Moving to California, he spent time in Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band, and met Rosanne Cash in 1976, tying the knot three years later. Crowell moved to Nashville, simply ‘because I wanted to get out of California’. Now he’s part of a dynasty of American musical talent that shows no signs of running out of steam. And at the head ofit all is the brooding Man in Black, personifying the rebellious anti-Utopian side of country music.

‘But at the same time he’s been pretty diplomatic too. He’s a spokesman for country music on an international level. The fact that he could be both rebel and spokesman is pretty impressive.’

But did Cash expect to fit into this strong patriarchal mould?

‘Well, I don’t know. He’s certainly larger than life, and has all of the physical attributes to be a patriarchal figure. I don’t think he thought it out that much, just he and June had enough kids and they were talented and got involved . . .’

At least Johnny Cash hasn’t had the indignity of being labelled New Country the way Rosanne and Rodney have.

‘Oh, that’s all bullshit. That’s just so they don’t have to deal with the artists one at a time. I ignore that altogether. They don’t call LaToya Jackson “New Rhythm & Blues”, or George Michael “New Pop”. Every time they deal with country music they can’t deal with the fact that it’s evolving just like everything else. It’s such a secondary thing in terms of respect. I take the press on, straight ahead, that it’s just a lack of imagination. If I was 17 years old it might apply, but I’ve been making music for a long time. And I have just as much respect for Bob Dylan and Keith Richard as I do for Hank Williams Sr and Merle Haggard.’

His inspiration comes from more than other musicians, however.

‘In terms of what comes from life, in my country there’s so many different ethnic situations. You have the Southern mentality, with a different language, different nuances and so on. I really in a way am a student of language. Here you have rodeos, you have Stock-car racers, and each of these little sub-groups has their own language, and their own cliches. Soto me language is probably the most important thing.’

And how does this come out in his songwriting?

‘Well, you’re always looking for a different way to say something. And when I hear something in a different way it catches my ear. You know, I enjoy art of all kinds, I like to go to museums, I’m into photography . . . Art is it, for me. There’s just so many different ways of expression, from film to, you name it, live performance.’

One particular film that has inspired him of late has been Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire.

‘It was so powerful emotionally. And anything that can move you emotionally is to me what people in the world of art are trying to achieve.’


As the latest Nightmare on Elm Street stalks our streets, Trevor Johnston considers what makes horror movies endure and audiences endure horror movies.


8'I'he List 5 - 18 May 1989