As far as 20th-century music legends go, they don’t get much bigger than Johnny Cash and Jimmy Page. The country music star and Led Zeppelin guitarist played different styles of music, but they shared some similarities. For instance, Johnny Cash wasn’t his real name and Page once used a stage name. It turns out Cash used the same trick as Page while recording his last album, and other threads connect the two musicians.
Johnny Cash recorded his last album while in poor health
Cash and producer Rick Rubin teamed up to record a series of albums using American in the title. The 2002 record American IV: The Man Comes Around was the last Cash album to be released during his lifetime. The album includes his heartbreaking cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”
The American series shined a spotlight on Cash’s career and legend for a new generation. Yet The Man in Black was in poor health while making The Man Comes Around. He suffered from autonomic neuropathy, which causes the nervous system to function improperly. A 1998 bout of pneumonia damaged his lungs, which made singing difficult.
Making American IV wasn’t easy. Cash copied Page’s philosophy to help make the recording sessions run a little smoother.
Cash copied one trick from Jimmy Page while making ‘American IV: The Man Comes Around’
While making the last album he saw hit shelves before his 2003 death, nothing came easy for Cash. He did his best to make the sessions run smoothly, Alan Light writes in Johnny Cash: The Life and Legacy:
“We brought a pocketful of songs to every session, and if I couldn’t sing this one, I’d sing that one. In the middle of taping something that wasn’t quite working, I’d just stop what I was doing and start a new song. And that always worked-to alternate, to go to something that I could do.”
He probably didn’t know it, but Cash used one of the skills Page brought to Led Zeppelin from his session musician days in the mid-1960s. In addition to studio tricks such as mic placement and overdubbing, Page learned that when something’s not working, it’s time to cut bait and move on.
Just like winning the lottery, there’s a razor-thin chance Cash directly copied Page’s trick while making his last album, American IV. It seems most likely the two veteran musicians learned the same thing from spending countless hours in separate recording studios. Their shared recording philosophy isn’t the only thread connecting the two music legends.
The two musicians share two other traits
They’re both guitarists. They shared the same approach to recording — stop if it’s not working. Cash and Page shared at least two other traits, too.
First, both performed in prison. Cash recorded famous performances at Folsom Prison and San Quentin and released albums in 1968 and 1969, respectively. As Page shared on his Instagram on the anniversary of the At San Quentin realease, he once played at Holloway Women’s Prison in London with Neil Christian and the Crusaders. Page beat Cash to the punch, doing it in 1961. So, thread No. 1 is that both guitarists were familiar with playing for prisoners.
Neither man was otherworldly famous at the time, but The Man in Black bought Johnny Carson’s estate for $50,000 in the late 1950s. Page moved between several homes during the 1960s and 1970s. One of his properties was Aleister Crowley’s former Scottish mansion, which he rarely visited but utilized for one memorable Led Zeppelin moment. The second shared trait is that Cash and Page bought homes from other famous people.
Johnny Cash unknowingly copied a trick from Jimmy Page while making his last album. Yet the two musicians shared at least two other common traits.
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