The late outlaw Johnny Cash and Aussie rock star Nick Cave are two highly influential musicians known for examining the darker themes of life in their songwriting. In new collections of verse, each attempts to balance the scales between love and loss, beauty and ugliness.
NEW VERSE FROM THE MAN IN BLACK
With more than 90 million records sales worldwide, there are few musicians who register even half of the cultural impact of Johnny Cash. Brash and outspoken his entire life—his most iconic photograph features him flipping off the camera—Cash may surprise casual fans with some of the more tender reflections in this posthumous collection of never-before-seen poems and songs, Forever Words: The Unknown Poems. All written in plain language with flecks of Southern dialect, Cash's distinctive voice and wit shine through on each and every page.
This collection jumps back and forth through time, with poems from his teenage years in the 1940s (before his first recordings) through his last eight-line poem, "Forever," written shortly before his death in 2003. With facsimile illustrations of Cash's handwritten pages, this collection is perhaps just as personal as his memoir, Man in Black. Many of these poems and songs are surly and humorous, as with "Don't Make a Movie About Me": "Here's a hex on whoever makes it be, / so don't make a movie 'bout me." Although Walk the Line was met with critical acclaim, Cash skewered the film long before its 2005 release with a drawing that imagines it playing at the "Schmaltz Theater."
In a loving foreword, Cash's son John Carter Cash reflects on the complicated man his father was, and insists that the best way to understand his legacy is through the recordings and writings he left behind: "Now, all these years past, the words tell a full tale; with their release, he is with us again, speaking to our hearts, making us laugh, and making us cry."
FOR MOTION DISCOMFORT
Once called "the grand lord of gothic lushness" by NME and known throughout his career as rock's "Prince of Darkness," Australian musician and singer-songwriter Nick Cave has carved out his own place in the musical canon with his popular bands the Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds. His third book, The Sick Bag Song, began on the back of a paper airline sick bag during his 2014 tour across North America. With each work bearing the title of the city it was written in, this hybrid collection of prose and poetry opens during a van ride back to Nashville while passing a tragic a road accident: "An angel will unfold its wings and speak into my ear. / You must take the first step alone."
Cave chronicles each of his city stops, weaving thoughts on beauty, disgust, longing and the toll of travel into a piece of road literature that holds its own next to the giants of the genre. Cave mulls over events from American history and the artists that have influenced his own work: Johnny Cash, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, Gertrude Stein. There are no song lyrics here, just a journey that vacillates between jaw-dropping turns of phrase and point-blank confession: "The Sick Bag Song is full of all that I love and loathe, / And all that is inside myself."