Discs of Fire

A new boxed set highlights the genius of Johnny Cash

"He was always writing," Ferguson says. "There's one song, one of the last he wrote, called 'Asthma Comin' Down Like the 309,' a humorous song about asthma. He had asthma real bad, so he wrote a song about asthma that he could sing with asthma. He was funny as hell."

"Asthma" is sure to surface on American V, Ferguson says, along with Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer," the old Sinatra hit "Love's Been Good to Me" and "If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again," a Johnny-June duet.

Was there any kind of music Cash didn't like? "Johnny was a rhythm man," Ferguson says. "Johnny loved rhythm in music of all kinds. I'm sure there was stuff he didn't care for too much, but I never heard Johnny talk bad about anybody in music. If anybody played him a song, he'd have nothing but encouraging things to say."

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