Johnny Cash Talks Long Hair, God and Painkillers in Animated Interview - Rolling Stone
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Johnny Cash Talks God, Painkillers and Long Hair in Animated Interview

“It’s like an alcoholic,” Cash says of drugs. “He can’t drink, and I can’t take painkillers”

PBS has animated a 1996 Johnny Cash interview in which he spoke candidly about rock musicians, God, drugs, dressing in black and Elvis Presley for their Blank on Blank series.

Over the course of six minutes, British interviewer Barney Hoskyns coaxes some candid revealing revelations about the country legend and making him laugh in his basso profundo when he asks if he feels like an American when he looks in the mirror. The animations illustrate some of Cash’s figures of speech in often hilarious ways.

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Some choice quotes include his recollection of welcoming the Who on his television program in the late Sixties or early Seventies. One of the members said to him, “Thank God we’ve got somebody on television with long hair.” Cash interjected his own story, “[They were] talking about me, even though it wasn’t all that long.” He also talks about some words of encouragement his mother gave him–”Any talent is a gift of God”–and shot down the idea of wanting to become a preacher.

One of the more candid disclosures came when Hoskyns asked him about painkillers, to which the Man in Black had a well-publicized addiction early in his career. “It’s like an alcoholic,” Cash said. “He can’t drink, and I can’t take painkillers. I’m not very brave. For five years I didn’t try to take them. I fought it. I have a total of 34 surgical procedures on my left jaw. Every doctor I’ve been to knows what to do next and to relieve me of pain. I don’t believe any of them. I’m handling it. It’s my pain. I’m not being brave either. I’m not brave at all. After what I’ve been through, I just know how to handle it.”

The interview comes on the heels of the release of a new posthumous Cash record, Out Among the Stars. Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, recently said that there’s more where that came from. “There are a few things that are in the works right now – probably four or five albums if we wanted to release everything,” he said. “There may be three or four albums’ worth of American Recordings stuff, but some of it may never see the light of day.” 

In This Article: Johnny Cash


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