Rhett Miller Sings Johnny Cash’s ‘Big River’: Watch

Rhett Miller plays various selections from the American music catalog – from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” – in the latest episode of the Powerful songwriters Web series.

The Old 97 frontman kicks off his 20-minute set with “Big River,” a song written by Johnny Cash in 1958. Miller says it was Cash’s favorite song he ever wrote. Miller’s is a traditional performance, with the singer offering some emphatic screams and howls as he backs himself up on acoustic guitar.

Most stunning, however, is Miller’s rendition of Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, originally recorded by the Shirelles in 1960. Miller plays it on guitar, but points out that it was written at the piano.

“The medium is not the message, the song is the song: you can play it on a piano, a guitar, a ukulele, a kazoo. It does not matter. You create something that is an idea and can be interpreted in different ways,” he says, encouraging young writers. “Maybe you write a poem, but maybe that poem can become a song… Don’t worry too much about the rules. Just start doing things and let them dictate what they want to be.

Miller ends his performance with a rendition of his own composition, the love song “Question”, originally released on the Old 97’s 2001 album. Satellite rides. The band released their 12th studio album, Twelfthlast month.

Powerful Writers is a non-profit organization that inspires children to express themselves through writing.

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