clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Johnny Cash Points Out Which One Of These People Is A Man.

New, 6 comments

I'm a big fan of that hyper-religious moment in A Charlie Brown Christmas when Linus cuts through the bullshit, calls for lights and knocks the Peanuts on their shoegazing asses with a dramatic reading of Luke 2:8. If you like that moment, and wish that the special had just been 25 straight minutes of Linus going NO CHARLIE BROWN, LISTEN TO THESE FACTS ABOUT JESUS, KNOWING FACTS ABOUT JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY TO KNOW ABOUT CHRISTMAS, please enjoy Johnny Cash and 'Here Was A Man.'

It's barely a song. It's just Johnny Cash saying words in awesome Johnny Cash voice ("woman" becomes WOEMAN, "walked" becomes WOELKED, etc.) with stock "emotional" music in the background. At the same time, nothing reminds me of a specific Christmas moment like this two minutes of Bible factoids, and I'll do my best to explain why.

I sorta chose to go to church on my own, and hitched rides with my aunt or grandmother to get to The First Assembly Of God every Sunday to learn about Ham or Abednego or whoever. My parents stayed home. My dad's the type who will be all OH SO WHAT YOU DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD at every holiday function and get all defensive, but he never went to church. He still doesn't. He's a radio DJ, and back when I was five and trying out to be in First Assembly Christmas pageants, he wasn't a particularly successful one, and moonlighted as "Super Steve," Skatetown U.S.A.'s number one record-spinner.

I've always wanted to be an actor, but every audition has ended with me getting the worst also-ran part in the piece. I was "Elf #2" in a kindergarten Christmas play (my job was to remain silent and act like I was hammering something), and in 10th grade I was cast as "the wolfman" in our production of Dracula. That part was so bad it WAS NOT EVEN IN THE SCRIPT, and my job was just to run around in a wolf costume like an asshole.

Anyway, I wanted to be an important part in my church's Christmas pageant, but I was five, so they couldn't cast me as Joseph OR the baby Jesus, and I got stuck being a shepherd. I got to wear a beard and hold a curved cane, that was the gist of it. I'd been a fucking shepherd two years in a row, so I asked my dad to give me tips on how to perform, and he decided to accompany me to church to help out. Fast forward an hour or so AND MY DAD HAS BEEN CAST IN THE CHURCH PAGEANT AS JESUS FUCKING CHRIST and I AM STILL A SHEPHERD. Not even a Wise Man, not even the MAIN shepherd, just ADDITIONAL SHEPHERD.

So of course my dad took it super seriously, hung on the cross at the end (because church Christmas pageants in southern Virginia go all the way) and made helpful, radio-guy suggestions like "we should start this year's pageant by playing 'Here Was A Man' by Johnny Cash. It'll be great!" They did it, and the first time I ever heard the song was through a door, in a dark storage room behind the stage, crammed under a beard with two larger shepherds squashing me.

And you know what? It fucking MOVED me.

It's the Linus speech, but in simpler terms. It's a guy we respect, telling us how things went down in the least melodramatic way possible until finishing up in the MOST melodramatic way possible and knocking us on our shoegazing asses. Me, on my shoegazing ass, I guess.

So no matter how far away I move from my Dad, no matter which directions our lives take us and no matter how shifty I feel about acting or going to church, I can always remember that Here Is A Man, because a man is right there.