May 29, 2018
Think How Different Your Life Would Be If Johnny Cash Hadn’t Turned Down Recording ‘The Gambler’
So there’s an enormous new Johnny Cash biography, Johnny Cash: The Life
coming out October 29, and it’s written by longtime Los Angeles Times chief music critic Robert Hilburn. Hilburn did an exhaustive amount of research and happened to have actually been around for huge Cash moments like the Folsom Prison show. We’re sure it will be a good, important, illuminating read, but this here is the biggest thing you need to know:
Johnny Cash turned down “The Gambler.”
You write in the book about how, during a low point in his career, Cash had an opportunity to record the “The Gambler” but passed on the song, which then of course Kenny Rogers had a huge hit with. Tell me about that decision.
I think that decision was partially due to drugs. He was kind of surly then, in the late ’70s. The song might have struck him as corny. I don’t know exactly why he didn’t like the song, but it’s true, he didn’t like the song. It was a drug period. He passed over a lot of songs. There were times when things slipped through. He wasn’t perfect at picking songs. Sometimes drugs were there, and sometimes he just didn’t like the song.
We’re not sure if we feel like we dodged a bullet, or if random drunk country karaoke would have been forever improved if Cash was the source material. And what if Cash had gone on to do all the Gambler-related tie-ins that Kenny Rogers did?
On second thought, Johnny Cash would have probably just stone cold murdered Bruce Boxenliter for being such a fuck-up. Now that would have been a song-inspired Western worth watching.