Rosanne Cash and the Many Meanings of Love

One of the most gifted singer-songwriters of our time talks love, science and the deep space between men and women

Rosanne Cash, the daughter of Johnny Cash, is not a country and western singer in the tradition of her famous father. She's American music's theoretical physicist of love. (Deborah Feingold)
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“It seems like, they’re deliriously, dangerously falling for each other then suddenly, ‘Oh, I’ve done this before.’”

She laughs. “It was grafted on,” she concedes, but she thinks of it more as providing “a nice melodic release to build back up into the next verse.”

Actually it makes it a more complex song. I like Katy Perry, but Katy Perry wouldn’t have that bridge. It’s a pause for reflection: What am I, crazy? And then the next verse returns with accelerated, exacerbated vigor to the madness, only this time it’s with conscious deliberation and self-awareness—yes, I’m crazy and I don’t care—that makes giving in to the moment even more knowingly risky. In other words, it’s good to remember in the heat of the moment— when you think nothing like this has ever happened to you—that it has. And then, it’s good to forget.

Then she remembers something her mentor told her about her songwriting. John Stewart “always said, ‘Where’s the madness?’ You know, if I would try to write a perfect song. ‘Where’s the madness, Rose?’”

I ask what songs she’s writing now.

“Well, there’s one called ‘Particle and Wave.’”

 “Is the male a particle and the woman a wave?”

“Something like that...but part of it is that I have a deep love of theoretical physics.”

Whoa. That comes out of left field.

“It started 30 years ago when I became interested in astronomy. I read about light shifts and that led me to theoretical physics. Things like time and how long it takes light from stars to get here. Black holes. Where you would come out if you went into a black hole.” She tells me a beautiful story about a physics-inflected song she’s working on, about how “light only slows to shine on the other’s face.”


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