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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

There are some songs that just break your heart. This live performance of “The World Unseen” (from this week’s show with Rosanne Cash) is one of those songs.

Beautiful.

The first line, “I’m the sparrow on the roof,” is from the Psalms. And in the last few months of my dad’s life, I read Psalms — the Psalms to him. And I don’t think I ever realized how poetic the Psalms were. And then this line about being a sparrow on the roof just killed me. So after my dad died, I wanted to start the song that way. 

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Knitting. Fractals. Twitter. If you haven’t listened to this interview with Rosanne Cash, you should. She’s absolutely delightful. You’ll learn something.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Coffee with Johnny Cash on His 80th Birthday

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

The sun is on the cemetery, leaves are on the stones, there never was a place on earth that felt so much like home.

Let’s celebrate what would’ve been Johnny Cash's eightieth birthday today with a song his daughter Rosanne Cash composed while mourning the loss of her father. As she explained to us earlier this year, the middle verse of “God Is in the Roses” came about the day after she buried her father:

"I got up at 5:00 in the morning and waited for the Starbucks to open and got coffee and went and sat on his grave and watched the sun rise — the sun, yeah, the sun rise on his grave. And it was really comforting to me. I took two cups of coffee — one for him. And I felt so at peace watching the sun rise on his grave and then that gave me that verse. But then I wanted to go out to, you know, more than just my personal experience, when I’m saying, I love you like a brother, father and a son. And now when I sing that live, I sing, I love you all like brothers."

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The Angle of Johnny Cash’s Back from the Wings

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Johnny Cash Poster from Carnegie Hall PerformanceOne of the wonderful stories Rosanne Cash shares in this week’s show is about an intimate moment with her father before his appearance at Carnegie Hall in 1994. This performance marked the revival of his recording career with the release of his album American Recordings. An important moment to be sure.

In the rehearsal room at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis, Rosanne Cash tells Krista Tippett a story about rejecting her father’s repeated pleas for her to sing “I Still Miss Someone” with him on stage. Just as he turns to leave, she sees the flat of his back “bathed in light” and relents.

As we were producing this segment, all the producers at On Being longed to hear the actual performance. What did they sound like together? How did Johnny Cash introduce his daughter? How did the crowd respond?

Well, we looked around for a copy, any copy of this special moment — but came up empty. That is, until we found a bootleg copy. The quality is far from stellar but it does answer these questions. The way this legendary country music performer and father calls his daughter onto the stage is warm and endearing. The music they make together is worth hearing. And, in some ways, the feel from the seats of Carnegie Hall adds to the pleasure.

Listen in and tell us about the experience from unfettered ears.

Audio produced by Susan Leem and Trent Gilliss.

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Johnny Cash and Shel Silverstein Sing Together in 1970 (video)

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

It was inevitable that the “man in black” would come up during our interview with Rosanne Cash the week before Thanksgiving. What didn’t come up in the conversation was talk about Johnny Cash’s many friendships and endeavors, including hosting his own variety show on television from 1969 to 1971.

This delightful duet of “Boy Named Sue” with Shel Silverstein, a prolific songwriter and the man who wrote the song, showcases one of those friendships. The poet and children’s book author (yes, I still get choked up when reading The Giving Tree to my boys) then performs “Daddy, What If,” introducing the children’s song with a touching comment about his relationship with his father. That fondness for his own father was mirrored in the way Rosanne Cash spoke about her daddy too.

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Rosanne Cash Is “In the Room” with Krista Tippett (Live Video!)

November 17th, 2011 ~ 4:30pm CT/5:30pm ET

Rosanne Cash live with Krista Tippett On BeingToday’s the day! We’re reclaiming Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis again (recall our one-on-one with Bobby McFerrin?), but this time with singing and songwriting legend Rosanne Cash!

She’s lived a life, as she describes it, “circumscribed by music” and has given voice to her experiences through the lyrics and rhythms of her compositions — and of her musical ancestors. In a one-one-one, free-flowing conversation for 90 minutes, we’ll talk to her about the way she thinks about music and literature, life and spirituality.

Pssst! For you bloggers and website editors out there, we’re offering you the ability to embed this video on your site. We’ve got promotional image tiles and code that makes it easy to do. Oh, and you can embed the chat module too! Check out the details at the On Being live video events page.

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