“He [Johnny Cash] developed Johnny Cash, and once you develop your own creature, you go your own way.” - Singer/songwriter Merle Kilgore
In the movie “Walk the Line,” there is an exchange between record producer Sam Phillips and then-unknown Johnny Cash that truly illustrates what can happen when someone decides to go their own way. In this defining moment, Phillips lets Cash play a gospel song for him and at the conclusion Phillips, who is visibly irritated that he wasted his time, asked Cash if that was the best he had? Cash asks Phillips was it the gospel or the way he sang the song that made it bad. Cash defends his performance saying, “… But, you didn’t let us bring it home.” Phillips response is something we should all ask ourselves if we really want to go our own way.
“If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing one song. One song that people would remember before you’re dirt. One song that would let God know what you felt about your time here on Earth. One song that would sum you up. You tellin’ me that’s the song you’d sing? … Or … would you sing somethin’ different. Somethin’ real. Somethin’ you felt. Cause I’m telling you right now, that’s the kind of song people want to hear. That’s the kind of song that truly saves people. It ain’t got nothin’ to do with believin’ in God, Mr. Cash. It has to do with believin’ in yourself.”
In deciding to go your own way, be real, communicate with others in a way they can feel, and most importantly know what you believe. At the end of the scene, Cash begins to sing “Folsom Prison Blues” in only a way that he can. The lyrics were based on his unique perspective, education and experience, and is one of his signature songs. The rest, including multiple hall of fame inductions, is history.