Photo: Johnny Cash-1969 by Joel Baldwin - LOOK

A good quote can pack a lot of wisdom into few words. Like a song lyric, it is easy to remember. So I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you as Quotes To Self. They’re really for me but you can look over my shoulder.

A friend posted this one from Johnny Cash. I got a chance to work for him for a week and he left an indelible impression as the genuine article.

The album I recorded was at a low point in his career. He’d been dropped from Columbia, his home since 1958. Mercury signed him and would drop him one album after this one. He hadn’t hit the top ten since 1976. He was recovering from open heart surgery while avoiding pain medication for fear of falling back into drug addiction.

Typically, many thought his career was done.

More than a few stars I know have taken such opportunities to sink into drugs or alcohol, give up, move out of the country or drift away on a sailboat into the Caribbean. Several, sadly, couldn’t handle it and ended their lives with their careers.

But after getting dropped from Mercury, Johnny’s response was to record a Christmas album on another label. Then he recorded a version of “Man In Black” with Christian punk band One Bad Pig. Next, he recorded a spoken word version of the entire New Testament. And he surprised everyone by singing “The Wanderer” on U2’s Zooropa album.

In other words, he barely slowed down.

One thing led to the next thing until Rick Rubin signed Johnny to his American Recordings label. It was known primarily for rap and rock. They wanted to try something different. Johnny Cash recorded alone in a room at his house with only his acoustic guitar and won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

In fact, the week I recorded Johnny Cash, on a label that was about to drop him, at a time when no one would bet on him, there were eleven Grammys waiting in his future.

Eleven more!

That’s why this quote lit me up. Here’s what he had to say on the subject:

“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” ~ Johnny Cash

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