“Bitter Tearsː Ballads Of The American Indian” by Johnny Cash - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1964Album Chart of the Decade: 1960s

TJR says

The egalitarian Johnny Cash exerts his democratic right to protest, as he stands here with his good friend Peter La Farge (who writes 5 of the 8), openly critical of American political skulduggery, past and, very much, present. The set begins topically, holding President John F. Kennedy’s regime to account for breaking the Treaty of Canandaigua (1794) in which the Six Nations of the Iroquois had their land rights affirmed by George Washington’s government. The first song, “As Long as the Grass Shall Grow”, concerns the loss of Seneca nation land in Pennsylvania due to the construction of the Kinzua Dam in early 1961 – a clear breach of the treaty. The Seneca did not want to relocate, and appealed to the courts and President John F. Kennedy to halt construction. They lost.

“The Iroquois Indians used to rule from Canada way south, but no one fears the Indians now and smiles the liar’s mouth, the Senecas hired an expert to figure another site, but the great good army engineers said that he had no right. Although he showed them another plan and showed them another way, they laughed in his face and said no deal – Kinuza dam is here to stay. Congress turned the Indians down, brushed off the Indians plea, so the Senecas have renamed the dam – they call it Lake Perfidy.”

The unfair treatment of the Native Americans is at the core of the entire album. It’s quite the history lesson – and it pulls no punches. Straight away, track 2, “Apache Tears” continues the Indian’s lament: “Hoof prints and foot prints deep ruts the wagons made, the victor and the loser came by here, no head stones but these bones bring Mascalero death moans, see the smooth black nuggets by the thousands laying here, petrified but justified are these Apache tears.” By the time of track 3, where Cash is aping General Custer’s defeat by allied Native tribes at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876, there’s absolutely no doubt about which side the big man’s on. If only there were more American white men truly fighting for equal rights and social justice for all. There’d have been no need for the tragedy of Martin Luther King…

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [06:10] 7.3.png Johnny Cash - As Long As The Grass Shall Grow (Peter La Farge) Country
A2 [02:34] 8.6.png Johnny Cash - Apache Tears (Johnny Cash) Country
A3 [02:20] 7.2.png Johnny Cash - Custer (Peter La Farge) Country
A4 [03:55] 8.1.png Johnny Cash - The Talking Leaves (Johnny Cash) Country
B1 [04:07] 8.4.png Johnny Cash - The Ballad Of Ira Hayes (Peter La Farge) Country
B2 [05:04] 7.0.png Johnny Cash - Drums (Peter La Farge) Country
B3 [03:01] 7.0.png Johnny Cash - White Girl (Peter La Farge) Country
B4 [04:02] 7.1.png Johnny Cash - The Vanishing Race (Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton) Native Americas

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