2018 Recipient of the John Lennon Real Love Award
Over the course of 40 years, Rosanne Cash has stretched and redefined the boundaries of country, folk and Americana music.
Since her eponymously titled debut album issued in 1978, Rosanne has recorded 21 top 40 hits and 11 No. 1 singles, including a cover of the Beatles’ “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party.” In 2009, she earned the Americana Music Album of the Year Award for her classic, The List. In 2015, she was the winner of three Grammy Awards for The River and the Thread, a collaboration with her co-writer, producer and husband of nearly 25 years, John Leventhal.
Rosanne was born in Memphis, Tennessee, just as her father, Johnny Cash, was recording his first single for Sun Records. When she was three, the Cash family moved to California, where Rosanne and her sisters were raised by
their mother, Vivian.
The night of February 9, 1964 is forever etched in Rosanne’s soul. She was watching when the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Rosanne quickly formed a Beatles fan club and appointed herself the president. Decades later, in her best-selling memoir, Composed, Rosanne wrote:
“Even when I was only ten, though my friends and I all worshipped the Beatles, I was conscious of feeling something more powerful and adult about the band – a territoriality and identity that didn’t make sense. I couldn’t articulate those feelings to anyone, but I knew that the Beatles represented the kind of inner life I wanted – the songwriting, the liberation, the backbeat.”
Rosanne was influenced by many other artists. As a teenager, she saw the Earl Scruggs Revue in concert over 20 times. Among her guitar teachers were rockabilly great Carl Perkins and country music legend Helen Carter. Rosanne cites as role models Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, Judy Collins and Laura Nyro.
As a social activist, Rosanne has long been an outspoken proponent of gun-control. In a powerful op-ed for New York Times, she called upon her fellow artists in country music to stand up to the gun lobby, writing, “That wholesome public relations veneer (of the NRA) masks something deeply sinister and profoundly destructive. There is no other way to say this: The NRA funds domestic terrorism.”
In 2018, upon receiving the “Spirit of Americana” Free Speech Award, Rosanne said, “Women are not small, inferior versions of men. We are not objects or property. We have unique gifts to offer and if your discount us, the whole world tilts on an unnatural axis.”
As for John Lennon’s lasting influence, Rosanne wrote, “In songwriting, in activism and in trying to live a fearless life, I can’t begin to count the times I’ve thought to myself, ‘What would John do?’”