The Beast in Me and the Monstrosity of the Cross

The Beast in Me and the Monstrosity of the Cross

The beast in me/ Is caged by frail and fragile bars,/ Restless by day/ And by night rants and rages at the stars,/ God help the beast in me.   If you’ve heard Johnny Cash’s tortured version of Nick Lowe’s The Beast in Me you’ll know he was destined to growl those aching lyrics. God help the beast in me, indeed. The beast in Johnny Cash imagined all sorts of depravity, like senseless violence (“I shot a man in Reno/ just to watch him die”) and petulant arrogance, like shooting a woman because she was lowdown and trifling (“First time I shot her in the side/ Hard to watch her suffer/ But with the second shot she died”). Recently, a friend gave me an old LP version of Cash’s At San Quentin live album. The record opens with the beast in Johnny Cash ranting and raving about how annoying the recording crew were by getting in his way. He swears like a sailor and boasts about his own stints in jail, and his drug use, all the while fulminating about the cruelty of the American criminal justice system. This is Johnny Cash at his most beastly. In fact, this is the concert where Cash was snapped flipping the bird in that now-famous photograph. Little wonder then that Cash was attracted to

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