Cash. An amazing, amazing individual.
John R. Cash was born in Arkansas, in 1932. He participated, and flourished, in arguably one of the most important eras of recorded music history – the 1950s-60s. Johnny Cash went on to become one of the most iconic musical artists in America’s history. The dude is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame, and earned multiple Grammy, CMA and AMA awards during his career.
He is amazing, for reason upon reason. But I want to look at the way his career/life ended.
Society is quick to forget that these types of figures actually feel human feelings. They have families. They have worries. They have issues. They have struggles. They doubt – in lots of things – even themselves.
Cash was very much human.
I read a book called The Man Called Cash, by Steve Turner. The sub-title is “The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend.” It really gets in to the spiritual side of the man, but sugar-coats nothing. There are some remarkably inspiring stories and I highly recommend it.
Kris Kristofferson wrote the forward, and I love this part:
“John never lost his sense of humor. When June slipped away from us without warning, he was devastated. At the funeral home where people were paying their last respects to her, I was sitting next to John near her casket as people filed by to offer their condolences. One of the mourners spoke with John, then noticed me and proceeded to tell me what a great singer he thought I was. When he left, John leaned over to me and said, “Well, that’s one.”
The moment I became a Johnny Cash fan was the moment I saw the music video for his version of Trent Reznor’s, “Hurt,” a song about the pain of heroin addiction. I can honestly say that changed my life, because it made me rethink my approach to the entertainment business. It made me rethink what really mattered.
If you haven’t seen the “Hurt” video, please do. You can view it here. Johnny truly made the song his own and I can’t think of a better piece of art to symbolize the end of his career. It’s not hard to imagine him writing the words he’s singing.
In the video, years of life show on Cash’s face, especially in his eyes, while footage from earlier in his life is juxtaposed with a man who is clearly near his end.
There’s an image of a gold record on the floor (Johnny Cash at San Quentin), leaned against the wall in the now defunct House of Cash Museum (Hendersonville, Tenn.), and the glass is shattered.
This is the chorus from “Hurt.”
What have I become / my sweetest friend
Everyone I know / goes away in the end
And you could have it all / my empire of dirt
I will let you down / I will make you hurt