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As Long As the Grass Shall Grow: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears


As Long As the Grass Shall Grow: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears

Marking what would have been the great Johnny Cash's 84th birthday and this month's airing of a new documentary, a look at the seminal, little-known story of Cash's 1964 album "Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian," the censorship battle he fought on behalf of native people, and his decades-long devotion to anti-war and human rights causes. A man "hungry for depth and truth," he blasted a fearful music industry by asking, "Where are your guts?"


Johnny would ask the Democratic Party where were their guts concerning their rigging the game against Bernie even though he would win over Trump and the Repubs according to the polls. They would rather risk losing to Trump staying with Hillary. Where are their guts? The thing is that the Dems status quo choose being gutless despite the mood of the public for much the same reasons as did the music execs.

Johnny is more respected now by progressives than he was back then because we didn't know him all that well until the war was long over. We all knew the man in black as a country music icon but we didn't know him as the man in black with a raised fist salute all that well till later.


My mother was and is a huge Johnny Cash fan. She used to buy all his albums and would have them playing on an old record player with built in speakers on the farm. As kids we looked down on his music as we tried to embrace our own, be it the Beatles. Ten years After or CCR. As I grew older I appreciated the music of Johnny Cash and those older country and western artists more and more,

Johnny Cash was brilliant. I just played Bitter tears on that link and those old memories of myself as child came back.

May the people continue to seek justice for our First nations people. as long as the grass shall grow.


Bitter Tears indeed from the great Johnny Cash!

"This land was promised to the Human Beings to be theirs as long as grass grow, wind blow, and the sky is blue"
"The Human Beings, my son, they believe everything is alive. Not only man and animals. But also water, earth, stone. And also the things from them... But the White Man, they believe EVERYTHING is dead. Stone, earth, animals. And people! Even their own people! If things keep trying to live, White Man will rub them out"
"There is an endless supply of White Man. But there always has been a limited number of Human Beings." - Old Lodge Skins


Speak for yourself. Many of us did know and it's not for you to claim what progressives did or did not know. Perhaps that wasn't your intent? But it sure came across that way.


Excuse me but I was not speaking for progressives and as someone who lived through that era I
can speak for it as a witness. The man from Folsom Prison? Maybe you are too young but Johnny was far better known as that to the extent that it was a commonly believed myth that he had been incarcerated there. He never went to prison.

I was speaking from my experience and observation and why people feel that I should dumb it down and not express myself is kind of sad. Maybe you want to censor me or tell me to dumb it down and not speak from the years of study and discipline etc but I can't ... Because many of fhose with advantages and power think ordinary people are stupid and dumb and less educated and can't understand big things and on and on but I know they do and speak to them from the heart.

So I will speak my mind and try to share and teach and discuss and debate. What gets me is the sense of weakness here as if you couldn't debate but only could censor. That isn't progressive. If you felt that I was wrong in what I said then state your reasons and discuss it. Instead you like some others simply want to censor. First you attack (censor) then you ask 'maybe that wasn't (my) intent'. Now why was that? And this absurd nonsense that there is no intellectual use of the rhetorical 'we'!
Doesn't anyone else see how dumbed down that is? That it is treating others like children who would have to have it explained to them that it isn't intended as a literal 'we'.

No I wasn't speaking for progressives. Johnny Cash became an icon much later in his career and I think most people of my era would agree that the mainstream media did not convey Cash's true feelings about political issues until later. Gee I thought I did say something about his being better known later in his career.


"Johnny is more respected now by progressives than he was back then
because we didn't know him all that well until the war was long over. We
all knew the man in black as a country music icon but we didn't know
him as the man in black with a raised fist salute all that well till
Doesn't sound like "I was not speaking for progressives." The use of the pronoun 'we' here, as all pronouns do, relates back to its antecedent which in this case was 'progressives.' That's what got my attention as it seemed over-broad to make that claim. But I said that perhaps you hadn't intended to do that and this is now exactly what you have claimed so I find it inexplicable that you seem to be complaining that I asked. I was allowing for some other intention as often misunderstandings and miswordings do occur. That seems to be your claim here.

As for the rhetorical use of the pronoun, 'we' I'm not the one who has the on-going issue about 'we' so I'm not sure why you would want to bring that bit of contentiousness up. It probably would be better not to conflate different contributors and recognize the difference in the issue. I was just taking your sentences, and the pronoun, as they are generally accepted and I didn't agree with your claim. I think people can disagree without claiming that a disagreement is evidence of someone's wanting to censor you.


I didn't intend to speak for progressives actually but I see your point (not the point about the we since you refer to the word and then dismiss it in the next statement. I when writing what I wrote was not expecting to be held to such a high standard as to preclude my speaking conversationally. I was just making a comparison, at least in my mind, as a way to say 'most people' when I referenced how progressives eventually came to see him. My lawyer advises me to say that we are both right but that I plead no longer contendere to your being more correct. I should have realized to what degree of literalness my comment would be held, hopefully the same thing will continue to not happen to others.

My attempt was actually to convey that most people didn't know that about Cash until later on and I oh so sinfully chose to express a personal observation about things from the sixties that while Cash seemed to be supportive of the antiestablishment cultural phenomenon that was us in extremis, he was country western and mainly admired for his performing at a prison (I'll assume you known the history of Attica and George Jackson and so forth). At the time Cash was perceived as the good old boys icon undeserved as that turned out to be.

Nevertheless I am guilty of error in that my recollections were of a specific time from earlier in his career rather than later. We were purists then and intolerant of a less than absolute - revolution now not later outlook. Naturally any media icon except for a few (and they were never perfect though Janice, John and Jimmy came close) was subject to criticism etc. lol ... Nobody was sacred then or now but thanks anyway.

I was from the northeast part of the country and despite being in the most important city in the world ( Literalists to arms! To arms!), at the time we never heard country music. I mean literally never heard it. We did hear Johnny and a few artists whose sounds crossed over to the pop charts (mostly ballads but not hard core country western). Nobody knew the Johnny that we would come to know later. We didn't even know his early connections to rock and roll really. He was the man in black who had been to prison.
We (everybody including many progressives) know better now. That was all that I intended to say. Pardon me for speaking without having my guard up. Next time I'll check my post with my lawyer first. Please do the same.


You do realize that you completely ignored the meaning and intent of my post simply to attack me over a statement that was peripheral to my original intent. Moreover I wasn't speaking in absolutes as the words 'all that well until later' would show. That is the truth. The man Johnny Cash became known as was not all that well known earlier on in his career. I think you could still find lots of people who would insist that he had spent time in a prison cell even today.

How petty this attack was and one inexplicable to my mind since it didn't even address the import of my original post. Because of that, I consider your non comment complaint merely the result of a personal animus towards me and therefore yet another example of the aggressive dumbed down discourse that substitutes for debate for so many.

In other words you needed to look for something! Next time try harder to find something worth attacking someone over and try not to make it personal for no reason.


My oh my Wereflea, not unusual on this website to be attacked for little more than sharing
information and/or opinion. However, this ancient native Texan along with that native California
"kicker," whose ashes now reside in his belovedPacific, like I would also clearly understand
the relevant point you were making about the much beloved "man in black" decades prior to
this article singing his praises. Thank you much from Anne


But wait, i thought these people didnt matter or didnt exist because "progress" and "evolution" and technology brought us all the glorious civilation that everyone wants?


Thanks Annie, this antique New Yorker remembers when things were different and I know you do too. People today hardly realize how easy it is to know tidbits of information compared to how it used to be. I spent many a year buying three and four newspapers everyday and a magazine a week at least just to 'know' a little. I've lived in a major metropolis and out in the hinterlands of Idaho and places far west of back east. Back in the day, where in parts of Idaho where they didn't get TV reception, only the dedicated kept abreast of the news. When finally they got cable and satellite dishes, the day of the real cowboys finally ended though nobody actually noticed really.
I always found tales of yore interesting because they filled in the spaces with local color and people's impressions of how they perceived the culture around them. It seems like people will know only what they read online and take that as gospel too. The strange thing is that while we had our myths is that even with all the information online that there are new myths being created that persist no matter what.

Lol I remember when Johnny Cash wasn't Jimmy Hendricks and later when I learned that Johnny was cooler than I ever expected and how that felt. Sort of like when I liberated Howard Zinn from the St. Marks bookstore along with Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman ( which I actually did because I was pure and principled ...lol) ...it was great to learn new things and compare what you learned with what needed to be changed etc.

I remember white haired Pete who survived the Bataan march in WW2 and how his personal reflections allowed me to understand what was never included in any book. I remember long conversations with a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps that despite the many books that I have read taught me something about people and the camps that was never mentioned.

So yeah the past was different and always will be to some people who were political and some who were not etc. different impressions different people. I liked learning that Cash said where's your guts? My mistake was in thinking that people would be interested in knowing that it was different once and there was a time when many famous people were different than how they were perceived in the general culture. It is so much easier now to find out specific details like a musician's political leanings. Back then information like that wasn't all that easy to come by unless you made an effort to search it out. It got easier...later.

Tonight should go to Bernie if there is still justice in the universe...lol. Boy has this election made its mark...lol.

Like anybody ever use to care about what these caucuses came up with before. The Internet has made them a factor in elections that they never were before. Should be interesting


There seems to be a lack of justice in this universe... I want a new one! I'm listening to Hillary make promises she doesn't intend to keep... and worrying for the young who will endure what the old never had to endure when they were young. It may not be over despite how she is trying to make it seem like she has already been sworn in.



Unfortunately, Hillary as at this time making her victory speech for S. Carolina.
You're right Wereflea it's going to be very interesting. The media remains
focused on each state rather than on the big picture. Like BFD where S.
Carolina is concerned. Long time still until I get to cast my permanent
absentee vote. I continue to hope Justice will charge her as they
should before then. Listening to her as she continues to yell lets me
know it's time to hit the mute button. Who would have believed in
my dotage such a horror as she again or any of the repugs running
would be foist upon our nation. LOL, it's almost happy hour in CA.
Have a very good evening Wereflea and we'll continue to fight the
good fight for the only decent candidate out there and enjoy good
music as well as the message from Johnny Cash.


Will they charge her now or if she is nominated before the voting or after she is elected (if that happens)? Each has a different effect. Charging her now would help Bernie which means the Repubs would lose, so they would wait to see If she is nominated. After would look like a scandal of epic historic proportions and be seen as them trying to fix the election so that probably would be postponed. Lastly and oddly most surreal is the prospect of charging after she initially takes office (if elected) . Unbelievable the efforts made by the status quo to avoid change even to the point of embarrassing the nation.

Definitely an interesting election.

I miss Abbie Hoffman... Where's our guts? Imagine a time where someone would title their book 'Steal This Book' and meant it? Lol -The sixties!


No, I merely read the first sentences that presumed to speak for all progressives and that stopped me cold. I didn't agree with that and said so. I felt the rest of your comment didn't need further comment. As it turned out, you clarified your intention in your response and had that been clear at the outset, I would not have made the comment. The idea that if someone doesn't agree with what you said means they are out to attack you personally is simple untrue. That there are such people here and elsewhere doesn't make me into one of them and that ought to be clear for many reasons, including from the years of posts I have made here over many years in which that has never been my modus operandi, and from the fact that in most people's life experience not everyone is out to get them. Your conclusions that I want to attack or censor you are completely untrue and you might want to rethink your accusations, as they pertain to me, because there certainly seem to be those here who are clearly and regularly on the attack. You might want to save your counter-attack for them.

In rebuttal:
1. Some of us didn't live in the NE and we may have had a greater appreciation of Johnny Cash than you folks there did. The fact that along with the Fulsom Prison album he collaborated with Bob Dylan ought to have put all of you on notice that here was someone special and compatible with progressive ideas.
2. I doubt very seriously that you are older than I.
3. Words are a poor vehicle for communication and break down frequently. That must be one reasons why studies have shown that body language is a major factor in speech communication. Writing is disembodied speech and the opportunities for misunderstanding are increased. Notice that especially the tone of one's words have to be imputed by the reader. It could be that you and your readers are bringing totally different tones, and thereby attitudes and eliciting responses that are not warranted by the original intent which is why I suggested that perhaps you hadn't intended what you actually said. Instead of seeing that comment as offering you an olive branch, you attacked that as well.
4. Imputing bad motives for the people's criticism does little to further a rational discussion. My comment was limited solely to your statement that presumed to speak for all progressives. YOu have chosen to both retract that overly broad statement while attacking my motives for disagreeing with it and pointing it out. The expression, 'speak for yourself' is quite common and is used when someone has taken a personal opinion and extended it to a much larger group when that is not capable of being factually supported. Your ire, at my reading what you actually said, instead of what you intended but failed to make clear, seems far more than is warranted.
5. Just to be clear, I am not attacking you. I have no interest in attacking you or anyone else on a personal level. My concerns are with the substance of what is being said and I will express my disagreement. That is how I have lived my entire 71 years.
6. Good to know that you came to Johnny Cash, even if it was much later than some of us on the West Coast.
7.You have acknowledged that you didn't mean what you had initially said. I would have thought there was nothing further to add and yet you have continued on as if there was an issue between us. Let's put an end to this discussion as it is unfruitful for furthering of the topic. I harbor no ill feelings and I have been surprised by your response/s.


I find this absurd. It is that you completely ignored the main import of my original comment and chose to focus instead on a side comment that I said you had to look for something to attack me on. What amazes me still is that you continue to insist on continuing this silliness but never address or comment on what was the point of what I wrote. You misinterpreted and made a issue where there wasn't one and now you go on with it even though that was all pointed out to you. Look at what I wrote originally - the whole comment and not just what you choose to focus on ( especially as that was at best a secondary aside merely to relate an era. You are absurd to make an issue over it. Maybe you folks as musicians knew everything but as others have posted the early Johnny Cash (which I clearly denoted) was not as well known politically as he would come to be later. What the hell is your problem with that statement? I was commenting there about media myths including the most famous one that he had gone to prison and that is why he played there. This is childish stuff and while I tried to discuss it with you and attempted a halfway meeting of minds, you want to be childish and need to feel you are right. I don't respect that you wouldn't just let it go because you obviously were wrong, yet you want believe you were right. Look at my comment and stop being childish rationalizing that you only read the bottom paragraph (there were only two). At your age you should be more mature than this. You were wrong and made an issue where there wasn't any.


Instead of us arguing, it seems to me that we should unite against the cause against the rich and powerful who divide us and take advantage of us. Maybe we should get simple and ignorant causes that would ignite us, like pro-life until a child is born, or Christianity except not following the words of Christ or how about minorities destroying this country. Then the right wing will no longer be able to unite the ignorant and get them to vote against their self interest.


I'll always remember the one about the Rock Island Line because the Rock Island Line went through my hometown. Alas, the Rock Island Line is no more.

Great voice, Johnny!


Thanks for providing some of the real Johnny and hopefully ending one of the
rather standard attacks by some that are only interested in attacking other's
views and opinions.

Enjoy Wereflea as I'm sure you will as I am. Sadly all too many have no
interest in anything on this site, but putting others down.