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The Wheel was easily one of Rosanne Cash's least successful albums, as was its title track single. That's not to say it was bad; more likely just too complex for the fickle pop world, which pretty much sums up the progressive nature of Cash's work. As she got more introspective and poetic, her records tended to sell fewer copies. But The Wheel, and its predecessor, 1990's Interiors, were excellent albums exploring the fragile nature of relationships.
Produced by Cash and her frequent partner/husband, John Leventhal, The Wheel was essentially a singer/songwriter album, despite Cash's roots on the country charts and as the daughter of Johnny Cash. And the roots of the video for "The Wheel"? Well, that's anybody's guess. Like the lyrics of the song, the video is more evocative than literal, although it seems to have something to do with a medieval wedding, complete with Cash on an apparent throne on a beach pouring water from a royal chalice. By the end, the wedding is successfully consummated, and the happy couple seems to have the world in their hands (which is mostly at odds with Cash's songs and their tendency to inspect the darker, or at least less confident, side of relationships).
Like so much of Cash's later work, on "The Wheel" she proves a deeply expressive lyricist in probing some of the unanswerable questions of life and relationships. In fact, she sums it up all so well in the song's bridge: "I'm not looking for your answers/Oh, darling don't you see/That just to know the question/Is good enough for me."
Cash, whose mother is Vivian Liberto, Johnny's first wife, was born in 1955 and raised by her mother in Southern California, likely explaining her affinity for singer/songwriter sounds over straight country. In the early to mid-'80s, she scored her biggest country hits — even enjoying some crossover success — working mostly with her then-husband Rodney Crowell. Her second album, Seven Year Ache, went to No. 1 on Billboard's Country Albums chart, as did 1985's Rhythm & Romance, with the former's title track proving it had some pop mettle, rising to No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100. The latter album's "I Don't Know Why You Don't Want Me" earned Cash her lone GRAMMY win to date for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female.
But her highest-charting Billboard 200 album was 2009's The List, which followed the deaths of Johnny Cash and his singer wife June Carter Cash, as well as Rosanne's mother. The album compiles covers of some of the songs Johnny considered the most essential American tunes, including Bob Dylan's "Girl From The North Country," Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings" and the Carter Family's "Motherless Children." The album peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard 200 and earned Cash a GRAMMY nomination for Best Americana Album.
"The Wheel" itself never charted, and the album only peaked at No. 37 on the Country Albums chart. But in the nature of a wheel, Cash continues on, with Columbia Records' Legacy imprint releasing The Essential Rosanne Cash this year. Where the wheel takes her next is hard to say. Maybe a Renaissance wedding?
Did you have a medieval-themed wedding? Got any Forgotten Video recommendations? Leave us a comment.
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