Rosanne Cash —
Time Traveler

As the daughter of Johnny Cash, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash describes her life as "circumscribed by music." But, it's through her love of language and quantum mechanics that she's finding new sources of creativity and mathematical ways to think about the divine. The mother of five shares her perspectives on being present, Twitter as a "boot camp for songwriters," and how she wrestles with love and grief through her music.

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is a Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter and author of several books. Her latest album is The River & the Thread.

Pertinent Posts

There's a great story Rosanne Cash tells about her father Johnny Cash, and a special performance at Carnegie Hall in 1994. As we were producing this segment, we longed to hear the original. What did they sound like together? How did Johnny Cash introduce his daughter? How did the crowd respond? Well, we looked around for a copy, any copy of this special moment — but came up empty. That is, until we found a bootleg copy. A truly remarkable story.

Video Interviews with Krista Tippett

In the Room with Rosanne Cash

Watch our recording of the live stream of Krista's 2011 interview with Rosanne Cash backstage at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis. You'll see a few stunning live performances, just Rosanne Cash and her guitar.

Selected Audio

Bonus Tracks by Rosanne Cash

Rosanne Cash performed two songs for us during our live interview backstage at Orchestra Hall:

  • "God is in the Roses," a song she wrote the day after her father died
  • "The World Unseen," the song she chose to play for us, based on a favorite line from a Psalm.
  • About the Image

    Rosanne Cash performs at the Richmond Folk Festival in 2012.

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    my story seems to long to tell in a short way: i know your clear and wonderful voice of singing and i love all of your simple ways of living..! many loving greetings from bremen,near garlstedt, a simple man ! god bless you !

    I heard Rosanne speaking with Krista Tippett on the show On Being. I was moved to write a very bad poem in response to something Rosanne said (living with the questions) and to the image in the song, God is in the Roses. Those words made me think of a student of mine, a second grader, whom I've worked with for three years. As a kindergartner he was paralyzed with fear in case he made a mistake as a reader, writer, human being. Now he's asking questions about everything he reads or hears. I wrote this about him (definitely a draft, still in process)--inspired by Rosanne's lines. A Poem for Parker You're living with the questions now asking what and how and why and when you do, you lose the fear of having to be right. You fly above your doubt and wonder. Your eyes grow round instead of squinched. You lean forward to see the roses and the thorns. You reach out to touch life with your finger. Intrigued by the drop of red that appears.

    I am not very familiar with Ms. Cash's work but I was struck during the interview by her humility in saying things like "our math is like a toddler's". It's interesting to me how we can take exactly the same factual insight and spin it into completely opposite emotional experiences. David G. Hartwell, the editor of the New York Review of Science Fiction, once wrote in the introduction to one of his anthologies:

    Awe plus love equals wonder;
    Awe plus fear equals horror.

    I don't know if that was his formula, or if he borrowed it from someone else, but it's always stuck with me.

    Ms. Cash looks at the overwhelming complexity of the universe, which no three-pound brain is ever going to grasp, and apparently pretty consistently chooses wonder. H.P. Lovecraft, who weirdly featured in more than one of my Christmas presents, took the exact same factual insight and pretty consistently chose horror. Neither is wrong, of course. There's plenty of both to go around. It's the choosing that interests me. Is it basic personality? Force of will and training, as last week's Dalai Lama interview might suggest?

    I guess that's why I'm still such a fan of her father Johnny Cash (who I got to see perform live, one time, at the Lilac Festival in Rochester, NY, of all places). He understood and maybe even embraced both darkness and light, like a Taoist. Not always successfully, to his and his family's great cost, but unlike a lot of other religious people, he always admitted that the darkness was there, and that it wasn't going to go away or turn into light just because we want it to. He could even laugh about it. Listen to "The Beast in Me," off 'American Recordings.' There's a couple of verbal winks in there, along with a lot of honesty and humility.

    Thanks for the show.

    I came in to the show part way through last night, driving home from spending the evening with the 20 year old son of a friend who died in an accident the day before Christmas. Trying to come to terms with the sudden unexpected loss. Setting up the history of her life when we'd lost touch nearly 5 years ago. Trying to figure out how to help him parent his disabled older brother. Taking over the mishmash of paperwork that marks a life. How to find out who and what was important to her. Little parenting-like things - collecting the names of those who help so we can thank them later. Answering the door to a woman from a local church with another big bowl of food and promises to bring food from their church for weeks to come. And feeling the enormity of the tasks ahead.

    The show was a beautiful way for me to reconnect into the deep. Time traveling is the term I had just used at the funeral of the other friend we lost this week. 27 years of friendship and distance and memories, and suddenly, the dead were riding along side of us while we traveled. Time and distance and hurt and joy all came together.

    I too have struggled with brain troubles, surgeries, and wondering if I'd ever speak again; with being the bright one, but a little north of normal. I fight tears as I listen to the show and the music and identify so strongly.

    I didn't know it was Roseanne Cash until late into listening. I just knew it was a fellow human who had depth, and I thank the timing of the stars for the moments that helped refill the bucket of my soul. Too low last night, but refilling on that drive home, and hours since. This too shall pass, I know. Thank you and Roseanne Cash, for sharing the truth of her self, and for helping comfort this wandering soul. Coincidental life needed a chance last night and showed me again how pieces can drop into place sometimes.

    Rosanne stands tall w/o the name Cash behind her.
    From the music to her insites she'e beautiful & real.

    Absolutely . I want to take nothing away from Johnny Cash, however, Roseanne is far more than his daughter.
    I love her music and I don't understand how people of this talent can fall from view. Especially country music has their "flavor of the week".
    I listen to a lot of Red Dirt and Texas Country music, and Americana. It doesn't get near the air play, however, that is where true country artists, singers,song writers,producers, lyricists are hanging out making wonderful, melodic, fun, insightful, catchy tunes. Does her music get placed in the Americana category?

    Very moving. Am at a loss with words. Deeply moved when she sang "God Is In The Roses."

    (This is the blog post I wrote after listening to and thinking about the conversation with Roseanne Cash. The original post is here:

    From the transcript of the January 15th, 2012 On Being episode in which Krista Tippett interviewed singer/songwriter/author Roseanne Cash.

    Ms. Cash: Sure. You know when I first became a performer, I was so anxious about it and it took me a long time to grow into it, because I thought that being a performer was about getting a lot of attention and I didn't want that much attention. I liked the writer's life. I liked the privacy and the solitude and being inside my own little mind cave. And over time I realized that it's not about the attention, it's about the energy exchange. I'm doing something for them, but they're doing something for me too, you know? And there's no hierarchy really. It's — and some nights that exchange is so beautiful, you know, I can feel my own energy stretching out to the far reaches of the room and theirs coming back. And there's something sublime about it, and also the temporal nature of it that at the end of the night it's over.
    Ms. Tippett: Right.
    Ms. Cash: It's like a monk's sand painting, it's wiped clean. And so you can't grab it, you know, which is part of the — the mystical beauty of it. You can't repeat it. You know, the next night might be just awful, like, your energy might not expand beyond two feet beyond you and they are not giving you anything and it doesn't work, but you know, that's the way life is.Ms. Tippett: Yeah, it's that spiritual discipline of knowing impermanence.Ms. Cash: Knowing impermanence and showing up even though you don't know what's going to happen.

    I love that!

    "...showing up even though you don't know what's going to happen."

    Isn't that gorgeous?Aside from the fact that it was just...overall, a beautiful conversation about creativity and music and spirituality and how it all melds together, this particular snippet just captured my attention instantly.

    Here's what I loved about it:

    First, it is so absolutely descriptive of my daily experience as a more or less psychodynamically-oriented, relationally-focused music therapist. I am not (really, I am NOT), by nature, what one would call a "flexible" human being. However, many years of practicing music therapy using this approach (and taking part in my own therapy, of course) has gotten me to a point where "showing up even though you don't know what's going to happen" has become okay. It's a concept I've grown into and have come to embrace with a comfortableness I would never have imagined for myself.

    Second, I was drawn in by Roseanne Cash's sharing of her struggle, as a musician and as a writer (basically, as an artist), to come to terms with her art- playing, performing, being musically present, which artistic voice to choose, and what all of that means to her.

    Periodically, people will ask me, "Does one have to be a good musician to be a music therapist?" And, until very recently, I've always responded with what my clinical supervisor has said to me, which is: "Well, the more accomplished you are as a musician, the more you have to offer your clients." And that still makes sense to me.

    But, in a recent email conversation with my colleague, Brian Abrams (who just had a terrific article published in the Arts in Psychotherapy journal), I realized that not only do we, as music therapists, benefit greatly from this type of engagement with our experience as artists and musical beings, but, on some level, maybe because of our chosen professions, we actually need to go through that kind of a struggle.

    Put another way, I think a willingness to come to terms with our own sense of what it means to be a musical self and building an identity as musicians and artists enables us to be present to our clients in a more profound, authentic, and meaningful way.

    You might even say it prepares us to " up even though [we] don't know what's going to happen."

    I'm having problems downloading this episode's MP3 in particular. All the others have downloaded fine. Anyone else having the same issue?

    Trent Gilliss's picture

    Hi Nick. I'm looking into this issue. Thank you for notifying us. In the meantime, here's the URL for the mp3 file, which should allow you to download it: All the best and more to come.

    I wake to On Being on Sunday's at 6 am. It sets the stage for my day and week to come. Rosanne will keep me filled for years. Thank you.

    My father died 13 years ago and I miss him every day. The song "September When it Comes" that Rosanne recorded with her father on the Rules of Travel album made me weep as I listend to it. It reminded me of my father's last years when he was physically limited, his spirit strong and his acceptance of limitations and impending death. Thank you Rosanne. I love your albums and can't wait for more of The List.

    Perfect. No other word suffices. Thank you!

    I first listened to this edited interview from the archive. I was so impressed and intrigued that I watched the extended video interview. I then went and bought a copy of the album "Black Cadillac". This weekend the edited interview was rebroadcast on our local NPR station and my wife and I listened to it together. After listening to it again, I have a couple of observations. First, I think Rosanne gave us all an incredible gift with the two songs that she performed during the video interview. In particular, "God is In the Roses" is so much more appropriate and beautiful as presented in that video than the version published on the album. The intimacy and vulnerablilty of that performance just blows me away. Her performance of "Unseen World" is closer to what appears on the album but, stll, the intimacy of just her and the six-string is so appropriate to that song as well.
    Also, I have to give credit to Trent Gilliss for the beautiful way that he edited the song "God is In the Roses" into the conversation for the edited interview. It did not strike me the first time I listened to it, but this weekend I could not help but notice how well he used that song to frame a very special part of the conversation. I must admit that, when I first came across this interview in the archive, my expectations were fairly low. But I can now freely admit just how far off the mark that my expectations were. This was a truly remarkable conversation that I found deeply meaningful on many levels.

    Trent Gilliss's picture

    Ross, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.They're much appreciated, and we're glad you enjoyed the weaving of song and conversation!

    Thank you sooooo much for this! It is so hard to explain to people that going from being a Physical Chemist to being an Artist isn't really much of a jump. Finally, I can direct people to your podcast and hope they get it. Very eloquent explanation from Rosanne.

    When Roseanne spoke of her youth, being raised Catholic, and how sin weighed her down so, I was sad. I understand the Catholic church's idea of sin, but there are other views of sin. I watch Brian Swimme's DVD Journey of the Universe and think how the universe is 14 billion years old, and the idea of sin has only been around about 2,000 years. From a scientist's point of view, there is no sin - there are only emotions and behaviors and thoughts that evolved in our ancestors, helped them survive, and are now passed on to us. Now a Catholic might feel bad about his gluttony, but gluttony was a very useful desire and behavior back in the times when our ancestors had to make it through famines. A scientist might be thankful our ancestors evolved gluttony since gluttony probably helped our ancestors survive. Without gluttony, our ancestors might not have eaton enough to make it through times of famine, and we might not be here to enjoy Roseanne Cash. One might think that being a scientist might mean one must give up the idea of God, but that is not true. Kenneth Miller is a scientist and professor of biology at Brown University, and he writes how he believes in God and science in his book Finding Darwin's God.

    Hopefully we will one day accept our selfish "sinful" ways as gifts from our ancestors which helped them survive - but hopefully we will also evolve to be more generous with each other and form communities as healthy and successful as the community of our cells.

    In my experience with Catholicism, more far reaching than sin is reconciliation. Man misses the mark, but the good Hound of Heaven is relentless in seeking us out with a rope to free us from the quagmire of our self injurious choices . Sin is not a gotcha fabrication. Gluttony is a prime example of a sin whose ill consequences are self evident. Biologically the sins like greed may help one survive, rape perpetuates ones genes, and so on, but all religions call on humanity to evolve from selfishness; Catholicism even uses the term "co-create" as our call to turn from sin and strive to help make a better world.

    This is one of the best homework assignments that I have done where I enjoyed the content. I am attending North Hennepin Community College and I am taking a Philosophy class. Below is my contribution to class that I would like to share:

    "I listened to the August 9th broadcast of the Roseanne Cash-Time Traveler. Roseanne Cash is the daughter of musician Johnny Cash and she is a mother of 5 who is also a performer \song writer. “Time Travel” is a phrase the Roseanne “likes and gives new meaning”, according to Krista Tippett.

    During the broadcast Roseanne describes both her parents as religious. Her mother was a devote Catholic and her father was Baptist. During the divorce her mother had Johnny Cash sign a document that said that he would continue to take her to church on Sundays when they were visiting their father. He of course agreed to this but after some time Roseanne told her dad that she wanted to stop going to church and even though Johnny had a moral dilemma about this he agreed to let Roseanne make her own decision about going to church.

    Roseanne didn’t want to become a performer like her father; in fact, there is a line her book “"A life circumscribed by music" which she thought best described her upbringing. Roseanne would have her mother drop her at the library since she loved writing. Roseanne liked her private life of writing until she joined her father’s tour. Watching her father at work on stage was watching him be his best and Roseanne saw performing as a job with the hard work of showing up for each and every performance. According to Roseanne “if art and music were the religion, then hard work was the, you know, the dogma”.

    This interview took place at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis and I chose it because I enjoy the music of Johnny Cash."

    Who is this sam hall from siler city north carolina riden on your daddys name. well he fits the profile, kick ass he is the new cash.

    What a beautiful intelligent woman.

    What a truth in Rosanne Cash's song "God is in the roses and the thorns"! Her song is an acknowledgement of our beginning in the garden.
    Ge 2:8 ¶ And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
    Ge 2:9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
    Ge 2:10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.
    Ge 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
    Ge 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. (King James Version).

    Ms. Cash has expressed in those few words of her song an everlasting presence of the Creator of plants. What a pleasant treat!
    Then her description of that early morning visit, as the sun was in rising, when she sat on Mr. Johnny Cash's grave, watching the sun rise and feeling peace is a vivid symbolic message of the gateway to eternity where the rising sun shows a transition to home. What Truth she tells in those lyrics! Did she set out to do so or because of her deep love for her dad described the start and end of human pilgrimage. Eternity, home, is either pleasant or traumatic and our life here in Christ determines where we end up in eternity.
    Philippians 2:12 ¶ Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (KJV)

    I am not sure if Ms. Cash tells of the options in eternity in her song. I did not listen to all the lyrics yet. For what I hear on Ms. Tippets show; great! The garden is our connection with God on earth, His word is the direction and the grave is that transfer to real home.
    Lu 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; (KJV)

    Thank you Krista!

    First off, every Sunday on WNYC-FM I religiously orient my coming week to your show, Krista Tippett! Ellen Langer left me deeply reconsidering my notion of belief. Vincent Harding's show reminded me of my commitment to teaching and social justice and the power of community. This show with Rosanne Cash was timely in ways I cannot even articulate emotionally, spiritually and as a musician musically. It helped me tap into the space of my spirit which needed to cry today. Thank you!! thank you for this show (I contributed because of it to WNYC) and I bought Black Cadillac. I love all kinds of music but I don't think I own any country music as a selection in my iPod. Now I do. I bought it because of the nature and depth of the conversation. Two have those two songs in my playlist and to support what I think is a worthy voice and cause --- we are all sisters!! and brothers too.

    Questions, Living questions, are a part of us. I never thought of it in this way before listening to the show and reading comments here. There are questions that take root in the mind, in my mind, and they gather information on their own. They are like people sharing my mind who strive to be fulfilled and drive me towards answers. The journey of a question, a quest of exploration, a life within a life?
    Thank you Rosanne and Krista for your conversation and inspirit-orations.


    I can't see the edited show in my subscription to the show on iTunes. I just want to alert you to this. I will look in the archives if I can find it.

    Warmest greetings, and gratitude for the weekly doses, Wendy

    I loved the music of Johnny and the daughter is not far behind. I love everything of her. Good strong energy she has, what a fabulous artist. I liked very much and I hope to enjoy more of her in the future

    God . . . her voice is stunning . . .