by Steve Turner
Like Elvis, Johnny Cash was a God-fearing boy from the Bible Belt who felt torn by the marriage between sacred and secular music that gave birth to rock and roll. As one friend puts it in this warm biography of Cash, who died last Sept. 12, "God was always tugging at his soul."
Though presented as an authorized biography—Cash's five children all spoke with Turner—this portrait is hardly sanitized. There are bright shards of detail: Cash's father scarred him for life by blaming him for his brother's death in a circular-saw accident; Cash had a long but apparently chaste love affair with Hank Williams's widow, Billie Jean; his relationship with Presley was so contentious that Cash left when the King came to visit. Throughout, Turner returns to that tug of God. Said Cash, who recorded two albums at prisons: "I found it part of my religion...to perform for people in bondage, especially those behind bars."