Native Village
Youth and Education news
March 1, 2010     Volume 4


Supporters try to resurrect "lost" Johnny Cash album
by Cortney Harding

Condensed by Native Village

Lost Highway records has released "American VI: Ain't No Grave." The album includes the final recordings Johnny Cash made with " producer Rick Rubin. 

Now Cash scholars and relatives are trying to tell another, seldom-heard part of Cash's story. They're lobbying Sony to re-release his seldom-heard 1964 album, "Bitter Tears."  Bitter Tears is a protest album about the U.S. mistreatment of Native Americans.

Author Antonino D'Ambrosio discovered "Bitter Tears" in the Bowling Green State University Sound Recordings Archives.  As a passionate Cash fan, this was the first time D'Abrosio heard the album. The songs, written by Cash, Peter La Farge and Johnny Horton, are deeply felt.

"It would have been very easy for Johnny Cash to make a civil rights record at that time," he says. "He didn't. He chose to focus on the very real struggle of another group, and the album is relevant to this day."

"Bitter Tears" is obscure because Columbia records signed off on the project, and radio stations didn't play the songs. A frustrated Cash took out a full-page ad in Billboard magazine.  He chastised Columbia and the DJs who refused to play the album.  "DJs -- station managers -- owners, etc., where are your guts?" Cash wrote.

Cash's son, John Carter Cash, says "Bitter Tears" is among his favorites works.

"Nobody did concept albums back then," he says. "And this album solidifies my father's role as a humanitarian and a spokesman for the underdog. It's such an important historical record, and I'd love to see it get a proper rerelease.

"People don't talk about the struggles of the Native populations. Their issues get swept under the rug, and my dad tried to do something about it. No other major artist has ever made a full album about Native rights."

The Songs on "Bitter Tears
As Long As The Grass Shall Grow
 The Ballad of Ira Hayes
Apache Tears
White Girl
The Talking Leaves
The Vanishing Race

D'Ambrosio says he's not the only Cash fan in the dark. "I've met Johnny Cash buffs who have never heard of this album," he said. "While it is technically available, it's pretty buried."

Sony has not answered D'Ambrosio's messages regarding the album's re-release.

Song samples from Bitter Tears:

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