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"Composed"


Johnny Cash's daughter publishes memoir



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September 22, 2011
Rosanne Cash is an accomplished singer-songwriter who has been performing for more than 30 years. Her songs have appeared on both the country and popular music charts, and she won a Grammy award in 1985.

On Sept. 27, St. Louisans will get the chance to meet Cash at a book discussion event at Blueberry Hill.

Cash has faced some unusual challenges in her life. In 1998, she developed throat polyps and lost her voice. In 2007, she required brain surgery to correct a condition that restricted the flow of spinal fluid into her head. She is also, of course, the daughter of music legend Johnny Cash.

Cash's memoir "Composed" presents her music career and her personal history in an appealing way. It is both the story of an interesting life and a tribute to the never-ending process of human development. Cash recognizes how her opinions and emotions evolve and change over time. The recognition and acceptance of this constant growth makes this memoir more than a simple presentation of biographical facts.

A recurring theme throughout "Composed" is how songs have shaped Cash's life. When describing any period in her life – her childhood in California, living in London in her 20s, or her early music career in Nashville – Cash reports on the songs that she was listening to at the time.

"For my entire life I have been trying to give voice to the rhythms and words that underscore, propel, and inform me."

"Composed" is a pleasure to read in part because of Cash's honesty. She is unafraid to reveal her vulnerability and longing, and does not recast her youth as the inevitable prelude to her later success. She writes about periods of indecision, false starts and work she now considers to be inferior. Choosing to become serious about the work of songwriting is a major development in her life. Of an earlier time when she lived in London, Cash writes, "What I cared about was music, men, food, antiques, excitement and being pretty."

Cash writes enthusiastically and clearly about the craft of songwriting. She recalls that early in her career she preferred the initial inspiration that started the songwriting process. Now she finds the "watchmaker's concentration required for the detail work of refining, editing and polishing" more rewarding. In this part of her life, as in others, Cash is open to change.

"Given enough time and the long perspective, the opposite of those things that we think define us slowly becomes equally valid and sometimes more potent," Cash writes.

In a period of two years, Rosanne Cash attended the funerals of her stepmother June Carter Cash, her father, her stepsister and her mother. Cash includes the eulogies she wrote for these funerals. Her eulogy for June Carter Cash is especially moving. Even without its other merits, "Composed" would be a worthwhile read for this eulogy alone. Like a good song, it illustrates a big truth using small images. It is personal and universal at the same time and is beautifully written.

Rosanne Cash's talent for songwriting contributes to the success of her memoir. Moving easily from minute details to a broad perspective, Cash examines life from different angles and knits her observations together into a unified picture. "Composed" is an engaging story of one life with much to say about life in general.

Rosanne Cash will discuss her career and "Composed" with Charlie Brennan from KMOX Tuesday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m., at the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill, 6504 Delmar Blvd. Tickets are $20 per person and include a paperback copy of "Composed," which guests will receive at the event. For more information, call 727-2277.

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