photo manipulation by nacrowe
TRICKY DICK AND THE MAN IN BLACK (ALL RISE FILMS, 2018) follows the path of COUNTRY MUSIC icon JOHNNY CASH and "pun intended" the line he walked between the political fracas that defined the VIETNAM WAR era.
i think CASH's place in the pantheon of AMERICAN CULTURE is fully secure in part due to his sharing of the spotlight in the late 1960s on his namesake television show where he introduced MIDDLE AMERICA to songwriters and voices they may not have been familiar with or had negative opinions about: artists like JONI MITCHELL, BOB DYLAN, NEIL YOUNG, RAY CHARLES, LINDA RONSTADT and PETE SEEGER. the generosity that showed endeared him to the growing counterculture and FOLK movements that were then emerging, but make no mistake, the man himself was the very embodiment of the heartland and all that entails.
the main narrative of this documentary follows RICHARD NIXON's troubled presidency as he continues the unpopular war he inherited and expands it into CAMBODIA as a way of taking the fight to the NORTH VIETNAMESE ARMY and the VIETCONG. famously, NIXON rose to power through the notorious SOUTHERN STRATEGY that saw him adopt the politics of grievance and adeptly exploited racial divisions. this strategy is still very much a part of REPUBLICAN sloganeering to this day. what NIXON saw with his rise was a cultural chasm between the unbridled optimism of the newly politically and economically empowered youth culture of the BABY BOOMERS (now a voting bloc) who listened to BRITISH INVASION rock bands from the UNITED KINGDOM as well as homegrown acolytes alike.
he saw this as a threat. famously he harassed JOHN LENNON through deportation threats and others he saw as agitators that could potential galvanize the youth against him. enter CASH whom he invited to the WHITE HOUSE to play a concert in support. CASH at this point was in the uncomfortable position of not wanting to appear to support NIXON explicitly while also feeling a patriotic obligation to appear when you are called by your country, in this case the commander-in-chief himself.
the climax of this respectful interaction as his playing of his song "WHAT IS TRUTH" which addressed in its lyrics war, drug addiction, intergenerational differences and the use of politics as a tool for the institutional mistreatment of minorities. all this with NIXON in attendance. a few weeks later WATERGATE happened and NIXON was later removed from office, but that moment became a a part of the CASH legacy and gained him credence with AMERICANS of every stripe.
watching this film, you can see the beginnings of bifurcated cultural divide that separates RED from BLUE, RURAL from SUBURBAN. for a moment CASH was able to walk that line with grace. something we are missing at this political moment indeed.