Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. Between a recent celebration of the Louisiana Hayride and Johnny's birthday yesterday, Cash has just been on my mind. To me, Johnny Cash is a National Icon and American Treasure. Not only did he make great music, but you can actually learn a lot about life from his songs.

Unlike a lot of artists of the 50s and 60s, Johnny didn't just sing songs about love and loss. Don't get me wrong, he did. But, he also wrote and sang songs about politics, issues in the world, religion, human relationships and a whole lot more. Johnny wasn't afraid to buck the system and challenge the establishment.

Despite his conservative political views, he wrote the song "What is Truth?"; a song that challenged the old guard to listen to world's youth....that maybe just because you're older, you don't know everything. He faced a huge backlash from certain communities. But, Cash didn't care. It's how he felt and what he truly believed.

His classic folk song "John Henry's Hammer" questions advancing technology and whether or not it should be used to replace people. "Now did the Lord say that machines ought to take place of livin'? And what's a substitute for bread and beans? I ain't seen it! Do engines get rewarded for their steam?," Cash wrote. Which is a good point...just because we can do something, should we? The song also makes a point to show that man can always out work machine. Something that, especially in today's world, we should at least consider.

Plus, Johnny never judged anyone because of their station of life. Didn't matter if you were young, old, in jail or whatever. He stood up for anyone and everyone who was downtrodden or abused. He wrote articles and songs dedicated to the trials and tribulations of Native Americans and various other groups he felt were unfairly treated. In fact, Cash's entire ethos is laid out in the song "Man in Black":

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.
I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.
I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.
Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.
I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.
And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.
Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.
Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black
I guess my point to all this is that we could all take some cues from Johnny. Maybe if we exercised a little understanding, didn't judge people by their looks or position in life, didn't blindly follow political lines or ideologies, the world might be a better place.
Johnny Cash was considered an outlaw for decades because he didn't take orders and blindly follow the establishment. Maybe we need more outlaws who aren't afraid to ask questions. Maybe if we were a bit more engaged and just didn't trust everything we are force fed by all kinds of people and groups, some of our biggest problems could finally get solved.