Sunday, January 28, 2018

Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like” wins Grammy for Song of the Year

Updated 11/23/2018.

image from voanews.com

That’s What I Like

Bruno Mars

Writer(s): Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Christopher Brody Brown (see lyrics here)


Released: 1/30/2017


First Charted: 12/10/2016


Peak: 11, 13 AC, 16 RB, 12 UK, 3 CN, 5 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: 7.0 US, 0.6 UK, 8.86 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: --


Video Airplay *: 1363.17


Streaming *: 835.00


* in millions

Review:

The 60th Annual Grammy Awards, held on January 18, 2018, proved to be Bruno Mars’ night when he won all six Grammys for which he was nominated. His 24K Magic won Album of the Year and R&B Album of the Year while the title track took Record of the Year. The big winner, though, was “That’s What I Like.” The song, which he’d performed at the Grammys the year before, walked away with honors for Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, and Best R&B Performance.

The song also won some other significant awards, including the American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Song and the Soul Train Music Award for Song of the Year. Mars also performed the song at the 2017 Brit Awards and the 2017 iHeartRadio Music Awards. WK

Released as the second single from 24K Magic, “That’s What I Like” spent 24 weeks in the top 5 of the Hot 100, one of only five songs to do so. WK It also spent 20 weeks on top of Hot R&B Songs, which tied it with The Weeknd’s “Starboy” and Drake’s “One Dance” for most weeks at #1. WK It became Mars’ fifth #1 song as a lead artist and seventh time on top overall (he was featured on B.o.B.’s “Nothin’ on You” and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”). Mars was also on his way to another significant achievement – when the album’s fourth single, “Finesse,” went top 5 it made him only the second male artist in history (after Lionel Richie), to send at least three songs to the top ten from each of his first three albums.

Ray Romulus, who was part of the song’s production team, talked about Mars’ writing process. “When he was in the studio he was…dancing for us and showing us, like, ‘I can’t move like that to this chord or to this drum…change it.’” SF Jonathan Yip, also of the production team, said “We would just go back and forth and were messing around with rhythms” SF because, as Mars had said, “We need to make this bounce.” SF


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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Camila Cabello’s “Havana” hit #1

Last updated 3/20/2020.

Havana

Camila Cabello with Young Thug

Writer(s): Camila Cabello, Young Thug, Pharrell Williams (see lyrics here)


Released: August 3, 2017


First Charted: August 26, 2017


Peak: 11 US, 17 RR, 5 AC, 11 A40, 15 UK, 16 CN, 13 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 7.0 US, 1.2 UK, 19.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2902.0 video, 1351.0 streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

Camila Cabello made a name for herself as a member of Fifth Harmony, best known for hit “Work from Home.” “Havana” was initially released as a promo single to support her first solo album, Camila, but became the proper lead single when it took off. WK She told BBC Radio 1 that “Everybody kept telling me it shouldn’t be a single and that it would never work for radio.” SF It ended up doing okay – it went to #1 in a dozen countries, including the U.S., UK, Australia, and Canada. WK In the U.S., the song took 23 weeks to hit the top, spending seven non-consecutive weeks at #2 behind Post Malone’s “Rockstar” and Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect.” WK In June 2018, it became Spotify’s most-streamed song ever by a female artist. WK

As a child, Camila moved back and forth between Havana and Mexico City before settling in Miami. In “Havana,” she sings about “a mysterious suitor from East Atlanta, though she has left her heart in her hometown.” WK She described it as a song with a “very wind-your-waist tempo.” SF The song emerged from an instrumental with a prominent salsa piano riff created by producer Frank Dukes. When he played it for Camila, it reminded her of her birthplace and she wrote the chorus on the spot. SF Time.com’s Raise Bruner said the song “hits a freshly sultry note” WK which Allison Browsher of Much said “arrives just in time to keep the summer heat going on the radio.” WK

The video was directed by Dave Meyers, who also did Missy Elliott’s “Work It,” Janet Jackson’s “All for You,” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble.” Camila plays two characters in the telenovela-style video – “the bespectacled homebody Karla and the sexy, outgoing Camila.” SF She explained that her family always called her by her middle name (Camila), but when she came to the United States, teachers called her by her first name (Karla). SF At the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, the clip took the prize for Video of the Year. SF


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January 27, 1857: Liszt's Piano Sonata in B minor performed publicly for first time

Last updated August 29, 2018.

Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178 (LW A179)

Franz Liszt (composer)


Composed: 1851-53


First Public Performance: January 27, 1857


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: “A pinnacle of Liszt's repertoire” – Wikipedia


Genre: classical > sonata


Parts/Movements:

  1. Lento assai – Allegro energico
  2. Grandioso – Recitativo
  3. Andante sostenuto – Quasi adagio
  4. Allegro energico – Stretta quasi presto – Presto – Prestissimo – Andante sostenuto – Allegro moderato – Lento assai

Average Duration: 29:40

Review:

Liszt completed his Piano Sonata in B minor in 1953 – specifically on February 2, according to his notes on the sonata’s manuscript. It was published the next year with a dedication to Robert Schumann in return for that composer dedicating his Fantasie in C major to Liszt. WK He wrote the piece during his transition from performer to composer. WK It has been argued both that the piece is autobiographical and that it is related to the Faust legend. AMG It can be considered “the only work he wrote in an absolute sonata form.” AMG

The work wasn’t well received by some of Liszt’s peers; pianist and composer Anton Rubinstein criticized the work and Johannes Brahms reportedly fell asleep during a performance of the work by Liszt in 1853. Eduard Hanslick said, “anyone who has heard it and finds it beautiful is beyond help.” WK In the German newspaper Nationalzeitung, Otto Gumprecht called it “an invitation to hissing and stomping.” WK

The initial negative reception and the sonata’s technical difficulty meant it took a long time to become commonplace in concert repertoire. However, it became established by the early twentieth century and “has been a popularly performed and extensively analyzed piece ever since,” WK becoming “an enduring masterpiece even in the estimation of those listeners who tend to find Liszt’s music overblown.” AMG It is considered “his finest example of the musical technique of continuous ‘thematic transformation,’” AMG which would profoundly affect the future of music, especially later operas by Richard Wagner. AMG Wagner was one of Liszt’s peers who praised the sonata, calling it “sublime” and beautiful “beyond all conception.” AMG

It wasn’t until January 27, 1857, that the work was publicly premiered in a performance by Hans von Bülow in Berlin. WK


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Saturday, January 20, 2018

January 20, 1941: Bartók's last string quartet debuts

Last updated August 31, 2018.

The String Quartets

Béla Bartók (composer)


Composed: 1908-1939


Debut of Final Quartet: January 20, 1941


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: --


Genre: classical > chamber music > quartet for four strings


Quartets/Duration/Year(s) Composed/Debuted:

  1. String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Sz. 40, BB 52 (1908) [29:40] (1909, 3/19/1910)
  2. String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Sz. 67, BB 75 (Op. 17) [27:00] (1915-17, 3/3/1918)
  3. String Quartet No. 3 in C sharp major, Sz. 85, BB 93 [15:10] (1927, 2/19/1929)
  4. String Quartet No. 4 in C major, Sz. 91, BB 93 [22:50] (1928, 3/20/1929)
  5. String Quartet No. 5 in B flat major, Sz. 102, BB 110 [30:30] (1934, 4/9/1935)
  6. String Quartet No. 6 in D major, Sz. 114, BB 119 [29:00] (1939, 1/20/1941)

Review:

Bartók’s six string quartets, written “for the usual forces of two violins, viola and cello” WK have “become part of the mainstream repertoire” AZ and cited as influences for numerous composers, including Benjamin Britten and King Crimson’s Robert Fripp. WK The Juilliard Quartet, formed at the Juilliard School of Music in 1946, have much to do with the quartets’ success, having “presented the complete cycle publicly in New York for the first time” AZ in 1949. Their recording of the quartets the next year was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987.

String Quartet No. 1:
Bartók was unrequitedly in love with violinist Stefi Geyer, for whom he developed a musical portrait with his 1908 violin concerto. This quartet was the culmination of him dealing with his rejection. He described the opening movement in a letter to Geyer as his “funeral dirge.” MS1 Indeed, “sadness and despair are the prevailing sentiments in this work” MS1 and the three movements “plainly trace a course from the…anguish of the convoluted first movement to the heady, forceful finale.” MS1

String Quartet No. 2:
During World War I, Bartók lived in seclusion outside Budapest and that “isolation may have made its way into” MS2 this quartet. Like “other works from the era, especially the yet-to-come violin sonatas, Bartók’s…melodies…have clear and easily comprehended shapes [which] intertwine…in ways that produce great…harmonic tensions; yet…also yield gem-like moments of diatonic triads, all the more beautiful for their rarity.” MS2

String Quartet No. 3:
Bartók’s single-movement third quartet “is the most concentrated in thematic material and structure,” MS3 lasting just over fifteen minutes. With his native Hungary losing “two-thirds of its land and population under” MS3 the terms of the Treaty of Trianon, Bartók’s primary source of folk music was cut off, leading him to “a more cosmopolitan style, such as he had encountered during his tours of post-war Europe.” MS3 He “subjected folk-style themes and motifs to a technique he called ‘expansion in range,’ wherein melodic shape and intervallic relations were stretched to produce themes that develop freely without compromising musical unity.” MS3 “The mood is desolate, though the folk-like themes are clear and immediately comprehensible.” MS3

String Quartet No. 4:
“A dark, nocturnal mood…prevails through the entire work.” MS4 The fourth quartet “represents both an intensification and relaxation of elements present in Bartók’s previous quartet…While the radically dissonant harmonic language and rigorous motivic development found in the third string quartet are intensified…the third’s tightly interwoven single-movement structure is…‘opened out’ into a more easily comprehended, five-movement span arranged in Bartók’s characteristic ‘arch’ form. The composer did point out, however, that the five movements functioned collectively according to the template of sonata form.” MS4

String Quartet No. 5:
Bartók wrote comparatively less music in the six years between his fourth and fifth quartets, but the work he did “pointed to his mature style of the 1930s and 1940s, in which directness of compositional technique is coupled with a new concern for clear communication.” MS5 They paved the way for his fifth quartet “easily Bartók’s most virtuosic essay in the form.” MS5 Here he again uses “the five-movement arch form, this time employing a more distinctive variation technique in which the first and fifth movements, and the second and fourth, closely mirror each other.” MS5

String Quartet No. 6:
“Bartók’s last completed quartet exemplifies the composer’s continuing search for new forms, even as he sought to distill and clarify his mode of expression. The form he devised for the String Quartet No. 6 is ingenious: each movement is preceded by an introductory section marked ‘Mesto’ (‘sadly’), with increasing complexity at each appearance. The ‘mesto’ theme functions both as a motto and as the source of much of the quartet’s thematic substance. In the fourth movement, rather than giving way to a lively finale (the original plan as indicated by Bartók’s sketches), the motto continues on to become the conclusion itself.” MS6


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Monday, January 15, 2018

January 15, 1791: Mozart completed his final concerto

Last updated August 27, 2018.

Piano Concertos (27)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (composer)


Composed: 1773-1791


Last Concerto Completed: January 15, 1791


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: --


Genre: classical > piano concertos


Concertos/Year of Completion/Approximate Time:

  1. No. 1 in F major, K. 37 (April 1767) [16:00]
  2. No. 2 in B flat major, K. 39 (April 1767) [15:00]
  3. No. 3 in D major, K. 40 (April 1767) [13:00]
  4. No. 4 in G major, K. 41 (April 1767) [14:00]
  5. No. 5 in D major, K. 175 (December 1773) [22:00]
  6. No. 6 in B♭ major, K. 238 (January 1776) [21:00]
  7. No. 7 in F major, K. 242 for three pianos (February 1776) [25:00]
  8. No. 8 in C major, K. 246 (April 1776) [23:30]
  9. No. 9 in E♭ major, K. 271 (January 1777) [33:30]
  10. No. 10 in E♭ major, K. 365/316a for two pianos (1779) [25:00]
  11. No. 11 in F major, K. 413/387a (1782–1783) [22:30]
  12. No. 12 in A major, K. 414/385p (1782) [26:30]
  13. No. 13 in C major, K. 415/387b (1782–1783) [28:30]
  14. No. 14 in E♭ major, K. 449 (9 February 1784) [22:30]
  15. No. 15 in B♭ major, K. 450 (15 March 1784) [25:30]
  16. No. 16 in D major, K. 451 (22 March 1784) [22:30]
  17. No. 17 in G major, K. 453 (12 April 1784) [29:45]
  18. No. 18 in B♭ major, K. 456 (30 September 1784) [29:00]
  19. No. 19 in F major, K. 459 (11 December 1784) [27:45]
  20. No. 20 in D minor, K. 466 (10 February 1785) [29:00]
  21. No. 21 in C major, K. 467 (9 March 1785) [26:00]
  22. No. 22 in E♭ major, K. 482 (16 December 1785) [35:00]
  23. No. 23 in A major, K. 488 (2 March 1786) [27:00]
  24. No. 24 in C minor, K. 491 (24 March 1786) [29:45]
  25. No. 25 in C major, K. 503 (4 December 1786) [32:30]
  26. No. 26 in D major, K. 537 (24 February 1788) [30:45]
  27. No. 27 in B♭ major, K. 595 (5 January 1791) [29:30]

Review:

Mozart wrote his 27 original concertos for piano and orchestra over a span of 25 years. He composed many of them to play himself in the Vienna concert series of 1784-86. WK They are recognized as “among his greatest achievements.” WK

The first four concertos were based on piano sonatas composed by others, a common practice in operas of the day. They were arranged in 1767 when Mozart was eleven. The next six, known as the Salzburg concertos, were written from 1773-79. No. 5 “was his first real effort in the genre, and one that proved popular at the time.” WK No. 6 was the first “introduce new thematic material in the piano's first solo section.” WK The seventh and eight concertos “are generally not regarded as demonstrating much of an advance, although No. 7 is quite well known.” WK

“Nine months after No. 8, however, Mozart produced one of his early masterpieces,” WK the ninth concerto, known as the “Jenamy” (formerly “Jeunehomme).” WK “This work shows a decisive advance in organization of the first movement, as well as demonstrating some irregular features.” WK No. 10, the end of his Salzburg period, was written for two pianos, the presence of which “disturbs the ‘normal’ structure of piano-orchestra interaction.” WK

Nos. 11-13 are known as the Early Vienna concertos. Mozart wrote them in the autumn of 1782, about 18 months after his arrival in Vienna, “for his own use in subscription concerts.” WK He described the trio of concertos in a letter to his father as “a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being vapid.” WK They “are all rather different from one another and are relatively intimate works despite the mock grandeur of the last one.” WK That one, No. 13, “is an ambitious, perhaps even overambitious work, that introduces the first, military theme in a canon in an impressive orchestral opening.” WK

Nos. 14-25, written between 1784 and 1786, are known as the Major Vienna concertos. They represent “a period of creativity that has certainly never been surpassed in piano concerto production.” WK No. 14 “is the first instrumental work by Mozart that shows the strong influence of his operatic writing.” WK No. 15 “shows a reversion to an earlier, galant style.” WK No 16. “is a not very well known work…The first movement is broadly "symphonic" in structure and marks a further advance in the interactions between piano and orchestra.” WK

Nos. 17-19 “can be considered to form a group, as they all share certain features, such as the same rhythm in the opening.” WK No. 17 “was written for Barbara Ployer and is famous in particular for its last movement.” WK No. 18 “was for a long time believed to have been written for the blind pianist Maria Theresa von Paradis to play in Paris.” WK No. 19 “is sunny with an exhilarating finale.” WK

The year 1785 was “marked by the contrasting pair…[of Nos. 20 and 21] remarkably, written within the same month. These two works, one the first minor-key concerto Mozart wrote…and a dark and stormy work, and the other sunny, are among the most popular works Mozart produced.” WK No. 22 “is slightly less popular, possibly because it lacks the striking themes of the first two.” WK

“In 1786, Mozart managed to write two more masterpieces in one month.” WK No. 23 was “one of the most consistently popular of his concertos, notable particularly for its poignant slow movement in F♯ minor, the only work he wrote in the key. He followed it with No. 24…is a dark and passionate work, made more striking by its classical restraint.” WK “The final work of the year, No. 25…is one of the most expansive of all classical concertos, rivaling Beethoven's fifth piano concerto.” WK This “was the last of the regular series of concertos Mozart wrote for his subscription concerts.” WK

26-27 are referred to as the Later concertos. No. 26, “completed in February 1788, has a mixed reputation and possibly is the revision of a smaller chamber concerto into a larger structure.” WK No. 27, the last concerto, “was the first work from the last year of Mozart's life: it represents a return to form for Mozart in the genre.” WK


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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Johnny Cash recorded live at Folsom Prison 50 Years Ago Today

First posted 1/13/2013; updated 5/18/2020.

image from findingdulcinea.com

At Folsom Prison

Johnny Cash


Buy Here:


Recorded: January 13, 1968


Released: May 1968


Charted: June 15, 1968


Peak: 13 US, 14 CW, 7 UK, 27 CN


Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.1 UK, 3.2 world (includes US + UK)


Genre: country


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Song (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks)
  2. Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash) [2:42] (6/1/68, #32 US, #39 AC, #1 CW)
  3. Busted (Harlan Howard) [1:25] (4/6/63, #13 CW) *
  4. Dark As the Dungeon (Merle Travis) [3:04] (2/15/64, #49 CW)
  5. I Still Miss Someone (Johnny Cash/Roy Cash Jr.) [1:38] (12/58, B-side of “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town”)
  6. Cocaine Blues (T.J. Arnall) [3:01]
  7. 25 Minutes to Go (Shel Silverstein) [3:31]
  8. Orange Blossom Special (Ervin T. Rouse) [3:01] (2/13/65, #80 US, #3 CW)
  9. The Long Black Veil (Marijohn Wilkin/Danny Dill) [3:58]
  10. Send a Picture of Mother (Johnny Cash) [2:10]
  11. The Wall (Harlan Howard) [1:36]
  12. Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog (Jack H. Clement) [1:30]
  13. Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart (Jack H. Clement) [2:17]
  14. Joe Bean (Bud Freeman/Leon Pober) [2:25] *
  15. Jackson (with June Carter) (Billy Edd Wheeler,/Jerry Leiber) [3:12] (3/4/67, #2 CW)
  16. Give My Love to Rose (with June Carter) (Johnny Cash) [2:41] (9/16/57, #13 CW)
  17. I Got Stripes (Johnny Cash/Charlie Williams) [1:57] (8/3/59; #43 US, #4 CW)
  18. The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer (Johnny Cash/June Carter) [7:08] *
  19. Green, Green Grass of Home (Curly Putman) [2:29]
  20. Greystone Chapel (Glen Sherley) [6:02]

Chart information is for the original studio releases of the songs, except for “Folsom Prison Blues,” which was released as a live single from this album. Also, songs marked with an asterisk (*) were added as bonus tracks to the 1999 CD reissue.


Total Running Time: 55:56


The Players:

  • Johnny Cash (vocals, guitar, harmonica)
  • June Carter, Carl Perkins, the Statler Brothers (additional vocals)
  • Carl Perkins, Luther Perkins (guitar)
  • Marshall Grant (bass)
  • W.S. “Fluke” Holland (drums)

Rating:

4.569 out of 5.00 (average of 19 ratings)


Quotable: Cash “delivers the songs with the conviction of someone who has lived through it.” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide


Awards:

About the Album:

“Few albums come as close to capturing the darkness and rage that lays deep in Cash’s music, as well as the depth of his talent.” AMG Cash had an image of “an outlaw who always sided with the underdog.” ATI Marshall Grant, Cash’s bassist, said, “John had a real feeling for the down and out, for the prisoners…for anybody like that. He came from very humble beginnings in Arkansas.” ATI

“Undoubtedly the most significant prison album ever recorded,” ATI it was “a make-or-break moment in his waning career.” ATI He’d been in trouble with the law for smuggling pills across the border of Mexico, had an affair with June Carter which left some fans upset, and had a negative relationship with the press in general. ATI His record label had threatened to drop him and he’d even contemplated suicide. WP

How It Came About:

Recording a live album with an audience of felons didn’t seem like the blueprint for a career revival. However, in the mid-‘60s, it was difficult to get Cash into the studio and when he did go in, he was unprepared and uninspired. A live album was a way to get an album out of him. He was convinced it would be the shot in the arm his career needed. MA

Columbia Records wasn’t so sure about the idea. Drummer “Fluke” Holland echoed that sentiment. “I remember saying…it won’t sell enough to pay for tape.” RS The record company was finally persuaded and agreed to two live tapings from which the album would be assembled. It was recorded January 13, 1968 for an estimated 1,000 inmates UT at Folsom, a maximum-security prison outside Sacramento. It wasn’t Cash’s first time to perform at a prison. He’d performed at Huntsville State Prison in Texas in 1957. ABS He’d even performed before at Folsom, California’s second oldest prison, BL in November 1966 at the suggestion of Floyd Gressett. He preached at a church in Ventura which Cash sometimes attended and did prison outreach.

The Impact:

The resulting album took Cash to the top of the country charts and spent over two years on the Billboard album chart. It sold three million copies, becoming one of the biggest-selling country records of all time. RS He was embraced by the counterculture WP and became “an icon of cool.” ATI Grant said, “When this album came out, it just turned everything in our lives around. Our careers were turned around. John was becoming what he deserved.” RS

Uproxx’s Corbin Reiff called it “the definitive Johnny Cash album.” UT Photographer Jim Marshall, who was at Folsom to shoot the legendary performance, said he thought it was just as important as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experienced?, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. RS “It was the realness, the rawness, the honesty at Folsom that made the record important.” RS The album also brought attention to the need for prison reform. Cash felt strongly that the system was broken and not fixing anyone. First-time offenders and full-fledged killers were all mixed together.

The Performance:

The stage was set up in the cafeteria, right behind death row. Carl Perkins opened the show with “Blue Suede Shoes.” The Statler Brothers performed “Flowers on the Wall” and “This Old House” and provided backup vocals for Cash. June Carter joined Cash for duets on Jackson and Give My Love to Rose. ABS

Before Cash took the stage, Hugh Cherry, an L.A. disc jockey who served as the emcee, instructed the crowd not to clap, stand up, or even acknowledge Cash when he came out. However, once he stepped to the microphone and said, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” the group was told “to blow the roof off of this building. Whatever noise you ever made, let it be multipled tenfold.” RS

While the setlist included a few hits — Folsom Prison Blues, I Still Miss Someone, I Got Stripes, and the aforementioned “Jackson” and “Give My Love to Rose,” Cash focused more on songs “about prison, crime, murder, regret, loss, mother, God, and loneliness.” AMG Cash tweaked the lyrics of Cocaine Blues to reflect his narcotics arrest in 1965. UT He also performed Shel Silverstein’s 25 Minutes to Go about a man nearing his execution. In the context of a prison performance, they “lose some of their defiance and gain some sadness, particularly when they’re interrupted by announcements like, ‘88419 is wanted in reception.’” TL

Robert Hillburn, who was there that day writing for the Los Angeles Times, said, “He didn’t just do a greatest-hits show that day; he designed every song for that audience and their emotional needs.” ATI “This set is all about atmosphere. Live at the Grand Ole Opry this ain’t.” AZ

As a result, “Cash stimulates the audience’s emotions, which in turn stimulates his performance, especially since he delivers the songs with the conviction of someone who has lived through it.” AMG “Cash had the audience in the palm of his hands for the entire duration of the show.” ATI The prisoners were “visibly overjoyed,” ATI but “reluctant to respond too raucously [because] they feared reprisals from the guards.” ABS

It made for one of the album’s amusing moments. When one inmate started laughing during Dark As a Dungeon, Cash chuckled as well and then casually admonished him. The prisoner responded with “Oh, hell” which led Cash to say “I just wanted to tell you that this show is being recorded for an album released on Columbia Records so you can’t say ‘hell’ or ‘shit’ or anything like that.” ABS

“Folsom Prison Blues”

Cash wrote the song while serving in Germany with the U.S. Air Force in 1953. ABS He was inspired by watching Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison, a 1951 crime drama. He recorded it for Sun Records in 1955 and it became one of his signature songs. The live version recorded at Folsom was released as a single in 1968 and topped the country charts. Hillburn said, “the live version was…much more dynamic. He had emotion singing in front of those prisoners and you can hear their affection for him.” UT

Some of Cash’s audience at the prison shows likely assumed he’d done hard time, probably because they took the lines “But I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die” literally. WP It has been called “one of the most iconic lines in country music history.” ABS Cash said, “I sat with my pen in my hand, trying to think up the worst reason a person could have for killing another person, and that’s what came to mind.” ABS

However, Cash had never spent more than a few nights in jail (mainly in the drunk tank), but prisoners “related to him as being one of them” said W.S. Holland, Cash’s drummer. WP “Cash had a natural sympathy for men who gave in to their worst impulses.” TL

“Greystone Chapel”

The whole crew assembled the night before in a local motel and were even visited by then-California governor Ronald Reagan. Gressett played “Greystone Chapel,” a song written by Folsom inmate Glen Sherley. It was about finding God in the prison chapel. Cash wrote down the words and rehearsed it with his band to perform it the next day. ATI It was the last song Cash performed, leaving his audience with the line “Inside the walls of prison my body may be/ But my Lord has set my soul free.” TL

Sherley didn’t know Cash was going to play his song and, according to Ventura Star-Free Press reporter Gene Beley, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happier man alive.” ATI Sherley recorded an album in prison ATI and maintained correspondence with Cash. Although he was serving a potential life sentence, he was released in 1971 WP and joined Cash on the road. Sadly, he was fired when he threatened to kill one of the band members ATI and killed himself in 1978. Cash paid for the funeral. WP


Notes:

The 1999 reissue added the songs “Busted,” “Joe Bean,” and “The Legend of John Henry.”

Review Sources: