One of my all-time personal favorites, Johnny Cash, died nine years ago today. Thanks @thatericalper for reminding me. In memoriam, Eric tweeted the iconic image of Cash flipping the bird. This image is actually attached to two of my favorite stories about Johnny, and one of my favorite stories about Billboard. 1. The shot was taken in 1969, when Johnny was at Folsom prison recording his now-classic album. Photographer Jim Marshall directed Cash, “Let’s do a shot for the warden,” and Cash, clearly feeling the moment, obliged. The photo didn’t make much noise at the time. But fast-forward 29 years, and suddenly Billboard plays a role. Cash was recording then with Rick Rubin at American Recordings and his album Unchained won the ‘98 Grammy for Best Country Album, despite being almost entirely ignored by country radio and the country music establishment awards. So Rick chose to communicate with the industry the best way one can: via Billboard. They took out this full-page ad and “thanked” the Nashville establishment for its support.
I hope today’s rock stars are paying attention. This is how it’s done.