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Composed

Cover of Composed

Composed

A Memoir
Borrow Borrow

A candid and moving memoir from the critically acclaimed singer and songwriter

For thirty years as a musician, Rosanne Cash has enjoyed both critical and commercial success, releasing a series of albums that are as notable for their lyrical intelligence as for their musical excellence.

Now, in her memoir, Cash writes compellingly about her upbringing in Southern California as the child of country legend Johnny Cash, and of her relationships with her mother and her famous stepmother, June Carter Cash. In her account of her development as an artist she shares memories of a hilarious stint as a twenty-year-old working for Columbia Records in London, recording her own first album on a German label, working her way to success, her marriage to Rodney Crowell, a union that made them Nashville's premier couple, her relationship with the country music establishment, taking a new direction in her music and leaving Nashville to move to New York. As well as motherhood, dealing with the deaths of her parents, in part through music, the process of songwriting, and the fulfillment she has found with her current husband and musical collaborator, John Leventhal.

Cash has written an unconventional and compelling memoir that, in the tradition of M. F. K. Fisher's The Gastronomical Me and Frank Conroy's Stop-Time, is a series of linked pieces that combine to form a luminous and brilliant whole.

A candid and moving memoir from the critically acclaimed singer and songwriter

For thirty years as a musician, Rosanne Cash has enjoyed both critical and commercial success, releasing a series of albums that are as notable for their lyrical intelligence as for their musical excellence.

Now, in her memoir, Cash writes compellingly about her upbringing in Southern California as the child of country legend Johnny Cash, and of her relationships with her mother and her famous stepmother, June Carter Cash. In her account of her development as an artist she shares memories of a hilarious stint as a twenty-year-old working for Columbia Records in London, recording her own first album on a German label, working her way to success, her marriage to Rodney Crowell, a union that made them Nashville's premier couple, her relationship with the country music establishment, taking a new direction in her music and leaving Nashville to move to New York. As well as motherhood, dealing with the deaths of her parents, in part through music, the process of songwriting, and the fulfillment she has found with her current husband and musical collaborator, John Leventhal.

Cash has written an unconventional and compelling memoir that, in the tradition of M. F. K. Fisher's The Gastronomical Me and Frank Conroy's Stop-Time, is a series of linked pieces that combine to form a luminous and brilliant whole.

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  • From the cover CHAPTER ONE

    I was born in Memphis, Tennessee on May 24, 1955, a month before my dad's first record, "Cry, Cry, Cry," was released on Sun Records. My mother had only two dresses that fit her in late pregnancy, she told me, and in her final month, during the most summerlike of the sultry late spring days in East Memphis, she would sit on the steps of the front porch and eat an entire washbasin of cherry tomatoes. It was her one craving. On the afternoon of May 24, my mother went to her regular appointment with her obstetrician, who examined her and told her to go straight to the hospital. "This baby is going to be born today," he said. I was born after only four hours of labor, at eight o'clock that evening. My mother later told me that the loneliest feeling she had ever felt was when she was wheeled through the double doors of the hospital maternity ward to give birth and looked back to see my dad standing forlornly in the waiting room. He paced and smoked for the next four hours while she labored alone and chewed on a wet washcloth when the pains overtook her; she always spoke with great resentment about the fact that she was given a damp washcloth to suck and then left alone in a hospital room. She was awake for the entire four hours of labor and given nothing for pain, and then put to sleep for the actual birth. It all sounded like a mean-spirited, medieval exercise in physical endurance and emotional isolation. Her accounts of it were so cinematic and full of emotion that I grew up terrified of the prospect of childbirth. I had very few fantasies about having children or being a mother, because I could not get past the specter of childbirth, which seemed almost a horrible end in itself, with something only vague and indefinable on the other side of it. The fact that I eventually did bear four children, delivered both "naturally" and with pain medication, never really lessened my fear.

    When my mother went back for her six-week checkup after my birth, the doctor informed her that she was pregnant again. My sister Kathy was born ten months and twenty-three days after me. Kathy was a fragile child who had mysterious illnesses and the worst versions of every childhood disease, and I have always felt guilty that I may have taken all the nutrients out of my mother's body when I inhabited her womb, just before Kathy's arrival there.


    Two years after Kathy's birth, my sister Cindy was born, and soon after that we moved from Memphis to Southern California. My sister Tara was born shortly after we settled in Encino, in the San Fernando Valley. My mother's fourth pregnancy and delivery were difficult for her. She carried Tara for ten months and endured a hard sixteen-hour labor. After the birth of her fourth daughter, my mother, in tears, informed my father that she was finished with childbearing, even though she had initially said she wanted six children. My father agreed, although he harbored a secret desire for a son, which he finally got when I was fifteen and he was married to June, not my mother.


    My parents bought Johnny Carson's house on Hayvenhurst Avenue in Encino. My most vivid memory of the three years we lived there was of the day a film crew showed up in our living room to tape a show called Here's Hollywood. My mother was extremely nervous, and we children were made to dress up in poufy dresses, white ankle socks, and black patent leather shoes, with our hair pulled tightly back into bows. We had to sit absolutely still and silent on the sofa next to my parents while the camera was trained on us and the interviewer spoke to them. Then we were sent outside while Mom and Dad were interviewed alone. The...

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A Memoir
Rosanne Cash
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