A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears

A Heartbeat and a Guitar tells of the collaboration of two distinct yet connected musicians—iconoclast Johnny Cash and pioneering folk artist Peter La Farge—and the album they created, Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian. It also tells of the unique personal, political, and cultural struggles that informed this album, one that has influenced the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.

D’Ambrosio has interviewed dozens of Cash’s and La Farge’s friends, family, and collaborators, including surviving members of his band, his producers, and Pete Seeger and Kris Kristofferson, creating a dramatic picture of both an era of radical protest and the making of one of the most controversial and enduring works of political pop art of the 1960s.

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By jeremy (Portland, OR) · ★★★☆☆ · October 29, 2009
johnny cash's 1964 concept album "bitter tears: ballads of the american indian" is certainly one of the finest (and most underrated) records of his career. d'ambrosio's book a heartbeat and a guitar: johnny cash and the making of bitter tears, while well-researched and mostly fascinating, is perh... ...more
By Gary (Arlington Heights, IL) · ★★★★★ · May 26, 2010
I expected this book to detail the actual recording of Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears album, one of the few albums that I distinctly remember in my parents' record collection.

Instead, I was blown away by the detailed context D'Ambrosio provides about the Native rights movement, the flowering of folk... ...more
By Jb (Rogers, AR) · ★★★☆☆ · July 29, 2010
Soon after Johnny Cash signed on with Columbia records he became friends with Peter LaFarge, a songwriter and fervent sympathizer of the plight of the American Indian. LaFarge had written a ballad immortalizing Ira Hayes, one of the marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima in WW2 and celebrated in... ...more
By Nicole (Menasha, WI) · ★★☆☆☆ · September 30, 2011
I just couldn't get into this book. I just marked as read to get it off my currently reading list. Found the Ira Hayes story interesting, and I would have liked if the book was more about the shories behind the music than the music scene/producer//song writer stuff I (as a music industry layperso... ...more
By Jim (Kent, WA) · ★★★★☆ · August 25, 2012
Interesting read which gives the history of the 40's-60's (especially the 60's) mainly through the stories of 3 men: Cash, Peter La Farge & Ira Hayes. ...more