A Heartbeat and A Guitar Book Release and Tour

November 23, 2009

As you may recall a few months back Shepard did a Print of the book cover image. The book has been released and writer Antonino D’Ambrosio is on a book tour to help get his words out. Stay tuned as we are planning a special event to celebrate the book’s release in Los Angeles at Subliminal Projects.

In this remarkable new work, writer and filmmaker Antonino D’Ambrosio tells the astonishing and dramatic story behind Johnny Cash’s virtually unknown folk protest record Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian. Recorded four years before his live performance at Folsom Prison and six years before he recorded “Man in Black”, Cash, by recording Bitter Tears, placed himself in the middle of the fervent social upheavals gripping the nation at the time Cash faced censorship and an angry backlash from radio stations, DJs, and fans, for speaking out on behalf of Native people with Bitter Tears. Cash decided to fight back. This inimitable account includes 34 never before seen photos from photographers Jim Marshall and Diana Davies.


Link to Salon piece:

Quotes about the book:
“This book is a truly fascinating journey, charting the historical and social context of a courageous musical statement by one of our greatest rebel voices. It has since been locked away in the ‘denial drawer’ (aren’t First Nations people just an extinct species, systematically exterminated by European ‘progress’?), but D’Ambrosio admirably shines his investigative lantern into every darkened corner, finally offering some greatly appreciated illumination.” — Jim Jarmusch, filmmaker

“Antonino D’Ambrosio’s book on the making of Johnny Cash’s album “Bitter Tears” is much more than the story behind those extraordinary songs. It is a rich history, not only of Johnny Cash’s life, but of the Indian struggle for justice, which inspired Peter La Farge to write the song ‘The Ballad of Ira Hayes’ and Cash to sing it. The book is full of fascinating character sketches of the great folk singers of the Sixties, and their part in the social movements of that exciting era. I believe D’Ambrosio has made an important contribution to the cultural history of our time.” – Howard Zinn

‘A Heartbeat and a Guitar’ by D’Ambrosio is a work of love that honors not only the great Cash but also provides depth and insight into the true history of our nation and its brillant and rebellious song writers who brought solace and comfort to workers and light and clarity to the struggles of human rights for all. D’Ambrosio’s touch of bringing so many past performers to life is masterful, kind and deserved. Providing the links between civil rights, Native rights, and human rights allows those moments to come a new and better understanding of how all these causes are separate but one. Thank you. Cash was well named…..we need him , his songs and a dime or two.—-Jack Healey, former head of Amnesty International
“Antonino D’Ambrosio has really done his homework like no one ever before. I performed with Cash for 40 years and have read every book written about him yet D’Ambrosio astonishingly reveals another side of Cash framed around perhaps his most important work, Bitter Tears. A Heartbeat and a Guitar is a rare and extraordinary work thanks to D’Ambrosio’s exceptional and masterful storytelling. –Johnny Western, musician and longtime emcee of The Johnny Cash Show.

“I enjoyed Antonino D’Amrbosio’s A Heartbeat and a Guitar immensely. D’Ambrosio really did his homework and he is an exceptional storyteller. D’Ambrosio successfully tied vast events and peoples real-life experiences into a fast moving, dramatic arc that reads like an epic novel. Tragic, infuriating, darkly funny and profoundly inspiring. D’Ambrosio captures an important slice of our cultural and political history.”–Wayne Kramer, legendary musician from the MC5

“If you saw the Oscar winning film Walk the Line, tapped your foot to a Johnny Cash bass line, or didn’t know the Man in Black before his late-career revival, you don’t know the full story and you have an obligation to read A Heartbeat and a Guitar. This remarkable book is the missing link: it explains the gut-level political passions of Cash like nothing that exists in print. History is trying to give Cash a political root canal. D’Ambrosio sets the record straight shines the light on his fangs…. and a remarkable and forgotten album. I utterly lost myself in this book.”- Dave Zirin, author a People’s History of Sports in the United States