Rosanne Cash Biography

24 May 1955, Memphis, Tennessee, USA. The daughter of Johnny Cash from his first marriage to Vivian Liberto, Cash lived with her mother in California after her parents divorced in 1966. Perhaps inevitably, she returned to Nashville, where she studied drama at Vanderbilt University, before relocating to Los Angeles to study ‘method’ acting at Lee Strasberg’s Institute, after which she worked for three years on her father’s roadshow. In the late 70s, she spent a year in London working for CBS Records, the same label as her father, and signed a recording contract in Germany with Ariola, resulting in her 1978 debut album, which has become a collector’s item. Mainly recorded and produced in Germany with German-based musicians, it also included three tracks recorded in Nashville and was produced by Rodney Crowell. At the time, Cash was influenced by punk which she had experienced in Britain, but on her return to Nashville, she worked on demos with Crowell which gained her a recording contract with CBS as a neo-country act. She married Crowell in 1979, the same year her first CBS album, Right Or Wrong, was released. While not a huge success, the album, again produced by Crowell, included three US country hits: ‘No Memories Hangin’ Round’ (a duet with Bobby Bare), ‘Couldn’t Do Nothin’ Right’, and ‘Take Me, Take Me’, while many of the backing musicians were also members of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band.

The follow-up, Seven Year Ache, was released in 1981. Produced by Crowell, the album went gold, reaching the Top 30 of the US pop chart. It included three US country chart number 1 singles: the title track, her own composition, which reached the Top 30 of the US pop chart, ‘My Baby Thinks He’s A Train’ (written by Leroy Preston, then of Asleep At The Wheel), and another of her own songs, ‘Blue Moon With Heartache’. Somewhere In The Stars (1982) also reached the Top 100 of the US pop album charts, and included three US country chart singles, ‘Ain’t No Money’, ‘I Wonder’ and ‘It Hasn’t Happened Yet’, but overall the album was considerably less successful than its predecessor. Cash’s next album, 1985’s Rhythm & Romance, included four US country hit singles, two of which were overseen by Crowell; ‘Never Be You’, another number 1, was written by Tom Petty and Benmont Tench. David Malloy produced most of the album, including another country number 1 single, ‘I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me’ (which Cash co-wrote with Crowell and which earned her a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance Female) and ‘Second To No-One’.

After another two years hiatus came King’s Record Shop, named after and featuring a sleeve picture of the store of that name in Louisville, Kentucky. This album included four US country number 1 singles: John Hiatt’s ‘The Way We Make A Broken Heart’, her revival of her father’s 1962 country hit, ‘Tennessee Flat-Top Box’, ‘If You Change Your Mind’, which she co-wrote with pedal steel ace Hank DeVito, and ‘Runaway Train’, written by John Stewart. This album was again produced by Crowell, with whom she duetted on her fifth US country number 1 within 13 months, ‘It’s Such A Small World’. This song was included on Crowell’s Diamonds & Dirt. The following year Cash won Billboard’s Top Single Artist Award.

A wife and mother, Cash has rarely had time to work live, but this has clearly had little effect on her recording career. In 1989 came a compilation album, Hits 1979-1989 (retitledRetrospective 1979-1989 for UK release), and in late 1990, Interiors, a hauntingly introspective album which was criticized for its apparently pessimistic outlook. The video for Interiors shows her berating Crowell in song after song, only then to have him come on for a guest appearance. Its release was later followed by the news that the couple’s marriage had broken down. The emotional fall-out was subsequently explored by Cash on 1993’s bleak and compelling The Wheel.

Three years later Cash demoed new material for Capitol Records who persuaded her to release the songs in their unadorned state, feeling the sparse arrangements complemented the introspective nature of the material. Cash, meanwhile, seemed more interested in promoting her collection of short stories, Bodies Of Water. She began recording a new album in 1998 but the sessions were cut short when Cash not only fell pregnant, but lost her voice to a polyp on her vocal chords. By 2002 she had recovered enough to resume work, and released Rules Of Travel the following year. Between 2003 and 2005, Cash lost her father, her mother and her stepmother. The deaths informed the songs on her next album, Black Cadillac, which was released at the start of 2006. The following year Cash underwent emergency surgery for the rare brain disease Arnold-chiari malformation.

One of the pioneers of the ‘new country’ movement of the late 80s, Cash’s relative unavailability - she places her family firmly before her career - may ultimately result in others taking the glory. Nevertheless, her achievements to date have ensured that the Cash family heritage in country music is far from disgraced.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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