Many, many books, articles, and essays have been written about the life and work of Johnny Cash (1932-2003), and several biographies are available on film, so we won't go into a detailed profile here. In brief, Johnny Cash was about as influential as a musical artist could get, and he definitely played by his own rules, both musically and in his personal life. For a more indepth look at the artist, check out this biography of Johnny Cash.
The Johnny Cash Children's Album was produced by Cash, along with Charlie Bragg and Larry Butler. The album was released on Columbia Records in 1975 and failed to make any of the Billboard Top 200 Album Charts. Some of Cash's more successful albums and most well-known songs include Hello, I'm Johnny Cash, At San Quentin, and the American series, along with "I Walk the Line," "Ring of Fire," "Folsom Prison Blues," and "Sunday Morning Coming Down."
The Music of 'The Johnny Cash Children's Album'
The Johnny Cash Children's Album kicks off with a couple of tunes that utilize Cash's patented chicka bomp rhythm sound. "Nasty Dan" and "One and One Make Two" were both composed by Sesame Street songwriter Jeff Moss, who also wrote such favorites as "Rubber Duckie," "Who are the People in Your Neighborhood," and "I Love Trash." "Nasty Dan" details a pretty despicable man who finally found happiness with his own nasty family, whereas "One and One Make Two" is a nice little song about friendship. "I Got a Boy and His Name is John" is a gentle tune about a boy and his mom and dad, and the string-laden "Little Magic Glasses" imagines looking into the future.
The swaying waltz-time "Miss Tara" is a sentimental tune from a parent to their little girl Tara Joan, wondering about their daughter's future life; the talking/singing "Dinosaur Song" is a silly, fun song that will be a big hit with junior paleontologists. "Tiger Whitehead" is a wild and wooly character, and his story is told via classic Johnny Cash chukka chuck guitar rhythm. On the CD re-released, this tune is followed by the bonus track "There's a Bear in the Woods," the spoken-word story of a boy trying to tell a convincing tale.
More Music from 'The Johnny Cash Children's Album'
"Call of the Wild" is an allegory of sorts, as Cash takes the point of view of a member of a flock of geese flying south, trying to avoid the "long toms," or large land artillary, hidden in the bayou. As the lyrics mention looking for peace and avoiding a "critter called man," the song was most likely Cash's veiled comment on the then current situation in Vietnam. He follows with the a cappella camp song "Little Green Fountain," and a quiet, acoutic version of Red Foley's classic tearjerker "Old Shep."
The original album ends with "The Timber Man," a quiet acoustic number about a hard-working lumberjack. The CD reissue of The Johnny Cash Children's Album adds three more bonus tracks, including a great old-time music version of "Grandfather's Clock," a song written by Henry Clay Work that was a massive hit in the late 1800's; the cute, interactive "Ah Bos Cee Dah," in which Cash has kids sing along to an alternate version of the ABC song; and the brief, spoken-word riddle song "Why is a Fire Engine Red," which contains cultural references that might have to be explained by mom and dad.
For fans of Johnny Cash or for kids' music listeners who welcome a deviation from the norm, The Johnny Cash Children's Album will make a great addition to to their record collection. Highly recommended.
Released 1975; Columbia Records
- "Nasty Dan"
- "One and One Makes Two"
- "I Got a Boy and His Name is John"
- "Little Magic Glasses"
- "Miss Tara"
- "Dinosaur Song"
- "Tiger Whitehead"
- "There's a Bear in the Woods"
- "Call of the Wild"
- "Little Green Fountain"
- "Old Shep"
- "The Timber Man"
- "Grandfather's Clock"
- "Ah Bos Cee Dah"
- "Why is a Fire Engine Red"