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Rosanne Cash Reflects on Her Relationship with the Guitar

Rosanne Cash © Clay Patrick McBride

Rosanne Cash © Clay Patrick McBride

Early American Guitars: The Instruments of C. F. Martin, currently on view through December 7, traces the innovation of Christian Frederick Martin (1796–1873) and his development of a distinctly American form of the instrument. In conjunction with the exhibition, Rosanne Cash recently performed at the Museum and toured the Musical Instruments galleries, where the Grammy Award–winning musician shared a few of her thoughts about what a guitar means to her.

In my family, guitars are the vehicles of love, relationships, travel, rhythm, melody, and language. They are part of the currency of our conversation. When words fail, we pick up a guitar. When someone goes on a trip, there is a song for the departure. When we fall in love, there's a melody in the six strings that comes directly from the heart, and words to go with it. And, when someone leaves permanently, they leave their guitars behind.

The curved outline of an acoustic guitar holds almost mythic power to me, and speaks on its own of love, family, travel, rhythm, and more—mystery, healing, and the soul. There is no image that moves me more than this; from earliest childhood, the sight of a lone figure with a guitar seared me with its wrenching beauty.

When most people see a guitar, they see the beauty of the lines, the sheen of the wood. I see a life—my own, and those of the people I love.

—Rosanne Cash

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