There are a few well-known people that have made my list of admirable folks, including a singer, a football coach, a Bible teacher, and a comedian.
Cash is always at the top of my “most admired” list because he was true to himself. His musical style was new and his genre hard to pinpoint. His later work was his best. When he covered a song with the brilliant pairing of Rick Rubin’s arrangements it made the song his more so than the original artist’s. Cash was flawed, a drug addict for a good deal of his life. His spirituality and compassion found an outlet in the way that he repeatedly found himself on the side of those marginalized in our society, before it fashionable to do so. He was up front about his drug addiction, his faith, and his wild side. Somehow he was able to package these contradictions.
I was a fair weather Kansas City Chiefs fan when Vermeil was head coach there, but I watched a video of Chief’s history which included Vermeil’s history in the NFL. He turned teams around wherever he went and he did it with love, and heart. He had each player to his home for dinner. He was a hugger and weeper who was also bent on player development and winning. He is a total class act, a positive motivator, and a lover of life and people.
Steve is the granddaddy of grace proclamation and a missionary to the church who has had a hand in setting thousands free from religious compulsions to enjoy a life of freedom and joy. On his radio program, Steve Brown, Etc, you never know what off-the-wall thing the guy is going to say. His sense of humor, intentionality in defying stereotypes, and willingness to hob nob with people from the other side of the tracks make me love him.
The dude is profane and profound. He calls himself a vulgar lounge entertainer. He spent a good deal of his life addicted to alcohol and drugs, living hard and fast, there was a continual cycle of destruction that accompanied him. He had a hard time finding his niche, which at one time or another was punk rock drummer, construction worker, actor, director, writer, and stand-up comedian. I think he has the soul of an artist with a little social worker mixed in. I like his openness about his failure. I also like his brand of humor which reminds me of a little boy who sticks his toe over the forbidden line, pulls it back looking coy and cute, and then jumps over it. He has an authenticity and spontaneity about his act that sets him apart on the late night stage. I think he really wants to help people avoid his pitfalls and help redeem those who have already fallen prey to the vices that he used need. He can pull off a deadly serious bit of monologue on the virtues of America, a tribute to his dad, or why he won’t tell Charley Sheen jokes in a way that is absolutely deft.
Originally posted April 6, 2011.