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It's Johnny's Birthday

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 24, 2006 6:04PM

Last night, Chicagoist was nursing yet another vodka tonic and talking with a friend of ours who’s a fellow music snob and avowed Johnny Cash fan. We asked him if he had seen Walk The Line. He hadn’t and didn’t plan to. Why, we asked. “Marxism,” he replied.

You don’t know this friend of ours but “Marxism” is pretty much his answer for everything so we pressed him to be more specific.

2006_02_cash.jpgEssentially, his answer was this: Johnny Cash was once considered a dangerous guy. He was dangerous because he challenged the status quo, the hypocrisy of America’s prison system, and the way we viewed matters of race, class and economics. “That’s why I love Johnny Cash. But I know the movie’s not going to speak to any of that.” Fair enough, he’s right.

We’re not sure if our friend will find that reformist spirit at Uncommon Ground this Sunday when it hosts the 4th Annual Johnny Cash Birthday Bash, but the focus will surely be on what many consider to be Cash’s greatest legacy: his music.

Spend half an hour in any bar with a jukebox and you’re bound to hear “Ring of Fire,” “I Walk The Line,” or “Folsom Prison Blues.” But we wager if you head to Uncommon Ground then you’ll be hearing selections from Cash’s incredibly deep catalogue of spirituals, American folk standards, and original compositions that changed the way we hear country, blues and rock. And until Rick Rubin finishes off American V, these eight artists should tide you over.

The 4th Annual Johnny Cash Birthday Bash kicks off at Uncommon Ground (3800 N. Clark St.) at 7 p.m. on Sunday, February 26th. There's no cover but once the place is full, you're not getting in. Reserved tickets are $15 minimum if you want to make sure you hear "Five Feet High and Rising." If you choose to go the cheap route, make sure you toss some tips and donations their way. Even Marxists have to eat.