Just six days after playing host to the Sun Valley Museum of Art’s presentation of country music icon Carlene Carter in concert, The Argyros will host another member of Johnny Cash’s family, his daughter Rosanne Cash.
With a recording and touring career spanning more than four decades and winning four Grammy Awards along the way, Rosanne Cash has established herself as a true legendary force of music. She will be playing at the Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum alongside her husband John Leventhal on Saturday, March 14, at 7:30 p.m.
Cash’s 15 studio albums have featured many smash hits and chart-topping singles. Twenty-one of her songs have broken into the top 40. Eleven have claimed the coveted No. 1 slot.
She has been nominated for 15 Grammy Awards, of which she won four. As if to demonstrate how consistently popular she has been, those nominations cropped up in all four decades of her career, a constancy that few artists can claim. It is also worth noting that being a particularly versatile artist, Cash has been nominated in eight categories.
“I’m very grateful. To get nominated each decade along the way is amazing. There are plenty of people who work just as hard as I do and are more talented and don’t get as much recognition as I get, so I try to always be grateful and appreciative of the wonderful career I’ve had,” Cash said.
While perhaps not a household name, John Leventhal is widely known and greatly revered in the music industry. The five-time Grammy-winner has—in addition to Cash—written songs for the likes of Patty Loveless, Marc Cohn and Joe Cocker and has worked in various capacities with Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, David Crosby, Paul Simon and Johnny Cash.
During her career, Rosanne Cash has seen quite a lot change in the music industry, especially following the advent of streaming.
“I’m not one of these people who say, ‘Oh, it was so much better in the old days.’ It was just different. There are so many platforms for music, you can find whatever you want, but the industry hasn’t quite figured out how to make that work yet.
“The whole thing is in flux and chaos right now. The old model doesn’t work. The new model doesn’t quite work, either. What’s heartbreaking is that young artists are leaving the industry because that can’t make living on streaming alone. On the other end of that are legacy artists who are old or sick and can’t tour anymore, they can’t make a living on record royalties alone.”
Once again, Cash voiced how truly blessed she feels to be able to do what she does.
“Touring has become more important, much more important,” she said. “I remember talking to my dad when I was first starting out about how dangerous the industry could be, about how to negotiate your way through the major labels. People were getting screwed right and left. Willie Nelson sold ‘Night Life’ for 50 bucks. Of course, now he laughs about it and says he really needed the $50 at the time.”
Though the daughter of one of the most celebrated American musicians in history, she speaks of her family legacy as one maintaining the family farm: with equal parts a genuine, deep-rooted love of the land (or in this case music) and a strong sense of hereditary obligation.
She works closely with Arkansas State University on the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home project, which, as the name implies, works to restore and preserve her father’s childhood home in Dyess, Ark.
“There are lots of Johnny Cash projects out there and this is really the only one I get involved in,” she said. “It’s about his life, not his iconic status. It’s also about American history. This house is part of a New Deal-era colony FDR created in ’35. It was almost completely dilapidated when Arkansas State University bought it. We’ve been almost a decade now restoring it, creating a small museum inside. It’s been an incredible process. My aunt and uncle consult on every tiny detail to keep it accurate. It’s very moving just to be there.”
She takes part in annual benefit concerts to fund the renovation.
The full extent of this feeling of responsibility did not fully hit Cash until fairly recently when her son, Jakob Leventhal, released his first album.
“It moved me so much. It also made me feel like I could maybe quit, not that I want too quite yet, but I didn’t realize how invested I’d been in the continuity of my family history and legacy,” she explained. “It’s not just my dad, either. His grandfather was a musician. Our Celtic ancestors were traveling minstrels. Going all the way back into the mists of time, music has been a defining part of my family identity. I hadn’t realized I felt this beautiful responsibility to keep that legacy alive until I heard my son’s music and realized that he will keep it going.”
Those attending the concert will be treated to a unique experience. Over the years, Cash has learned the importance of maintaining a more flexible approach to performing. She comes in with a setlist and an idea of what to play, but has cultivated the ability to adapt and improvise if need be.
“One of the most important things I’ve learned is how to get out of my own way, to stop listening to the critical voice that rumbles around in my head and just let go,” she said. “I see what the audience is bringing me and weave it in to what I’m bringing them. I hope to create a sense of community and connection, to allow room for improvisation and not try to control everything.
“Even if the set list isn’t different, every show is different, because the people attending are all different and unique and I’m playing for them. A live performance is like a monk’s sand painting. You create this beautiful thing in two hours and then wipe it away forever.”
At the time of this article’s completion, a limited number of tickets to Cash and Leventhal’s performance still remained available, though the concert is barreling rapidly toward selling out.
Purchases can be made online at theargyros.org. Even if tickets appear to be sold out online, it may be worth phoning The Argyros at 208-726-7872 to inquire about availability.