By Jo Strausz Rosen

John Stewart, singer, and songwriter with the famed Kingston Trio, once told Roseanne Cash, “We’re all just radios, helping to pick up each other’s signals.” Cash said her life was changed in that moment.

Later, Roseanne Cash spoke to NPR’s Manoush Zomorodi about “Her Life and Legacy” as the daughter of Johnny Cash. Zomorodi interviewed Roseanne about her Ted Talk. Check it out!

Cash recalled and sometimes lamented her relationships. She shared memories of her familial roots in the art of musical poetry that is country music.  Cash said: “The strongest signals that come to me are musical. I can tune into a revolution of the heart. Some songs have been postcards from my future. There is a song for every loss, celebration, unspoken need, and longing.”

Haven’t we all experienced strong and distinct memories when a song reawakens our past -sometimes bringing tears? We are quickly whisked back to that day in time, and we feel that emotional response, and sometimes relive the scene in full color. We remember words to tunes we haven’t thought of in years, and it feels so good to let the memories wash over us again.

Another quote from Cash I love – “Every time an old woman dies, a library disappears. Tune into your grandmother’s signals to glean her tenacity. Who will hold her hand, in the sunken lands?”

Like all great songwriters, Cash takes pleasure in metaphors – “The lonely road is a bodyguard.”

I think about her words when I am alone and wonder if others think about this too.  Cash said, “Solitude can protect the seeds of creativity. Loneliness contains a priceless gift if we can tolerate the initial discomfort and avoid the seduction of despair. I’m comforted by this line:  “I’ll send the angels to watch over you tonight and you send them right back to me.”

Roseanne Cash sums up her feelings in this way: “Music can unlock a frozen memory that melts into the seeds of our creativity – and the reverse is also true. A memory can unlock a song that’s waiting to be written – it can reveal us to ourselves.  Across time and generations….in community and in solitude… some frequencies are sound, and some frequencies are light, and some take half a lifetime to reach their destination.”

The lyrics in her song, Particle and Wave expose her interest in astrophysics.

“Light is particle and wave – Our histories written large upon the page
The star in middle age… The love that fades to black once revealed,
won’t be taken back.

Light, nothing can escape, the ignorance we once forgave
The future, if we don’t decide to change,
The things we cannot save, but it slows to shine upon your face

We owe Everything, Everything, Everything
To this rainbow of suffering.

Light is particle and wave, reflections of this place, refractions of our grace
It reveals what we won’t dare, and it’s slow so I can hold you near.”


As I think about our families, our lives, and our community, I like to go back to Roseanne Cash’s way of expressing that we are not alone: We’re sending signals to each other, and the music we send can bring harmony to our sometimes-fractured land.

Shabbat Shalom.

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