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Cash, Johnny - Bitter Tears – Apache Tears

Identifier

025920

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

A description of the experience

Johnny Cash - Apache Tears

"Bitter Tears"

Hoof prints and foot prints deep ruts the wagons made
The victor and the loser came by here
No head stones but these bones bring Mascalero death moans
See the smooth black nuggets by the thousands laying here
Petrified but justified are these Apache tears
Dead grass dry roots hunger crying in the night
Ghost of broken hearts and laws are here
And who saw the young squaw they judged by their whiskey law
Tortured till she died of pain and fear
Where the soldiers lay her back are the black Apache tears
The young men the old men the guilty and the innocent
Bled red blood and chilled alike with fears
The red men the white men no fight ever took this land
So don't raise the dust when you pass here
They're sleeping and in my keeping are these Apache tears

lyrics written by Peter LaFarge

Cash – the Autobiography of Johnny Cash

Bitter Tears, which preceded Ballads of the True West and in which I was inspired by the Native American songwriter Peter LaFarge, was another intense research project.

I dove into primary and secondary sources, immersing myself in the tragic stories of the Cherokee and the Apache, among others, until I was almost as raw as Peter. By the time I actually recorded the album I carried a heavy load of sadness and outrage; I felt every word of those songs, particularly 'Apache Tears' and 'The Ballad of Ira Hayes.'

I meant every word, too. I was long past the point of pulling my punches. I expected there to be trouble with that album, and there was. I got a lot of flak from the Columbia Records bosses while I was recording it - though Frank Jones, my producer, had the good sense and courage to let me go ahead and do what I wanted – and when it was released, many radio stations wouldn't play it.

My reaction was to write the disc jockeys a letter and pay to have it published as a full-page ad in Billboard.

It talked about them wanting to 'wallow in [their] meaninglessness' and noted their 'lack of vision for our music.' Predictably enough, it got me off the air in more places than it got me on.

The source of the experience

Native American Indians

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