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The Man in Black: Johnny Cash

September 18, 2003

Re "The Voice of Everyman in Black" (Sept. 13), on the death of Johnny Cash: Instead of going to the beach as I usually do, I decided to run through the city, from Koreatown, where I live, through Hollywood and West Hollywood and back through Beverly Hills. As I was going west on Hollywood Boulevard, I noticed a small crowd and a pile of "debris" near Vine Street. As I got closer, I realized it wasn't trash but a makeshift shrine of flowers, candles, letters, notes and carefully arranged (empty, of course) whiskey bottles on one of the Walk of Fame stars in the sidewalk. Stoned homeless, curious tourists and teary-eyed faithful mulled about, paying their respects to the Man in Black.

I had to stop and pay my own respects. I picked up one of the lyric sheets and, although the song on the paper wasn't written by the man whose name was emblazoned on the bronze-star plaque embedded in the terrazzo square (but by Kris Kristofferson), Cash surely sang it and lived it as if he had. Here's the refrain:

"On the Sunday morning sidewalks / wishing Lord that I was stoned / 'cause there is something in a Sunday / that makes a body feel alone / and there's nothin' short of dyin' / half as lonesome as the sound / on the sleepin' city sidewalks / Sunday mornin' comin' down."

Goodbye, Johnny, I thought. This is exactly the kind of memorial you would have picked.

Butch Warner

Los Angeles

*

If there's anything fair in the afterlife, Johnny Cash can look down and watch my small grandchildren, all under 4, belt out, "Ah fell into a burning ring of fi-ah . . ." all the way through, after which they'll pause, making their voices deep, deep -- and add, stretching out the words, "Baah John-ny Caaaash." That good man would love it.

Edith Hope Fine

Encinitas

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