Rosanne Cash’s “Composed” Is All About the Journeys

Juli Thanki | August 6th, 2010

Rosanne Cash - ComposedOn the very first page of Composed, Rosanne Cash writes, “For me music has always involved journeys, both literal and metaphoric.” She traces these journeys as they take her from a California childhood to Europe, Nashville, and finally New York City, where she currently resides. They range from transcendent–performing “I Still Miss Someone” with her father at Carnegie Hall–to the downright ridiculous: a bizarre and hilarious account of lip-synching her songs at a German circus shortly after the release of her first album.

Don’t expect a dry, linear recitation of facts: anyone who’s read Cash’s short stories, pieces in The New York Times or her numerous tweets is aware of her quick wit and captivating writing style. And while you probably listen to country music (you are, after all, on this website), you don’t have to be a country fan to enjoy Composed.

Though the text provides insight into her musical career as well as some behind-the-scenes information about the processes behind her albums, Composed really shines when Cash delves into her personal relationships with her parents, friends, spouses, and children. She eloquently writes about the loss of her mother, father, and stepmother in the span of two years, and the moving eulogies she gave at each memorial service are included in the book. If you can get through them all (especially the one written for June) without a few tears falling, you probably don’t have a soul. The final chapters of the book focus on Cash’s 2007 brain surgery and touch briefly on The List, the covers album based on her father’s list of essential songs. Now 55, Cash shows no signs of slowing down or becoming set in her musical ways, an attitude reflected in her feelings about her songwriting: “I am always a beginner, again and again.”

At 241 pages, Composed is over far too soon. Sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, always engaging, it’s a book for anyone interested in the journeys on which music takes us all.

2 Pings

  1. [...] her songs along with notes written by Cash about each title. (More: Check out Juli Thanki’s review of the book here on The 9513.) “Seven Year Ache” (1981) Seven Year Ache This song began as a long [...]
  2. [...] Rosanne Cash’s remarkable new memoir, Composed, consistently demonstrates such intelligence, personal understanding and masterful, shaping literary craft that both those who disparage country as dumb and those suspicious of any signs of sophistication within it may tell you the book and Ms. Cash herself are “not country.” Don’t trust them. The artist who had 10 chart-topping country hits before taking her music, for the most part, in a more urban direction, makes her relation to her family’s looming musical legacy, her arrival in the music as the privileged daughter of a country legend, her personal evolution in the wake of the family losses, and the impulses and crosscurrents that lay behind her songwriting and performing in the field all central in her story. Yes, Rosanne writes as tellingly of her inner life as she does of the world she lives and works in, but then, so she did, increasingly, in her music–back when nobody disputed that it was country. (see The 9513 review here.) [...]
  1. TimeO
    August 6, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    See headline: Rosanne, not “Roseanne”.

  2. Brady Vercher
    August 6, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Thanks TimeO. Brody knows better, he’s been called out on that one before, but he claims old habits die hard.

  3. M.C.
    August 6, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Juli is right about Rosanne’s eulogy to June: It is a beautifully written testimony to how families can be broken and, through love and acceptance, come back together in new forms and and still connect on the deepest levels. It also says as much about Rosanne’s loving heart as it does June’s.

  4. Ben Foster
    August 6, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    I’m still working to finish my review copy of “Composed,” but I can’t put it down. It’s an excellent well-written piece.

    I enjoy your writing style as well, Juli. If you wrote a memoir, I’d buy it!

  5. Leeann
    August 6, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    I will be buying this, since I didn’t receive a review copy. Rosanne is a wonderful writer and I’m really pleased that she’s written a book. And that June Carter Cash eulogy truly was beautiful. I’m glad I have a soul.

  6. J.R. Journey
    August 7, 2010 at 1:07 am

    What Leeann said.

    August 8, 2010 at 1:47 am

    Is Rosanne’s eulogy of June available anywhere on line? Lots to look forward to from a woman who makes aging seem a smart idea.

  8. Juli
    August 8, 2010 at 9:04 am

    @Shoreslady: It can be found here:

    Ben, thanks! Alas, my memoir would be wholly unremarkable.

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