A young man on the wrong path sat in a cell in San Quentin. His drunken, failed burglary of a small cafe in Bakersfield had landed him there.
Another young man, once a rising star, watched his own career sink into ruins due to drugs and excess. Since no one would hire him, he decided to perform at San Quentin for the prisoners.
That decision changed the trajectory of both their lives. The performer regained his career with the release of a live album of the performance and became a legend in country music.
The young man in the prison audience also made a decision to give up a life of crime and purse the music he loved. He finished that career two weeks ago, on his seventy-ninth birthday and is sorely missed. Thirty-eight top-ten albums and thirty-eight number-one singles tell the story of his transformation pretty well.
Many people believe he had the best voice in country music, including me. And dozens of performers to follow would emulate that voice.
The performer: Johnny Cash, the former prisoner: Merle Haggard.
Johnny and Merle became good friends and, I'm sure, are still singing some fine songs together.
Whose lives are being changed right now by our example?