FINDING HER VOICE

After losing her father and stepmother -- and nearly losing her voice -- Rosanne Cash keeps traveling forward

When Rosanne Cash lost her voice, she wasn't that worried at first. But then it wouldn't come back - and that concerned her greatly.

"I was freaked out," she admits. "I did go through a dark night of the soul, thinking, 'What if I never get my voice back? What will I be? What will I do?' "

She had developed vocal polyps, a common ailment for singers, during her pregnancy with now-5-year-old Jakob. The condition usually lasts a few months, but hers persisted for an exasperating two-and-a-half years.

During that time, Rosanne (who also has three daughters, ranging in age from 15 to 24) had no guarantee her voice would ever return. She thought she could content herself with writing - she's authored two books, and is working on another.

"But I was surprised to find that wasn't enough for me," explains Rosanne, sitting at her desk in her New York City apartment. "I was devastated at the idea of not being able to sing."

Finally her voice returned, and she dove into work with her husband, producer and songwriting partner, John Leventhal, on what would become her latest album, the Grammy-nominated Rules of Travel. In fact, it was John's idea for Rosanne to duet with her legendary dad, Johnny, on the track "September When It Comes."

"I was very reluctant at first," she recalls. "But if there was ever a right song and a right time, this was it."

The song took on an unexpected, eerie resonance when Johnny died in September, four months after the unexpected death of Rosanne's stepmother, June Carter Cash. A video montage of family photos set to the song has been running on CMT.

Rosanne is still practicing what she remembers as the best lesson she ever learned from her father. She tells of an occasion when Johnny saw her reading an offbeat book. "You're not into this, are you?" she asked him. "No," he answered. "But I think you should find out everything you can about it."

"I thought, 'Wow, what a brilliant thing for a parent to say,' " she marvels. "Like, 'Don't shut down your world - expand it as far as it can go. Find out everything you can, and form your belief system after you have all the knowledge.' "

-- Chris Neal

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