On the heels of the news of the release of the Lost Notebook of Hank Williams project spearheaded by Bob Dylan, a new project has just been announced, taking the same concept to some unfinished transcripts from the late Johnny Cash, slated to be called Johnny Cash’s Forgotten Files. Just like the Hank Williams project, before the album is even released it is stirring up some controversy, principally because of who has been chosen to head the project: none other than “Weird” Al Yankovic.
“We know it seems like an unusual pick at first,” explains Time Life spokesman Bob Frankenfurter. “But over his 35+ year career, Weird Al has proven a master of mimicking the tone and style of other artists. So who better to oversee the fleshing out of these precious, previously-unreleased songs!”
None of the songs to be recorded have any music. They are simply lyric sheets, some with partial lyrics or only ideas scratched on paper. They were apparently stumbled upon by accident as a bookkeeper and an intern had an impromptu sex act in a closet at BMI’s Music Row offices.
Just like the Hank Williams project, Weird Al isn’t being charged with finishing all the songs himself, but to farm the songs out to other celebrities.
“I look at this like Hollywood making movies out of of cheesy 80’s sitcoms and cartoons.” explains Yankovic. “Basically the music business is completely out of ideas, so they will try anything to make a buck. Who did I pick for the songs? It was simple, I called up my closest cronies, and whoever I thought would be sensational enough to help sell records, with absolutely no regard to creative aptitude or relevancy to a project bearing Johnny Cash’s name. And Sheryl Crow, because apparently it’s a requirement she’s involved in all of these type of things.”
The list of contributors includes names not known for music first, like the recently-retired NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neil and actor Gary Busey, though Weird Al was quick to point out Gary’s acting role as Buddy Holly, and that Shaq has release five studio rap albums.
Weird Al also encouraged an avant-guarde approach to how each contributor related to the unfinished song, to try to facilitate creative inspiration. “I wanted each artists to not just relate to the song itself, but the actual piece of paper it was written on, that still holds a little of Johnny Cash’s essence.” Apparently Weird Al sent the songs out in Fruit Loop cereal boxes, making the contributors dig through the cereal with their hands to locate the song sheets, like they were prizes. After that the contributors could do what they wanted.
“Fo shizzle my nizzle, I’m involved in that Johnny Cash shit,” Snoop Dogg reported to TMZ outside of a Riverside, CA night club. “I took my song sheet, wrapped it up with my special Snoop Dogg kush and smoked that shit. I ain’t got a clue what was on it, but it inspired me to write a song called “High on The I-5.” I think Johnny would be proud.
Gary Busey had a different approach. “I dressed up in my finest suit, took my song to one of the finest ballet’s in town, dined it at a five star restaurant, took it home, and then made sweet love to it on a bear skin rug in front of a raging fire.”
Apparently when Shaquille O’Neal was given his song, he accidentally ate it with the rest of the Fruit Loops. When confronted about it later, he simply said, “Who the fuck is Johnny Cash?”
Track list for Johnny Cash’s Forgotten Files:
- Cindi Lauper – My Heart, Your Hand
- Carrot Top – On The Lonesome Streets of Cincinnati
- Mr. T. – A Prairie Wind
- “Weird” Al Yankovic – The Sound of Heartbreak
- Snoop Dogg – High On The I-5 (originally titled ‘Jesus, Keep Me From Sin’)
- Gallagher – Beautiful When She Sleeps
- Shaquille O’Neil – ???? (accidentally eaten)
- Sheryl Crow – Cold Winter, Colder Heart
- Terry Bradshaw – Two Left Feet
- Gary Busey – Sex On A Bear Skin Rug (originally titled ‘Mother, Take Your Final Rest’)
When “Weird” Al was asked why more of Johnny Cash’s immediate family was not used in the project, he responded “Johnny Cash has immediate family?”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –