Ever since he stood in front of a microphone, audiences have had a fascination with the life and music of Johnny Cash
There is something almost inexplicable in the magnetism of a man who simply had the courage to be himself, to be outspoken, to show his broken-ness and his struggle. Daniel Thompson presents In Solitary, an intimate portrait of The Man in Black.
Although Thompson has spent the last four years at the helm of Johnny Cash the Concert, his new show is a very different kind of tribute. It’s quieter and more intimate and features just Thompson and one accompanist.
Thompson is looking forward to the opportunity to present something that shows another side of Cash.
‘It’s really exciting to tell a few more stories. The whole idea of this show is to give people a bit more of an insight into what he was about – after all, the stories, they are all in his music!’
So what are the stories?
‘One of the great ones is the Sunday Morning Coming Down that Kris Kristopherson wrote. Kristopherson borrowed a helicopter and landed it on Cash’s front lawn and handed him a tape of his songs – and from that moment on they were lifelong friends.
‘I think the music of Cash was as country as you can get,’ says Thompson, who admits that people who don’t love country still love Cash. ‘But it’s not about the genre – it’s about the truth they find in his music.
‘He was a guy who was not afraid to talk about things. He got into trouble for that but he didn’t care. I see him as an outlaw from popular convention. It could have meant his career when he chose to speak out about Vietnam in the 60s and the way the country was treating the returned soldiers. He was supportive of the troops that came back and called his country on how they turned their back. He was also outspoken about the treatment of Native Americans. He did a whole album about it.’
Cash was a champion of the underdog, and very often he let people think that he was a bit of an underdog as well.
‘He let people believe he was a hardened criminal – that he’d spent time in lockup; it didn’t matter whether it was true or not – the thing about it was that he understood what it was about and when he walked into maximum security prisons he didn’t talk down to the inmates. His appeal was across all ages and all walks of life, he was able to speak to everybody.
‘I tell the story from an artist’s point of view. I am not trying to be Johnny Cash, I am paying tribute; I am not impersonating him. We try to sing the songs in the style of Cash, with a similar voice, in a black suit… He was a seriously flawed character, but he wasn’t afraid to stand up and say, look this is me, addictions and all. I think there was some attraction to being not perfect…’
Catch In Solitary with Daniel Thompson at the Byron Community Centre on Friday and Saturday in Lismore at the Star Court Theatre.