Bitter tears: Ballads of the American Indian was a controversial album (radio stations refused to play it, magazines refused to review it) made by Johnny Cash and released in 1964 after he became a star and had already had major hits with iconic tracks like "I walk the line" and "Ring of Fire".
Cash's recording of Ballad of Ira Hayes finally made it into the charts after a concerted advertising and direct marketing campaign by Cash and some supporters.
Hayes was a Pima indian from Arizona who returned from WW2 to a hero's welcome because he was one of the marines that featured in the famous Iwo Jima photo. After battles with prejudice, despair and alcohol he died in a ditch about a decade after he came to national attention.
This is a captivating tale that embraces the struggles of Native peoples in America, the 1960s New York folk scene, the birth of country music, Johnny Cash, Peter La Farge, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and much more all set in the dramatic context of social and political upheaval in America in the 1950s and 1960s.
I've read about the relationship between Cash and Dylan before - but it still impresses and amazes me. Neither man wanted to have their art pigeon-holded by fans or corporate profit seekers. Unlike many in the popular music field, they took their art seriously. Cash went into bat for Dylan when Columbia were sceptical after lacklustre sales for Bob's debut album.
Cash also took his politics seriously. It took him many years to get his prison album idea accepted by record company executives - who thought it a mad idea. They weren't too impressed with the Bitter Tears album either. Cash apparently once gave up a $10k gig to do a free concert at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota (site of the Wounded Knee massacre of Sioux women and children by the US Army).
It's an important story in many different ways, it's well-told and readable - look out for it.