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Johnny Cash & Raffi: Two Peas in a Pod

August 4, 2013

Surely you jest?

Depending on which family car I was driving this week, I was either listening to At Folsom Prison or The Corner Grocery Store.

At first glance, they seem to be antonymous artists.  Upon further investigation, the similarities are striking:


Johnny Cash:
At Folsom Prison


The Corner Grocery Store (1979)


1. Each is the definitive posterboy, the top-of-the-mind name recall for his respective genre Country & Western Children’s Music
2. Both are singers even the haters can’t hate “I hate country!  Oh, but Johnny Cash is cool.” “Ugh. Kid’s music.  Actually, you know what, Raffi’s OK.”
3. Both albums feature a mix of originals & covers Original Highlight: the title track
Top Cover: Cocaine Blues
Original Highlight: Anansi
Top Cover: the title track
4. Each record features big names among the writing credits Merle Travis,
Shel Silverstein
Lead Belly,
Woody Guthrie
5. World class talent was involved in the production of each album Bob Johnston’s resume also includes legendary Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel recordings Canadian Daniel Lanois needs no introduction for the millions who love The Joshua Tree and So
6. The economic song lengths & lengthy tracklists 16 tracks in 44:49
Average/track 2:48

(Including all banter)

18 tracks in 30:08

Average/track 1:40

7. The instantly identifiable, impossible to replicate vocals “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”  Even if he didn’t immediately introduce himself, there’s no mistaking the singer. If there’s a gentler baritone out there…there isn’t.
8. The inter-generational magic continues 45 years from now, people will still be talking about this concert. In recent years, only Harry Potter has proven to be as loved by both 7-year olds and 70-year olds.
9. Ability to captivate an audience Yes, his audience was figuratively ‘captive’ but could anyone else engage a crowd of 2,000 inmates? Toddlers are frequently (albeit accurately) accused of having the attention span of mayonnaise.  For many of that same demographic, this album could be played on repeat with 0 complaints & 100% focus at singing along.
10. The unquestionable sincerity This prison show was no stunt: Johnny’s rapport with the prisoners is genuine, his delivery authentic. A decent man whose songs never ‘talked down’ to kids.  Not surprisingly, Raffi would later be a founder of The Centre for Child Honouring.

The parallels likely continue from there.

Two of the greats in peak form: performing timeless tunes, delighting fans of all ages.


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  1. I have both of these…er, actually, I think my mom still has my copy of Raffi on vinyl…(I am serious! Raffi was a big deal when I was 4!)

    • I was ecstatic to find a vinyl copy of the Raffi album at my folks’ place as well, he’s now a big deal for my 3-year old daughter!

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