, well, I don't have a right to do the same thing. He's so special. But, you know, you find out who you are on the stage.

  • 10:30:53

    REHMDo you remember that very first performance?

  • 10:30:57

    CASHI was terrified. Northern California. My first record came out. I was just paralyzed with fear but I got through it. I met somebody the other day who was at that performance. And he said (laugh) he just remembers how scared I was. (laugh)

  • 10:31:14

    REHMDo you remember the song you sang?

  • 10:31:17

    CASHOh, I did a whole show.

  • 10:31:19

    REHMYou did.

  • 10:31:19

    CASHYeah. I did a whole show. I was totally ill-equipped. But something else I talk about in the book, if you just keep your head down and keep showing up...

  • 10:31:28

    REHMKeep showing up.

  • 10:31:28

    CASH...and keep doing the work, it'll come.

  • 10:31:32

    REHMI had the same feeling...

  • 10:31:33


  • 10:31:33

    REHM...same experience.

  • 10:31:35

    CASHWell, you can tell that you've done that through your life.

  • 10:31:37

    REHMYou just keep showing up…

  • 10:31:39


  • 10:31:40

    REHM...and that's what you have to do. "September When It Comes," tell me about that song.

  • 10:31:49

    CASHThat song -- I wrote the lyrics when my dad was in another very ill-health crisis and we were afraid of losing him. So it’s a song about mortality. My husband wrote the music to it, and I recorded it with my dad. The first thing we did together like this.

  • 10:33:21

    REHMHard for you to hear this one.

  • 10:33:24

    CASHYeah. I never listen to it because it's just -- it's too bittersweet, you know? It's like the ultimate family photograph.

  • 10:33:33

    REHMSuch beautiful voices combined.

  • 10:33:37

    CASHYou know what? My dad told me once -- he saw this voice doctor at Vanderbilt, a very famous voice doctor, and the doctor said to him, do you think your voice and your daughter Rosanne's voice are similar? And my dad said, not at all. They couldn't be more different. And the doctor said, I've done this spectrum analysis on them. He said, they're identical.

  • 10:34:00

    REHMWow. (laugh) Wow.

  • 10:34:04

    CASHI couldn't believe it.

  • 10:34:05

    REHMAnd he told you that?

  • 10:34:06

    CASHYeah. My dad told me.

  • 10:34:10

    REHMWhat was he like to be with?

  • 10:34:15

    CASHHe was propelled by rhythm, always feeling rhythm and thinking about rhythm. So he had all these nervous ticks, you know? He was always moving. He was a very restless person. And always very -- and dreamy, too, you know? He thought differently than anyone I've ever known and incredibly intelligent. Had this expanse of understanding of art, music, spirituality and the world. That was very unique. And he could meet you on that level even as a child -- when you were a child, you know? He found who you are and met you.

  • 10:34:54

    REHMDid he behave differently toward you when he was in the throes of addiction?

  • 10:35:01

    CASHOf course. Someone who is an active addict is just an awful person to be around, you know? Marshall Grant, who was my dad's bass player for many years, said there were two people, you know? There was Johnny Cash when he was an active addict and then there was John.

  • 10:35:19

    REHMBut there was also Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash's father.

  • 10:35:25

    CASHEven when he was in his active phase of addiction, he -- his destruction was turned inward. He was never unkind to us children. He might be distant and, you know, crazed but even in that there was this -- he would write us letters. There was always an impulse to stay a dad.

  • 10:35:49

    REHMWhat kinds of letters?

  • 10:35:51

    CASHI miss you. I'm in Poland tonight. I've got two shows tomorrow. Then I'll see you on the weekend, you know? Call me. Here's my number. Those kinds.

  • 10:36:01

    REHMOf course, that was before the days of Skype...

  • 10:36:02

    CASHBefore fax is even -- yes. (laugh)

  • 10:36:04

    REHMYeah. Exactly. You must have missed him a lot.

  • 10:36:10

    CASHI still do. Sometimes, when I really miss him, I'll get in a taxi or walk in a store and he'll be on the radio (laugh) and it feels like getting a hug.

  • 10:36:21

    REHMOr you come onto a radio program...

  • 10:36:24

    CASHWell, that song, in particular, is very hard to listen to and still.

  • 10:36:27

    REHMVery hard to listen to.

  • 10:36:29

    CASHYeah. Yeah.

  • 10:36:30

    REHMWhat about his performances with June Carter Cash?

  • 10:36:36

    CASHOh, they were funny together, you know? She'd be -- she had a great comedic streak, and that would come out when they perform together. My dad softened around her visibly. He softened around most women, you know? He was kind of a man's man, but he loved women and would, you know, bring it down a notch. (laugh)

  • 10:37:00

    REHMBringing it down a notch meant being more warm and giving...

  • 10:37:05

    CASHYes, of course.

  • 10:37:06

  • 10:37:08

    CASHYeah. Sweeter, pretending to be interested in things that women were interested in. (laugh)

  • 10:37:15

    REHMRosanne Cash, her new memoir is titled, "Composed." Her latest CD is "The List"

  • 10:40:02

    REHMAnd Rosanne Cash is with me. Her new memoir is titled "Composed". Her latest CD is "The List." And by the way, on our website you can see a film of Rosanne Cash with her dad, family photos and a film I think you'll enjoy. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Let's go to Ogden, Utah. Doug, you're on the air.

  • 10:40:42

    DOUGHi Diane. Thank you for taking my call.

  • 10:40:44


  • 10:40:44

    DOUGRosanne, I want to comment on your comment you made earlier. In that younger people, they seemed to start to realize their potential but it's just out of their grasp.

  • 10:41:01


  • 10:41:02

    DOUGI have two girls, 15 and 17. And I see that they sometimes get impatient, and they want to grasp that potential. And I keep telling them, work on building that foundation. Don't worry about what's going to come later, your potential will come. And I think your comment that you made earlier that the potential is just out of their reach is -- it's like a bullet hitting you. It's -- well, why didn't I think of that before? (laugh) I mean, it's now so simple. (laugh) It's that you put it in a text that's so easy to understand. And I just want to thank you for making that comment.

  • 10:41:43

    CASHWell, thank you very much.

  • 10:41:45

    REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for calling. And now to Hull, Mass. Good morning, Peter.

  • 10:41:54

    PETERGood morning, Diane. Thank you very much for taking my call. I'm a first time caller.

  • 10:41:58

    REHMAh, good.

  • 10:42:00

    PETERAnd it is quite an honor to -- (sounds like) I feel lucky to ask a question to Ms. Cash, and it relates to her song writing process. I'm wondering if it is always a lyric-driven or melody-driven process, and how that contrasts you, like, on his father's playing that she wrote music?

  • 10:42:21

    CASHWell, you know, that -- it's a very private kind of experience, so I can't even say how my father wrote. I know that sometimes he got inspiration from dreams. And I know also that he was very much propelled by rhythm, so sometimes he would feel a rhythm before he felt a lyric. For myself, it -- there's no formula. Sometimes a lyric will stay in my head for weeks or months, and I'll finally flush it out and then find the melody. The best, for me, is when it comes together at the same time.

  • 10:42:50

    REHMOh, gosh.

  • 10:42:52

    CASHAnd then I feel like, oh, tingly in the head and I'm so happy. (laugh)

  • 10:42:56

    REHMHow often does that happen?

  • 10:42:58

    CASHOften enough that I keep doing it. (laugh)

  • 10:43:00

    REHMOh, that's great.

  • 10:43:02

    CASHAnd thank you. That was a good question. Thank you.

  • 10:43:03

    REHMThanks for calling, Peter. Here's a message from Bill in Gainesville, Fla. He says, "Ms. Cash's 'The List' is the best new album I've heard in a long time. Does she have any plans to make more albums based on her father's list? And if so, when?"

  • 10:43:28


  • 10:43:29

    CASHThe answer is, yes.

  • 10:43:31


  • 10:43:31

    CASHAnd also, I don't know when. I don't think it'll be my next record. I wanna, you know, kind of restate my claim as a song writer again. But definitely, I'm going to do volume two of "The List."

  • 10:43:44

    REHMYou know, you are such a talented individual. You were actually -- took up painting. Tell me about that process.

  • 10:43:54

    CASHThat was an exercise that I took up to free myself of words for a while. I was so working with words and language and melody all the time, I wanted to see what it felt like to give all that up and just work with a physical medium with paint. It was so revealing because I saw that what I did in painting, the self-editing, the self-criticism, the insecurities, the process, was exactly the same as songwriting, exactly. So I was happy to have that knowledge to go back to songwriting with. And then when I return to language and melody, it was so fresh and wonderful. I'm not a good painter.

  • 10:44:34

    REHMBut you had courage enough to try to paint.

  • 10:44:38

    CASHTo try, yeah.

  • 10:44:40

    REHMAnd had you painted as a child?

  • 10:44:44

    CASHNo, never. I never had any confidence as a visual artist.

  • 10:44:47

    REHMNor I.

  • 10:44:48


  • 10:44:48

    REHMAnd yet once you begin, you know, you can surprise yourself.

  • 10:44:54

    CASHRight. And even just the process of it is so wonderful, you know? I mean, you know, it's not going to hang in a gallery or anything, but it was great for me.

  • 10:45:03

    REHMAnd it does something else. It touches on some part of you that perhaps had not been revealed to you.

  • 10:45:13

    CASHExactly. I had a much greater understanding of myself as a writer after spending a couple of years painting.

  • 10:45:23

    REHMYou know, I once spent some time learning to draw which I, from elementary school, had believed I could not do.

  • 10:45:36

    CASHCould not do.

  • 10:45:37

    REHMAnd yet through a process, I turned things upside down and was able to draw beautifully.

  • 10:45:50

    CASHThat's so interesting. You stimulated a part of your brain that had been just waiting.

  • 10:45:54

    REHM(laugh) Precisely. You touched exactly on it. All right. Let's go to Raleigh, N.C. Good morning, Jeremy.

  • 10:46:04

    JEREMYHi, good morning. I just wondered what Ms. Cash thought of the movie "Walk the Line" that portrayed her father, it was Joaquin Phoenix?

  • 10:46:11

    CASHWell, I thought about it probably what you would think about a Hollywood film, about the most painful parts of your childhood. (laugh) It was not a pleasant experience for me. I understood that other people like it and some people even introduced to my dad's music through it. It's great. It just wasn't for me and my family. You know what I mean? It was too complex of a story to be reduced to two hours.

  • 10:46:38

    REHMMm-hmm, mm-hmm. And perhaps too personal in some ways and not personal enough in others?

  • 10:46:48

    CASHWell, you know, the movie, "Ray," about Ray Charles? I loved that movie.

  • 10:46:51

    REHMYes, yes.

  • 10:46:53

    CASHI loved it. But I bet, if you talk to Ray Charles' children (laugh) or his wife or his brothers and sisters, you would -- they would say, well, it wasn't exactly like that for me.

  • 10:47:04

    REHMLet's go now to Cleveland, Ohio. Good morning, Eddie.

  • 10:47:10

    EDDIEGood morning. Rosanne, I just want -- my comment is, I was at your sister Tara's wedding in Hendersonville, at your dad's house.

  • 10:47:21


  • 10:47:22

    EDDIEAnd I met you. I met you. I was introduced to you. And, of course, I met your father and he had just finished his meal in the tent. Remember, they had a big tent out there?

  • 10:47:32

    CASHYeah, I do.

  • 10:47:33

    EDDIEYeah. Yes. And I went up to him and I said, "Mr. Cash, my name is Eddie. It's an honor to meet you." He stood up, he shook my hand and said, "Eddie, just call me Johnny."

  • 10:47:50

    CASHWell, that was him. (laugh) He was always very kind and gracious to people.

  • 10:47:53

    EDDIEAnd that was it. And it was just such a great experience. And the home was off limits, but Tara took me in and showed me the rooms (laugh) and all those awards and things like that. So it was a wonderful experience for me. (unintelligible)

  • 10:48:08

    CASHWell, she was always a rebel.

  • 10:48:12

    REHMWhen you say she was a rebel, what do you mean?

  • 10:48:15

    CASHOh, just -- I'm teasing. See, I'm actually closest to Tara. She's my baby sister. She lives in Portland, Ore. She's a great person.

  • 10:48:24

    REHMTo Ogden, Utah. Good morning, Alice.

  • 10:48:29

    ALICEGood morning. Thank you for taking my call.

  • 10:48:31


  • 10:48:32

    ALICEI just tick my curiosity because Ms. Cash, you know, picked up being an artist or painting. And I have a nephew who is in Portland, Ore. and he -- he's in the music business, and he's very talented. And I just wanna know what advice to give to him. He's an artist. He, you know, plays music, instruments and he paints. And he just seems to be wandering. And I -- you know, he didn't have the base that Ms. Cash have, you know, the platform and the foundation. And what advice can I give to him? I'm not sure, you know, what to tell him, which way to go or what to do. I just -- you know?

  • 10:49:11

    CASHWell, the best advice that was given to me was refine your skills so you can support your instincts. Meaning, those great impulses and passion that he feels for the things that he wants, he needs to have a skill set and discipline to support that so that when that inspiration comes, he has the tools to translate it. Do you know what I mean? So that's the best advice I got. And I worked hard. Like I said, I just kept showing up for myself.

  • 10:49:42


  • 10:49:43

    ALICEMm-hmm. Okay.

  • 10:49:43

    REHM...I hope that helps.

  • 10:49:46

    ALICEYeah. You -- do you mean like education, like going into -- you know, actually being -- you know, because he's like self-taught?

  • 10:49:53

    CASHMm-hmm. That's okay. My husband is self-taught, and he's one of the greatest musicians I know.

  • 10:49:59


  • 10:50:00

    CASHMaybe the education comes from his own self. (laugh)

  • 10:50:02

    REHMExactly. Thanks for calling, Alice. Rosanne, you had to write for eulogies...

  • 10:50:11


  • 10:50:12 a period at about two years. How did you get through that?

  • 10:50:19

    CASHI said, I don't mind going to funerals, but I'm sick of sitting in the front row. (laugh) I -- well, the writing was actually therapeutic for me. It was an organizing principle for my feelings. The feelings were overwhelming. And yet, if I could bring some poetry to it or organize it as a, you know, an essay, then it helped. And also, it was a matter of honor. I wanted to honor these people and say what they had meant to me. They deserved that.

  • 10:50:50

    REHMThere was your father.

  • 10:50:52


  • 10:50:53

    REHMThere was your stepsister, Rosey.

  • 10:50:56

    CASHMm-hmm, mm-hmm.

  • 10:50:57

    REHMHow did she die?

  • 10:50:59

    CASHRosey was -- she, well, she was an addict. And the circumstances of her death are a little bit murky, but it was definitely related to her addiction. She had a very tough life. And I just -- oh, it was so sad. You know, she was at her 40's and died six weeks after my dad.

  • 10:51:18


  • 10:51:19

    CASHShe was June's daughter. It was strange because her name was Rosey and mine, Rosanne, and so a lot of times people confused us. And I loved her, but it was almost like having a doppelganger in the world.

  • 10:51:32

    REHMOh, my gosh.

  • 10:51:33


  • 10:51:35

    REHMSo you spoke at her service as well.

  • 10:51:38

    CASHI did.

  • 10:51:40

    REHMTell me about the song "Sea of Heartbreak."

  • 10:51:45

    CASHThat song was written by Hal David and Paul Hampton and was first made famous in 1961 by Don Gibson, one of the great, great voices in country music. And it's also been covered by everyone from punk bands to Irish bands, to my dad did it as well, on one of the American recordings. And that song is on "The List."

  • 10:53:38

    REHMAnd, of course, that's Bruce Springsteen.

  • 10:53:41

    CASHBruce Springsteen doing a duet with me, who could have ever imagined? (laugh)

  • 10:53:46

    REHMHow did that come about?

  • 10:53:47

    CASHWe asked him. I mean, we -- John and I are thinking who is the quintessential American male voice to sing a duet with you on this? I said, well, that's Bruce Springsteen. Do you think he'll do it? Let's ask. And he said yes. I've known him on and off for, you know, 25 years, but it was such a thrill. And then I played at Duke University a few months ago and he came to the show. And John said, I hate to ask the obvious, but would you sing "Sea of Heartbreak"? And so he came out and sang it. The audience went crazy.

  • 10:54:50

    REHMHow I love hearing that.

  • 10:54:52

    CASHOh, thank you.

  • 10:54:53

    REHMJust wonderful. There's a last song I wanna play from your CD, "The List." It's the one with just you and your husband, John Leventhal, "Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow."

  • 10:55:11

    CASHThis is a Carter family song. This is perhaps the oldest song on "The List." And Helen Carter taught it to me herself.

  • 10:56:18

    REHMRosanne Cash, singer, songwriter. Her new memoir is titled "Composed," and her latest CD is "The List." What a pleasure to talk with you.

  • 10:56:35

    CASHI have enjoyed this so much, Diane. Thank you.

  • 10:56:37

    REHMThe hour has been too short. (laugh)

  • 10:56:40

    CASHI agree.

  • 10:56:41

    REHMCome back and see me again.

  • 10:56:43

    CASHThank you.

  • 10:56:43

    REHMAnd thanks to all of you for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

  • 10:57:18

    ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Jonathan Smith, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit for audio archives and CD sales. Transcripts from Softscribe and Podcast.

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