But the whole package of Cash, as singer, as performer, as symbol of guts and integrity, proved overpowering to the readers of The Misread City. His singing can make a poem of Rod McKuen’s sound profound (as he did on “Love’s Been Good to Me.)
I should add that while I adore Cash, new and old, I am a Townes man myself, and have strong feelings for some songs of Parsons — “Hickory Wind” and “She” most obviously. As some pointed out, Parson’s was active so briefly that it’s hard to know what kind of body of work he would have produced.
The poll, like all of mine, required I leave some people out — Dolly Parton, John Prine, Alejandro Escovedo, Jimmy Webb, Kristofferson, others. But I feel strongly that a number of very serious talents were on the resulting list.
To break it down: Cash got a bit more than 1/3 of votes, Willie Nelson got about a third, and Townes (photo, right) a hair less than a third. Merle Haggard, who was leading in the poll’s early days, came in next, while Lucinda Williams and Gram lagged into last place. (Parsons in last place? Sheesh!) Some thought Willie, because of records like Red Headed Stranger, should be the winner hands down, and I can’t disagree strenuously with that — I love his ’70s records.
Participants were allowed to cast votes for more than one artist. And I limited this to post-Hank Williams since Hank would surely run away with this as surely as Dylan would take a best rock songwriter poll.
More on these American originals shortly. My black hat is off to the late Mr. Cash today.