Q&A; Rosanne Cash

  • A Grammy Award-winning musician and daughter of legendary country star Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash has been in the spotlight since childhood. In her new memoir, Composed , she artfully depicts a life defined by great success, crushing loss and unyielding determination.

    Is there a connection between writing a book and writing a song?
    Of course. There is melody in prose, it's just far more subtle. There is a rhythm, and when I find it when I'm writing prose, it's very satisfying.

    The book jumps around between significant events in your life. Was it your decision to avoid a chronological structure?
    Yeah. I liked the idea of doing set pieces and then the overarching narrative of the artist-coming-of-age thing. I wasn't interested in saying "I was born on a Tuesday" and then going straight up to last week.

    Of the numerous personal traumas you address, which was the hardest to revisit?
    My parents' deaths were the most painful. It was gut-wrenching, but I couldn't leave that out. I was really torn about whether to leave the eulogies in.

    Your father gave you a list of 100 essential country songs when you were 18. What's going to be on the list you give your musician daughter Chelsea?
    Well, I have to sort through my Neil Young and the Beatles, Guy Clark, probably something by the girl's father [Rodney Crowell], Springsteen — it's a matter of picking out one or two songs from those artists.

    You had major brain surgery in 2007. How did that change you?
    I have this urgency about doing the things I want to do in this world now — the projects I want to complete, the songs I want to write, the people I want to work with, what I want to learn and experience.