“Exploring the Essence of a Place”
A Review of
Johnny Cash and
the Great American Contradiction:
Christianity and the Battle
for the Soul of a Nation,
by Rodney Clapp.
By Chris Smith.
Johnny Cash and the Great American Contradiction.
Paperback. WJK Books. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $14 ] [ Amazon ]
Rodney Clapp’s newest book Johnny Cash and the Great American Contradiction is a wonderful little book, but I must warn expectant readers that the book’s focus is on the latter part of its title, not the former. I picked up the book expecting a thorough examination of Cash’s music – like, for instance, Jonathan Gould’s recent Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America – so I was a bit disappointed to find that Cash’s life and works were merely used to illustrate the book’s larger themes of American cultural history. To be fair, Clapp does, in the introduction, do a good job of presenting Cash as a prime example of the sort of contradictions that he will explore throughout the remainder of the book. Unfortunately, however, after the brief introduction, Johnny Cash is relegated to the status of an occasional reference throughout the remainder of the book. Additionally, as a Gen X-er who has only re-discovered Cash in the last decade and who must admit the gaping holes in my knowledge of his work, I often wished that this book came with an accompanying cd, so that I could listen to the songs as they were discussed. It was only after I approached the book’s end that I realized that Clapp had provided a valuable appendix in which he compiles a list of many of the songs discussed and notes that he has set up an iMix list in iTunes that offers for download many of the songs listed in this appendix.
However, with these caveats out of the way, there was little else that I found disappointing about this book. Once I resigned myself to the fact that this was a book on American cultural history, and not music history, I was drawn into the story of our land that Clapp weaves here. Continue Reading…