Terry Gross, host of NPR’s “Fresh Air,” recently interviewed Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, and singer/songwriter in her own right. Here is the link to a great interview. On the radio program Cash samples 4 or 5 songs from her latest album, “The List.” Below is the story she tells of how “The List” was created as a gift from her father Johnny:
“When I was 18 years old, I went on the road with my dad after I graduated from high school. And we were riding on the tour bus one day, kind of rolling through the South, and he mentioned a song,” Cash says. “We started talking about songs, and he mentioned one, and I said I don’t know that one. And he mentioned another. I said, ‘I don’t know that one either, Dad,’ and he became very alarmed that I didn’t know what he considered my own musical genealogy. So he spent the rest of the afternoon making a list for me, and at the end of the day, he said, ‘This is your education.’ And across the top of the page, he wrote ‘100 Essential Country Songs.'”
Despite his own label, Johnny Cash didn’t limit his choices with a strict definition of “country” music.
“The list might have been better titled ‘100 Essential American Songs,’ because it was very comprehensive. He covered every critical point in Southern and American music: early folk songs, protest songs, Delta blues, Southern gospel, early country music, Appalachian. Everything that fed into modern country music was on that list.”
One thing that struck me about this story was how easily Johnny Cash could start listing 100 best songs on a sheet of paper. His daughter says he could also play and sing all these songs.
Why post a link to an interview about country music on a memoir blog? Well, it boils down to this: Johnny Cash knew his subject inside and out. He put in his 10,000 hours (Malcolm Gladwell’s definition for how long it takes to master a subject) long before he wrote the list for his daughter. A blog is a very public way to learn, and I am still far from putting in the requisite 10,000 hours of effort. However, some day my own list of the essential 100 memoirs will come naturally and easily to me–and will be posted here!