Except for Reese Witherspoon’s performance, I thought WALK THE LINE could have been a made-for-TV movie, and I wondered why we needed it, anyways, with such great documentation of the Man In Black already: the autobiography, Cash’s video for “Hurt“, and especially Sarah Vowell’s radio essay, “The Greatest Love Story of the Twentieth Century,” about the song, “Ring Of Fire,” and Cash and June Carter’s relationship. (They essay starts 47 minutes into show.)
In this song, to compare love to fire isn’t just the music sexy/heat cliche like you give me fever, or, hunka-hunka burnin’ love, or, it’s gettin’ hot in here. This is fire as in brimstone. Old time religion. Written by the daughter of a people who believe in the eternal flames of hell. June Carter was coveting her neighbor’s spouse, which meant she was breaking one of the Ten Commandments. Loving Johnny Cash was a sin. And for her, the wages of sin were death. A death in which the sinner spent all eternity as nothing more than kindling. When June Carter admitted to herself that she loved Johnny Cash, it is, in a small country and western love song way, not unlike the moment Huck Finn resolves to help the slave Jim escape, even though he’s been told that doing so would be wrong. Alright then, he says, I’ll go to hell.
When you’re getting married, you’re looking around for models. Good examples. Blueprints that you can embellish.
The girls we are going to marry sat around the table, drinking beer, and one of them said, “How come in all these movies you see these artists and musicians leave their first wives after they get famous? Then they meet their soulmate and live happily ever after! The first wife never makes it. It’s scary.”
And I thought about it. Of most my heroes. John Lennon did that. Ray Carver did that. Johnny Cash did that.
And I thought about what I could learn. Other than, people change. I focused on that happy ending. On finding a woman who not only takes care of your soul, but challenges your mind. Your partner and your equal…