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Rosanne Cash: Family History In Concert

Rosanne Cash writes songs that are poetic and personal –- and none are more personal than the ones she wrote for her album Black Cadillac. She crafted them over the course of two tumultuous years when she lost her father, country legend Johnny Cash, as well as her mother and stepmother. Even as she mourned, Cash says the songs kept coming.

"It seemed relentless," she says. "It seemed like I couldn't get away from them, that they had their own life; they were demanding to be written, you know. It was like I had to keep my catcher's mitt on all the time to get these songs. And that was a great, great feeling."

Over the course of nearly 30 years, Rosanne Cash has recorded more than a dozen albums and crossed many musical boundaries, reflecting her interests in folk and rock. She recently played a set full of her richly textured, emotionally honest songs live at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Although many of the songs Cash performed were from Black Cadillac, she reached back into her catalogue to play some old favorites — as well as several covers of her dad's songs.

"It was a multi-layered education to tour with him right after high school because, you know, I not only got to sock in this time with my dad, but I also watched him from the wings every night for a couple of years, and that was an education in itself," she says. "I mean, at that time, I didn't think about becoming a performer myself. But I think in some way, I assimilated what I saw — you know, his natural way with an audience."

Having grown up in Southern California, Rosanne Cash wanted to make her appearance at Walt Disney Concert Hall more than just a concert. At the beginning of this performance, she made the bold choice not to sing, but instead to show a short video about her ancestors called "Mariners and Musicians."

As part of her personal history, she played songs from Black Cadillac. "These songs are from Black Cadillac, and this is a record where the past, the present and the future are like mixed parts and all come together," she said, before launching into "Radio Operator."

When Cash was 18, her father handed her a list of what he called 100 essential country songs. She says it was a good survey of music, and "very scholarly."

"It was very well-balanced and... he wasn't self-referential to any great degree," she says, laughing. "You know, there are only a couple of his own songs on there."

She performs a few of the tunes from her father's list, along with plenty of her own songs, live in Los Angeles.

Discoveries at Walt Disney Concert Hall is an eclectic mix of concert specials, recorded live at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and hosted by Renee Montagne. From singer-songwriters to classical, world music and Broadway stars, it's a celebration of the diversity of our thriving musical culture.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.