Happy birthday to The Man in Black. Johnny Cash is widely considered to be one of the greatest musical influences of the 20th century. He walked the line, defied the norm, and set the bar "five feet high and rising" for singers, songwriters, and music lovers of all generations.
Cash spent his formative years in Dyess AR, a self-supporting farming community which housed 800 families in the heart of the Arkansas Delta. The Dyess Colony was founded in 1934 as part of FDR's New Deal, and it's main purpose was to give poor families a chance to start over with land they could work toward owning. There, the Cash family lived in a five-room house and farmed 20 acres of cotton and other seasonal crops.
Though the family endured many hardships, they joined together in song at the end of every long day. Johnny found his earliest inspiration in the work songs of the fields and nearby rail yards, and around the family piano as his mother played hymns and folk songs.
"I got cotton in the bottom land
It's up and growin' and I got a good stand
My good wife and them kids of mine
Gonna get new shoes, come pickin' time
Get new shoes come pickin' time"
Cash's experiences in Arkansas are woven deeply into the fabric of his legendary career. He continues to inspire us, as does the concept behind the Dyess Colony and their efforts to revitalize the American economy. Domestic Domestic was built on the foundation of quality, heritage, and tradition just like the folks back then that shaped the music Johnny Cash created.
Many thanks to Arkansas State University for their hospitality, and for their efforts to preserve the heritage of the Dyess Colony. Here are a few tips if you're planning to visit: