Rosanne Cash and I have something in common. We both grew up listening to her father.
My dad used to play Johnny Cash 33 1/3 LPs on a scratchy record player. Rosanne heard the real thing of course, being Johnny’s daughter. I started reading her memoirs today. Why? Because she and I are about the same age – she’s a little older than me, ha – and I remember some of her striking songs from the 7 Year Ache album. Particularly “I Can’t Resist”, a sad elegant song of longing and resignation.
Rosanne didn’t waste any time bashing Catholicism. Started on page 2. She and I reversed our Catholic experience. Rosanne was raised in it by her Italian Catholic mother (Johnny’s first wife). Confession every week, mean nuns, irate priests, and so on. She felt that Catholicism called sinful her artistic yearnings. She believes she didn’t grow as an artist until she stopped going to Mass and left the Church. Of course, becoming an adult helps you grow as an artist, whether you’re Catholic or not.
I grew up a Baptist, and felt hampered in similar ways, maybe worse than Rosanne. After all, Baptists don’t like smoking, drinking, dancing, or listening to music, and I’ve never come across a priest yet who would condemn all those things. Anyway, I left the Baptists like Rosanne left the Catholics. The difference between us is that my art only flourished after I converted to Catholicism. Funny. Perhaps if I had been a cradle Catholic like Rosanne in the 1960’s I would have had the same reaction she had.
But when I came to the Faith I had tried everything else, and nothing fulfilled my longing for love, art, and God (who is behind it all) like Catholicism. I came in as a grown-up wise in the ways of sin, and jaded by it all. So I was ready to be Catholic. Rosanne wasn’t, although its funny, a few pages later she acknowledges that the Evangelical churches she went to left her longing for Catholic ritual. The old Faith has a way of creeping into your bones – I think in a good way, others may disagree. Another funny thing is that Rosanne’s strict Italian Catholic mom remarried right after divorcing Johnny, and Rosanne recounts how she was popular at Church and with the priests. Was the Catholic Church so tolerant of remarriage in the 1960’s? Here in 2010 the Church still forbids remarriage – doing so puts you outside the Church.
Rosanne tells a funny, touching story about Johnny. He agreed in the divorce that he would help raise the children (all daughters) Catholic. So he would take teenage Rosanne to the Catholic Church every Sunday and sit through Mass with her, even though he didn’t believe any of it. Yet he never said a bad word about the Faith. An honorable man, and a good father – after he beat his demons.
I will probably have more comments about Rosanne. She is an excellent writer of prose, and whatever you think of her, she is balls to the walls honest. Like writers ought to be.