Q&A: Roseanne Cash promises to cure your ‘Seven Year Ache’ at Strathmore

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Roseanne Cash at Strathmore (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — She’s been trying to cure your “Seven Year Ache” for over 40 years.

This weekend, country, roots and Americana music icon Roseanne Cash, the oldest daughter of Johnny Cash, presents her show “She Remembers Everything” Friday night at Strathmore.

“It’s actually my second time at the Strathmore,” Cash told WTOP. “I really love that venue so I’m coming back with my band again. I called the show ‘She Remembers Everything’ because of the album, which came out Nov. 2. … Women my age still have lots to say but we have less time to say it. I keep saying this album is gothically feminine about a lot of subjects that are consuming me right now: mortality, rage, long-term relationships, loss, you know, journeys.”

In addition to selections from her new album, will she also perform any of her classic hits?

“Oh sure, I always pull things from my catalog,” Cash said. “It’s not about coming to see me as much as it’s about exchanging energy and all of us bringing feelings and inspiration to the surface. At this point, after 40 years, I think it’s a key moment in my life and I think we need it. I think we need art and music more than we ever have, so come out and let’s do it together!”

Born to Johnny Cash’s first-wife Vivian Liberto in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1955, Cash moved to California at age three, first to Los Angeles then Ventura. It’s here that she and her sisters grew up before her parents divorced in 1966 and her dad remarried June Carter Cash in 1968.

“Music was always around my house and I felt passionate about it,” Cash said. “When I started writing songs, he was as any good parent should be — encouraging, just like, ‘That’s great, keep going.’ It wasn’t professional advice he gave me then — and that’s exactly how it should have been — an encouraging, supportive dad.”

She made her studio recording debut on her father’s album “The Junkie and the Juicehead Minus Me” (1974), on which she sang lead vocals on Kris Kristofferson’s “Broken Freedom Song.” Two years later, her father recorded her original tune “Love Has Lost Again” on the album “One Piece at a Time” (1976), marking her first professional work as a composer.

In 1978, she recorded a demo with Emmylou Harris’ frequent collaborator Rodney Crowell, which became her self-titled debut album on the German label Ariola Records. It was never released in the U.S., but it caught the ear of Columbia Records, which offered her a recording contract. The result was her American debut album “Right or Wrong” (1980) with three Top 25 singles: “No Memories Hangin’ Around,” “Couldn’t Do Nothing Right” and “Take Me, Take Me.”

She and Crowell married in 1979, got pregnant in 1980 and moved to Nashville in 1981, teeing up her breakthrough album “Seven Year Ache” (1981). It was a phenomenon off the strength of the title track, which topped the country charts and cracked the Top 30 on the pop charts. Today it’s voted one of the Top 100 Country Songs of All Time by Country Music Television.

“I was 24 years old and I was always writing (songs) about hookups and breakups, for the lack of a better term,” Cash said. “I was talking to my new boyfriend who became my husband on the street on Ventura Boulevard … and I thought there has never been a country song about being on the street, so it started as a long poem and it ended as ‘Seven Year Ache.'”

In 1985, “I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me” won her a Grammy for Best Country Song.

“I was nominated for a Grammy in ’84 and lost, so I started writing these very tongue-in-cheek lyrics: ‘I got my new dress and I don’t know why you don’t want me,'” Cash said. “I finished the song with Rodney Crowell — and the next year it won a Grammy in the ultimate of ironies.”

After the successful country albums “Somewhere in the Stars” (1982), “Rhythm & Romance” (1985) and “King’s Record Shop” (1987), she shifted to introspective folk with “Interiors” (1990).

More country-folk albums followed with “The Wheel” (1993) and “10 Song Demo” (1996), during which time she was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1995.

After “Rules of Travel” (2003), “Black Cadillac” (2006) and “The List” (2009), she delivered her most acclaimed album “The River and the Thread” (2014), winning three Grammys for Best Americana Album, Best Roots Song and Best Performance for “A Feather’s Not a Bird.”

Today, she’s touring her new album “She Remembers Everything” (2018) and working with her husband John Leventhal on a musical version of the Martin Ritt movie “Norma Rae” (1979), which earned Sally Field her first Oscar holding her famous protest sign reading, “UNION.”

“We’re almost finished writing it, five years into it, this woman’s transformation framed by union organizers,” Cash said. “Writing a musical is a whole different animal than writing an album, so it’s challenging, it’s fun, it’s an education and hopefully we’ll get it staged next year.”

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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