Music

LISTEN: Rosanne Cash’s ‘The Killing Fields’

Rosanne Cash‘s new song “The Killing Fields” grapples with a dark part of southern United States history: lynchings. The singer-songwriter wrote the song, she shares, during the summer of 2020.

“A few years of my own personal reckoning with painful issues of race, racism, privilege, reconciliation and individual responsibility led up to the moment in the summer of 2020, when finally no one could avert their eyes from the truth of white privilege in America, and the damage and sorrow caused by systemic racism,” says Cash, who is the daughter of country legend Johnny Cash, himself known for several socially conscious musical projects, in a press release.

“All that came before us is not who we are now,” she adds, echoing the final lines of the song, in which she hopes for “a truce between the east and west / and my Southern history,” and promises to “break every single bow” of the trees in “the killing fields” where lynchings took place. Cash describes the push and pull of knowing that she was not directly responsible for those deaths yet needing to acknowledge it as a part of her broader history as she sings, “There was cotton on the killing fields / It blows down through the years / Sticks to me just like a burn / Fills my eyes and ears,” she sings.

“The Killing Fields” is available to download and stream now, but will also be out on vinyl on April 9, as part of a limited edition 7-inch release. The song will be paired with Cash’s “Crawl Into the Promised Land,” a reflection on the year that was 2020, which she released in the fall; she co-write it with her frequent collaborator and husband, John Leventhal, and it features Sarah Jarosz and Jakob Leventhal, their son, on backing vocals.

Proceeds from the vinyl release will be donated to the Arkansas Peace & Justice Memorial Movement. The educational, online memorial, a collaboration with the Equal Justice Initiative and Coming to the Table, commemorates lynching victims in Arkansas, which is the home state of Cash’s father. Signed copies of the 7-inch will also be available.

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