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Composed: A Memoir

Review

Composed: A Memoir

"For my entire life I have been trying to give voice to the rhythms and words that underscore, propel, and inform me." Rosanne Cash opens her memoir with these words, introducing the goal for her story. She succeeds remarkably well in a gripping personal tale filled with glory, anguish, and the day-to-day happenings of a remarkable but remarkably down-to-earth life.

Cash was born a month before her father, Johnny Cash, released his first single. Her mother's tales of her birth were so dramatic and negative that Cash feared childbirth throughout her life, although she eventually had four babies of her own. She often felt protective of her three younger sisters, particularly of delicate Kathy, born a mere 10 months and 23 days after her.

When Cash was five years old, she encountered the media. A film crew arrived in the Cash home to tape a show called “Here's Hollywood,” which made Cash's mother anxious. She dressed the girls in frilly dresses with hair bows, and they were forced to sit without moving next to their parents as the cameras rolled. It was Cash's first experience with journalists --- and the first time she remembers being truly angry, an anger directed at both the TV crew and her parents.

Although yearning to learn and filled with curiosity, Cash was frustrated at a young age. Her mother belittled her constant questions and did not enroll her in kindergarten. She started first grade at a Catholic school, but her anticipated education did not begin happily. When she looks back on that period, she says she felt like a "phantom" of a girl. Her mother, a small nervous woman, was constantly in a state of distraction, partly due to husband Johnny Cash being absent. His unfaithfulness and drug use as their marriage disintegrated caused her mother to distance herself from the children. Cash began to assume the role of adult and mother quite frequently.

When her mother and father divorced, Cash was 12. Each parent remarried rapidly, and their lives improved. Cash's mother made many friends, joined clubs and hosted parties. Johnny Cash and his new wife, June Carter, lived in a huge lakeside home. Cash and her sisters joined them for part of each summer. Their visits were wonderful, with swimming, blackberry-picking and lots of singing.

As part of a large interconnected family of musicians, Cash's musical education was ever-evolving. However, she hoped to avoid seeking a career as a singer. Meanwhile, though, her father took her on tour as soon as she finished high school. He also made a list of 100 country songs he felt she must learn. As she played the guitar and sang in dressing rooms all over the world, Cash discovered a deep passion for songwriting that would inevitably guide her life.

This fascinating tale of the Grammy Award winner’s journey reveals her struggles as well as her triumphs. As the time approached for her to cut her first record, in Germany, Cash began having problems getting out of bed. She was diagnosed with depression and faced the fact that producing an album might eventually make her famous. While she wanted to be a successful songwriter and singer, she did not want the constant media attention and public scrutiny inherent in fame --- that disruption she had dealt with firsthand as Johnny Cash's daughter. Yet the creative side of her insisted she would never be satisfied unless she allowed herself to write music, collaborate with other musicians, and sing. Believing the good would outweigh any bad results, she recorded her album.

When Cash became a mother, she experienced a new challenge as she struggled to balance her maternal feelings with her career. When a song on her next album hit #1 on the country charts and also appeared on the pop charts, she panicked. She believed she couldn't handle the demands of being a star along with motherhood.

Cash has woven her life into an excellent read. About COMPOSED she says, "This is mine: So far, so good. More to come. More is always to come." Readers will take that as a promise and eagerly anticipate her next installment.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (terryms2001@yahoo.com) on December 28, 2010

Composed: A Memoir
by Rosanne Cash

  • Publication Date: July 26, 2011
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 0143119397
  • ISBN-13: 9780143119395