Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Composed: A Memoir, Roseanne Cash, Viking, 2010, 241 pp

Roseanne Cash has a voice all her own. I have been a fan of her songs beginning with her 1993 album, The Wheel. I never listened to her early commercially successful stuff which was mostly Nashville influenced country music. In her memoir I learned that it took her until 1990 to find her true writing voice as a songwriter. Sure enough, that is when her commercial appeal faded away, but also when she began garnering huge critical recognition.

I think she is a better songwriter than prose writer. I enjoyed learning about her life but the way she tells it is subdued emotionally and a little too disjointed, even for a memoir. But having been a songwriter myself that makes sense to me. In a song, you must distill a story and its emotion into very few words: a few verses and a chorus. Even a short story has thousands more words than a song, so it is the opposite creative flow. You expand a story and its emotion into lots of words. It is hard to make the switch and not many songwriters have done so successfully.

Along with other readers, I wanted to know more about her marriage and break up with Rodney Crowell. She is quite reticent about all that. I felt enlightened by her accounts of the relationship between her and her father Johnny Cash. She might have shared too much about her physical woes.

The last chapters are mostly about sickness and death, so the mood was somber. Despite her successes, her struggles, her ultimate happiness with John Leventhal, I couldn't help thinking that she has had an almost life. But then, maybe most of us have almost lives that don't measure up to the dreams we once had.

Bummer. But I still listen to all her later albums.

(Composed will be released in paperback on July 26, 2011. It is available by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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