Music » Local Music

Heroes — Country


I remember sitting cross-legged in front of my parents’ cabinet phonograph; the darkly stained behemoth was always stacked high with classic country albums as my mother hurried about the house. I remember holding the thick, heavy discs of black plastic with grooves like deep rings in the trunk of an ancient tree. I vividly remember the smell of the dense cardboard sleeves and the heat thrown off by constant play.

For hours I would sit silently in front of the cabinet, one ear pressed firmly to a speaker, miles away from the rest of the world as the deeply resonant baritone of Johnny Cash blended with the harmonic gospel of the Statler Brothers.

I remember thinking how much my father looked liked Johnny Cash back then. The man in black stared sternly at me from the face of the sleeve while singing of God, crime, and love. I imagined my father as Johnny’s brother, the one in blue collar who would walk through the door each night smelling of kerosene from his job on an assembly line and whose songs were reserved for Sunday-morning services.

My childhood heroes adorned in black and blue.

The first time I saw the Mark Romanek-produced video for Johnny Cash’s haunting cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” I was shaken to my soul. The voice that I’d not heard in years immediately conjured up days 30 years gone — and it is now quivering from the passage of time. The once-strong face appears frail and the iron hands now tremble. In the stark lighting of the video the man in black seems finally at peace.

It made me reflect on my father and how those same signs of age have slowly worked their way into lines on his face and hands. I started to cry as the words “Everyone I know goes away in the end …” played through the television speakers and I visualized a world without my childhood heroes.

“I find myself alone when each day is through …” —Johnny Cash


Fred Mills comments: Absolutely beautiful. Like a Springsteen song — or a Cash song — come to life, in its internal monologue and poetic symmetry. It almost made me weep. It’s written more as personal poetry than music criticism — and what’s wrong with that anyway, if a writer can conjure a unique world that additionally conveys the beauty of the music and the elegance of the artist? I can’t say for sure if I’d want to read page after page of this, as it is non-standard criticism. But it sure works here.

Back to Amateurs write, like, prose

Brian Blatz is by day a computer programmer. He’s 36, married, and lives in Sterling Heights. E-mail [email protected]

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.