A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears is an entertaining and enlightening book by Antonino D’Ambrosio. Originally published in 2009, the book digs into the rather unusual but powerful collaboration of Johnny Cash and folksinger Peter La Farge. The two musician worked together and released an album in 1964 entitled Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian. It was a quite controversial album at the time because it sounded the unfair and harsh treatment against native Americans.
Cover and Details of A Heartbeat and a Guitar (PDF)
- Title: A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears
- Author: Antonino D’Ambrosio
- Publisher: Nation Books
- Date Published: October 13, 2009
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1568584075
- ISBN-13: 9781568584072
Summary of the Book
A Heartbeat and a Guitar tells of the collaboration of two distinct yet connected musicians—iconoclast Johnny Cash and pioneering folk artist Peter La Farge—and the album they created, Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian. It also tells of the unique personal, political, and cultural struggles that informed this album, one that has influenced the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.
D’Ambrosio has interviewed dozens of Cash’s and La Farge’s friends, family, and collaborators, including surviving members of his band, his producers, and Pete Seeger and Kris Kristofferson, creating a dramatic picture of both an era of radical protest and the making of one of the most controversial and enduring works of political pop art of the 1960s.
Reviews of A Heartbeat and a Guitar
“This book is a truly fascinating journey, charting the historical and social context of a courageous musical statement by one of our greatest rebel voices. It has since been locked away in the ‘denial drawer’ (aren’t First Nations people just an extinct species, systematically exterminated by European ‘progress’?), but D’Ambrosio admirably shines his investigative lantern into every darkened corner, finally offering some greatly appreciated illumination.” —Jim Jarmusch, filmmaker
“Antonino D’Ambrosio’s A Heartbeat and a Guitar is a beautiful and inspiring book. D’Ambrosio’s possess the rarest of gifts, an artist who infuses his work with compassion and courage.” —Pete Seeger, musician
“With his latest, A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears, D’Ambrosio offers a fascinating account of how that album embodied the true grit of Cash’s courage and conviction.” —The Boston Globe
“Though many books have been recently written about Johnny Cash, this one provides an original perspective on Cash’s ability to span musical boundaries. Recommended for fans of social history or American popular music.” —Library Journal
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