Singer-Songwriter Rosanne Cash Plays Not My Job

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Rosanne Cash
Deborah Feingold/

It's tough to have a famous parent, really hard to go into the same business, and almost impossible to create a brilliant career in your own right ... but that's exactly what singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, has done.

We've invited Cash to play a game called: "Man, you sing a lot better now than you did at that Padres game!" Three questions about another Roseanne — Roseanne Barr — who famously butchered the National Anthem at a baseball game in 1990.


Here's one more very cool daughter, although she's a little bit older. Rosanne Cash grew up touring with her father Johnny Cash, before becoming an acclaimed musician in her own right.


And when she joined us, along with Kyrie O'Connor, Roy Blount, Jr., and Luke Burbank in July of 2011, she talked about what it was like to be on the road with the man in black.

ROSANNE CASH: He was really funny in that way. He liked getting to a new hotel and seeing if there was chocolate. He said he just loved to know what the amenities were in the next hotel. He made it fun on the road. It was a great time.

SAGAL: That's a positive attitude.

CASH: It is a positive...

LUKE BURBANK: I had no idea I had so much in common with Johnny Cash.


ROY BLOUNT: I can just see Johnny Cash coming in and checking out the shampoo. Look at it.


BLOUNT: This is separate shampoo and conditioner.


CASH: He had a very child-like spirit in all things.

SAGAL: There's a connection, of course, to your father in your last - in your latest album "The List," which is pretty great. And this relates to a moment you had with your father, right?

CASH: Yeah. When I went on that tour you were just mentioning, he sat in the back of the tour bus and spent the afternoon making this list for me of what he called "One Hundred Essential Country Songs."

And I had the good sense to hold onto that list. I didn't really think about it. I just kept moving it around wherever I went, in a box of letters. And then, you know, when he passed away, I started thinking about it. In that same way, like your mother leaves you a recipe and you don't care about it until she's gone.

SAGAL: Right. Did you understand what he meant by this?

CASH: Oh yes. I wanted that information. And also, you know, I knew he was giving me himself. Not just the list but saying this is my deepest soul right here.

SAGAL: Right. And did your father ever work with you when you were starting to write songs? Did you ever like show him your songs and get his input, because that would be totally intimidating to me.

CASH: Yeah, but - well, but it was just in a parental way. He would say everything I did was great, like any good parent does. And it was terrible.

SAGAL: Oh wait a minute, are we supposed to do that?


CASH: Well apparently...

SAGAL: Hang on; I got to make a phone call.


SAGAL: So your book, you're out with a new book, a memoir called "Composed."

CASH: Yes.

SAGAL: And now you're an author on tour, promoting your book. How does that compare with being a musician on tour? How do authors trash their hotel rooms?


CASH: Well, you know, the dressing rooms are a lot cleaner for authors.

SAGAL: Really?

CASH: Yeah. You know, no sound check, no filthy dressing room, no cranky musicians, no feedback. It's kind of nice.


CASH: It's a civilized world.

SAGAL: Really? But how are the groupies?

CASH: The same.


SAGAL: Really? Do you have groupies? Because we've had female singer songwriters on the show before, Neko Case for example, and they have denied that successful, talented singer songwriters like yourself have groupies.

CASH: Yeah, she's not telling the truth.


SAGAL: She's not? All right, set us straight right now. You've had the male equivalent of the sweet young thing waiting for you backstage?

CASH: Oh sure. And also, I'm Neko's groupie, so, you know, it's just kind of...

SAGAL: Yeah, I know. Well we all are in a way. But seriously, there are like guys out there batting their eyes?

CASH: Well...

SAGAL: I don't know.

CASH: Do I need to tell you that, Peter?


CASH: I mean, you know, take a leap.


SAGAL: I'll tell you what, I'll just make suggestions and you just giggle if it's true?

CASH: How about I nod?

SAGAL: How about if you nod? That'd be great.


SAGAL: Yes, very good. So Rosanne, I know you have kids of your own and that some of them are grown. And some of them, at least, have gone into music, too, right?

CASH: My middle daughter is a musician, Chelsea Crowell. She just released her first record.

SAGAL: Oh wow.

CASH: Yeah.

SAGAL: Congratulations.

CASH: Yeah.

SAGAL: That's pretty exciting. Did she come to you and talk to you in the way that you went to your father?

CASH: No, she doesn't want to know anything. She's just like I was. The only thing she's ever asked me was a really technical thing about a tuning.

SAGAL: Really?

CASH: That's it.

SAGAL: Are you ever insulted? Are you like, oh here...

CASH: No, actually, no, you know, she did say, mom, how can I become successful without getting famous, which is exactly the question I asked.

SAGAL: Really? You asked your father, and what was the answer he gave you?

CASH: He said I'm the wrong person to ask.


SAGAL: And what did you say to your daughter?

CASH: I'm the wrong person to ask.

SAGAL: Yeah.


CASH: You know, how can she be herself? She's got the weight of two generations in back of her of songwriters.

SAGAL: That's true.

CASH: She's got to do it. I totally understand.

SAGAL: Did you make a list like your father did?

CASH: She asked for it. That's the one thing she did ask for.

SAGAL: Oh. And what'd you write down.

CASH: And she said email doesn't count.

SAGAL: Oh, so you had to write it down?

CASH: I have to write it down.

SAGAL: And have you done it yet?

CASH: I've started it. I take that very seriously.

SAGAL: Can you tell me what is on it?

CASH: I'm not going to tell you my list before I tell my own daughter.



CASH: I mean, Peter, I really like you but...


SAGAL: Anyway, no, we are delighted to have you with us. We've asked you here, Rosanne Cash to play a game we're calling?

KASELL: Man, you sing a lot better now than you did at that Padres game.

SAGAL: Carl is expressing surprise because obviously he has confused you with another Roseanne.


CASH: Oh my god.


SAGAL: Roseanne Barr, of course. She famously butchered the National Anthem at a Padres baseball game. So inspired by his mistake, we're going to ask you three questions about the other Roseanne, Roseanne Barr. Get two right, you'll win our prize for our listener, Carl's voice on their home answering machine or voicemail. Carl, who is Rosanne Cash playing for?

KASELL: Rosanne is playing for Leslie Hornig of Chicago.

SAGAL: All right, ready to play Rosanne?

CASH: May I apologize to Leslie in advance?


SAGAL: That's a tactic often used around here, to little avail. Here we go.

The first question, Roseanne's image was pretty much set when she divorced her husband to marry Tom Arnold, and at their wedding Tom made what announcement to the media? Was it A: we're just hoping to live a quiet life and devote ourselves to good works? B: I think this marriage is going to last at least a couple of years? Or C: we're America's worst nightmare, white trash with money?


CASH: I think he said we're your worst nightmare.

SAGAL: That's what he said.


SAGAL: He said we're America's worst nightmare.


SAGAL: White trash with money. And lo, so it came to pass.


SAGAL: Next question, Roseanne did divorce Mr. Arnold in a few years, as she did a number of husbands. But all is well now. In fact, one of her ex-husbands now does what for a living? A: he works, along with his new wife, as Roseanne's personal assistants. B: he's the manager of a pub called The Roseanne Barr?


SAGAL: Or C: he is married in Las Vegas to a Roseanne Barr impersonator?

CASH: What?


CASH: I don't even get that last one.

SAGAL: Well, he was so fond of his ex-wife, he decided to marry the next best thing, a professional Roseanne Barr impersonator.

CASH: That's kind of disgusting.

SAGAL: Yeah.


CASH: Oh my god. He has the Roseanne Barr?

SAGAL: I'm sorry, is that your guess?

CASH: Yes.

SAGAL: That he owns the Roseanne Barr.

CASH: Yes.

SAGAL: No, I'm afraid not. He actually works, with his wife, as Roseanne's personal assistant.

CASH: Oh, I should have known that.


SAGAL: Why in the world should you have known that?


SAGAL: You have lived your life in a far more useful, productive way than to know anything about that. I just want to say.

All right, here's your last question. If you get this right, you still win. Eleven years after her top-rated sitcom "Roseanne" went off the air, Roseanne Barr is making a triumphant return to television this summer in what vehicle? A: My Daughter Roseanne, in which she plays a 12-year-old with a rare disease that makes her look like she's 57 and Roseanne Barr?


SAGAL: B: Roseanne's Nuts, a reality show about her macadamia nut farm in Hawaii. Or C: Roseanne's Idol in which Roseanne teachers amateur singers her particular methods?


CASH: I know the answer to this because Sandra Bernhard is my very good friend.


CASH: And she just did the macadamia nuts show.

SAGAL: Really?

CASH: So that's my answer. Yes.

SAGAL: Wow, so you're choosing, based on actually knowing it's true.



SAGAL: Which is a very rare tactic on this quiz. But you're choosing Roseanne's Nuts?

CASH: Yes.

SAGAL: Yes, you're right.


SAGAL: It's on Lifetime.


SAGAL: You can enjoy it. There it is.

CASH: Oh my god, Peter, I was more nervous about this quiz than about opening at Lincoln Center, I swear.

SAGAL: Really?


SAGAL: Carl, how did Rosanne Cash do on our quiz?

KASELL: Rosanne Cash had two correct answers, Peter, so she wins for Leslie Hornig.

CASH: Yay.


SAGAL: Rosanne Cash is an award-winning singer songwriter and the author of the memoir "Composed." It's out in paperback this week. Rosanne Cash, what a pleasure to talk to you.

Thanks so much for having me on.

Thank you for the great record.


SAGAL: That's it for our Thanksgiving show.

KASELL: Just think, in the time you've listened to this, you've burned enough calories to fit in one more teaspoon of gravy.



SAGAL: Thanks to Carl Kasell. Thanks to all of our panelists. And thanks to all of you for listening. I am Peter Sagal. We will see you next week.


SAGAL: This is NPR.

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