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Tributes To Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash Celebrates 70 Year

Career Achievement Award 
Country Weekly January 7, 2003 

 Country Weekly Honors The Legendary Pioneer – The Man In Black  

Many have sold more records. Others can boast of cleaner reputations. But no one has had a bigger effect on country music then Johnny Cash. To honor his lifetime of contributions, Country Weekly is proud to present Johnny with this year’s Career Achievement Award.   

The numbers alone could tell the story of Johnny’s legacy. He’s placed more than 130 singles on the charts since 1955 (a tally exceeded only by George Jones). Fourteen of those hit No. 1, with nearly 40 more cracking the Top 10. Johnny has also won 11 Grammy’s, including a Lifetime Achievement in 1999, and three CMA Awards. He is the youngest artist ever elected to the   Country  Music Hall  Of Fame. But the numbers are only beginning. Johnny looms even larger as an artist who crossed the boundaries between country folk and rock to create his own unique style. In fact many songs including “I Walk The line” “Ring Of Fire” and “A Boy Named Sue” – were smash hits on the pop charts as well. He is one of the few stars also elected to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.    

The fiercely in depended entertainer also helped break the barriers of country’s long-standing image. Instead of cowboy hats and overalls, Johnny donned black outfits that gave him a mysterious, but appealing, look and inspired his nickname, The Man In Black. He further defied convention through his music – writing and performing tunes that took an social importance, such as “The Ballad Of Ira Hayes” about a Native American World War 2 hero, and “Folsom Prison Blues. He recorded those tunes in the 60’s a time when country still adhered to consecrating message and themes. But Johnny’s brave new direction helped paved the way for the “Outlaw” movement of the 70’s, whose chief figures were Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.   

Johnny also found access in television, hosting The Johnny Cash Show on ABC from 1969 – 1971. And he took his talents to the big screen, starring in the western A Gunfight and several other movies. Johnny Cash is truly a man who’s done it all – and still doing it. He has just released a new album, American 4 The Man Comes Around, and declares that there’s still in more recording left in him. Six decades of music and still going strong – no one walks tall The Man In Black.   

The Journal Of Country Article

July 6, 2002 

Report On The General Health & Well Being Of The Multi-Faceted 
Man In Black 

At age 70, Johnny Cash is not afraid of ghosts or whatever awaits him on the "other side." And after surviving deadly battles with a mystery illness and his own demons, an extensive slate of reissues, star-studded tribute album and a new recording project prove that this country music legend's creative spirit is still strong. In Part I of a two-part feature, Cash biographer Patrick Carr shares his insight into a musical pilgrim and his powerful life force. Look for part two on Saturday (July 6).

  April 14, 2002
In the spring of this year there were only two items of pressing concern to Johnny Cash fans: his health and our prospects for more of his music. He addressed both issues by telephone from   Los Angeles  , where he and producer Rick Rubin were working on a new album.

"I'm doing better," he said. His speaking voice sounded reasonably strong. "I haven't been in the hospital now since, um … " -- an ironic chortle -- " … October.

"I had pneumonia about twice since I last saw you [in 1999], and it's pretty much just devastated my lungs. I'm having a really hard time getting any keeper vocals on my record. But I've got a whole week to work on it, and maybe it'll open up just a little bit. Yeah, pneumonia just about shut my lungs down. I'm doing all right now, though. I've been feeling great the last three or four months."

"What's your overall diagnosis now? If you don't have Shy Drager's Syndrome, what do you have?"

"Well, my doctor says I have autonomic neuropathy. I'm not sure I know exactly what it means, except some of your motors are shut down. Nothing's shut down yet. I don't know when it's supposed to. You can look that up if you want to, 'cause I haven't yet."

I looked it up. The MEDLINEplus Web site defines autonomic neuropathy as "a group of symptoms, not a specific disease entity. The causes are multiple. Autonomic neuropathy is associated with alcoholic neuropathy, diabetic neuropathy, Parkinson's disease and other multiple systems atrophy, disorders involving sclerosis of tissues, surgical or traumatic injury to nerves (such as surgical vagotomy, used to control stomach ulcers and similar disorders), other forms of neuropathy, use of anticholinergic medications, and many other conditions."

"Well, John, that sounds like medicspeak for 'We think there's something wrong with you, but we don't know what it is.'"

"Exactly. My doctor said the diabetes brought it on. That's still a strange statement for me. I don't understand that I've got diabetes when my blood sugar is always in a safe range. I take it every day and it's always right where it's supposed to be."

"Hmm. So what did happen to Shy Drager's Syndrome?"

"She finally admitted it was a misdiagnosis, 'cause if Shy Drager's Syndrome was what I had, I'd have been dead by then."

A couple of observations. First, is a suspicion that Cash's health problems, particularly those with a neurological aspect, might well result from his having taken so many powerful drugs -- fun drugs, dependency drugs, life-saving drugs, blood-pressure drugs, painkilling drugs, asthma drugs, sore tummy drugs, hangnail drugs, just about every kind of drugs you can imagine. When I joined him on the road in late '96 to begin work on Cash, his second autobiography, the bedroom in his bus looked like the lair of an eccentric old pill-bottle salesman unable to part with his past, even though at that particular time he was not, as far as I knew or he said, getting stoned on purpose. He trembled in odd places, his eyelids fluttered, and he was orange.   Orange  !

Another point is that as he talked about his diagnoses and his doctor, I heard a familiar attitude. He is and always has been complex in his approach to authority, often combining an innate rebelliousness with a passive-aggressive preference for unsatisfactory stasis over decisive action. He is good at stewing, in other words, at being stymied and angry about that. This element -- frustrated force, repressed energy -- is one of his central dynamics, very significant in the depth of his work and the power of his charisma. Is he aware of it? Probably. Nothing much escapes him, even about himself; his intelligence is fierce.

So, of course, is his life force. The flame of survival burns very high in him. Diseases and calamities rise up to devour him, some new, some old and newly ravenous; he smites them down one after the other, and he forges ahead. His wife June Carter Cash's favorite reaction to life is "press on, press on." He does.

When he received his diagnosis of Shy Drager's Syndrome in 1997, it was in fact a death sentence -- surprisingly, his first -- and that news was communicated to him quite clearly. But did he really believe it?

"Yes, I did," he said. "Yep. After the diagnosis and that first bout of pneumonia when I was so low, when it took me six months to walk again, I believed I was going to die. But then, way before my doctor changed her mind, I knew I wasn't. And anyway, I didn't really worry about it. I never thought, 'Oh, man, I gotta get things in order, 'cause I'm dyin'.' I just was there in agreement that I had Shy Drager's Syndrome or something bad wrong and that I was going to die. But it never really bothered me, if you can believe that. I just didn't believe that it was going to be that bad. I understand that with Shy Drager's Syndrome all kinds of terrible things happen to you. You lose all your ability to take care of yourself. But none of that happened to me."

"What did you think about the transition from life to death? What did you think was on the other side of the door?"

"I thought it was going to be pretty nice and peaceful on the other side, so I guess maybe that's why I didn't worry about it. I knew it was going to be all right when I got over there."

"Was your Christianity a big factor in that? Did you think of the other side in Christian terms?"

"Yeah, I did. I thought of it in Christian terms -- that I would be there with God in eternal bliss. Ecstasy." Another ironic chortle. "I was kind of disappointed when I realized I wasn't going to die -- you know, more of this pain!

"But my faith held up beautifully. I never questioned God, I never doubted God, I never got angry at God. I can't understand people saying they got angry at God. I walked with God all the way through all this. That's why I didn't fear. I never feared anything. Not at all. I can honestly say that."

"When you were very close to actually dying, during your bouts of pneumonia, did you have any out-of-body experiences?"

"No, I didn't. That happened to me in 1988 when I had bypass surgery, but not this time. People talk about that light, that beautiful light. I walked into that light -- but that's when I woke up, and I was angry about it because I didn't want to wake up. It was too beautiful to leave. It's not just light, Patrick. It's the very essence of light. It is the God in light, it is light in God, it is the light of God. It's too beautiful to explain in earthly terms. I was walking into it and it was beautiful bliss, it was just ecstasy. And then I woke up. I had that life support system down my throat, couldn't talk. I was in agony, and I was furious. There stood my doctor, and if I could, I'd have punched him out."

He grunted, and then there was a silence on the line before he came back in a different, colder key. "Are you doing a sick story on me, Patrick? A story about my sickness?"

Various Moments, 1955 to 2002
Cash's sickness. The beauty in his sickness, the sickness in his beauty. How much he's made us tolerate, how grandly he's rewarded us. How he's always tried so hard to keep the equation in the credit column. A whole life of running with the dogs, then facing them down and living free for a time, then doing it again, then doing it again. There's been hardly any running from them. And all the way through, those bewildering signals. At various points, in print, I've called Cash "the Mount Rushmore of Country Music," "an Indian in the white man's camp," "a wooden Indian in the white man's camp," "a hep-cat on a hot tin roof," "a loving Christian witness" and "a feral junkie dog," as well as repeating everybody else's perceptions -- Cash as musical revolutionary/staunch traditionalist, diplomat/iconoclast, synthesizer/individualist, bridge builder/train wrecker, reactionary/rebel -- and we've all been on the money with every clashing perception. Kris Kristofferson expressed it best, of course, in his song "The Pilgrim":

He's a poet, an' he's a picker
He's a prophet, an' he's a pusher
He's a pilgrim and a preacher
And a problem when he's stoned
He's a walkin' contradiction
Partly truth and partly fiction
Takin' ev'ry wrong direction
On his lonely way back home

When I saw my first image of Cash in 1960, on the cover of his album Ride This Train, in a room of a red brick house in the industrial north of England, he was a bad man with a gun, Elvis's outlaw cousin, a dog you'd have to shoot at least twice. Through the echo Jack Clement engineered into his records, he sounded to us little Brits like endless plains and distant mountains, the way John Ford movies looked. We never imagined, even after "Five Feet High and Rising," that his Arkansas was as flat as Holland and as green as the Congo, and we thought of Memphis in magic and neon -- Las Vegas meets the Emerald City, perhaps as Elvis once thought of it. By the early 70s, though, when I was just about to meet him for the first time, he didn't seem nearly as exciting. His mystery squandered on television and his most public affiliation, with Billy Graham, deeply unappealing to the boomer-hippie appetite, he looked to me like a bit of a drag.

Wrong again. I met him at his studio, the House of Cash, during his first attempt to re-affiliate with Jack Clement as his producer and work with Waylon, and right there and then the utter lack of one-dimensionalism anywhere near Johnny Cash was immediately apparent. So were the contradictions and the conflict -- the dopers and the Christians and the outlaws and the in-laws, of course, and who was really who? But more important was the struggle within Cash about what he wanted to sing and/or should be singing. I got a sense of him being so attuned to the pressures of whatever whoever was blowing in his ear that messages from his own Muse just weren't getting through. That being the case, I figured, what he needed was to stay aligned with collaborators, or better yet just one musical conspirator, who spoke his Muse's language and agreed, in principal if not in detail, with what she wanted. That's still my opinion, and so I'm glad he's had the grossly unlikely but evidently effective Rick Rubin as his producer for the past 10 years. I also regret having to think of the 70s and 80s as too many years during which he didn't try quite hard enough to get back to Jack Clement. The directions he took weren't all wrong, by any means, and he even found his lonely way back home a time or two (most notably for Rockabilly Blues in 1980), but it was a shame for him and Jack, and a loss for us, that his pilgrimage wandered so. I'll always remember Jack in the office at the Cowboy Arms Hotel & Recording Spa, waltzing serenely through a mist of light blue dope smoke, carried away by his and Cash's music crashing in a torrent of hillbilly funk through his JBL studio monitors. Ah, yes -- "The Night  Hank Williams Came to Town," what a record! Pure old love and pleasure. Cash calls Jack "my brother" and "a jewel," and he sure is right about that. I'd like to see him work with Jack again. It might not be better than working with Rick Rubin, but it wouldn't be worse and it would be different.

Cash the pilgrim. Often Cash's road ahead leads backward, into the past. He's an active student of history, always reading and inquiring, as well as an enthusiast of old places, feelings, and souls.

I remember him at his farmhouse in   Bon Aqua ,  Tenn.  , one late morning in the spring of '97, barefoot and peeing on the grass in front of his weathered old front porch (some sort of prescription was forcing frequent urination). He told me something of the history of the place as he watered its daisies. Shortly after the Yankees won the Battle of Nashville during the War Between the States, a pair of Union cavalrymen came riding up onto the property with a view to requisitioning whatever they wanted, but in the process they offended the owner, a gentleman by the name of Weems who had been a Captain in the United States Army during the Mexican-American War that preceded the contemporary unpleasantness. Captain Weems shot the Yankees off their horses with his pistol, killed them dead right where Cash was peeing and buried them someplace anonymous nearby, probably in a pasture running uphill from the back of the farmhouse towards the overgrown little family graveyard in which Weems himself has now been buried for more than 100 years.

Later that day, Cash drove us up a nearby ridgeline and back into the woods to show me the remains of a small but once thriving community abandoned, he knew not why, sometime in the 1930s. I'll always be grateful to him for that, because there I saw one of the most moving sights I've ever seen, so strange but so logical: A seedling had sprouted in the sunny circle inside a discarded 1925 automobile tire and had grown into a tree, and now the tire fit tightly around its trunk three feet off the ground. Cash gave me that sight knowing its value, and it was a real Cash moment.

Another Cash Tribute Due
June 19, 2 p.m. ET ,

Men in Black II opens in theaters this summer, but the yearlong celebration of Johnny Cash's seventieth birthday continues to remind everyone of the original MIB. Dressed in Black, the second of a pair of Cash tributes put together this year, will be released on September 10th. The album features a cross-section of fringe country figures that accentuate Cash's rockabilly and classic country sounds.  

A dozen of the album's eighteen tracks are covers of original Cash compositions, while the other six are a collection of tracks that he once covered and made his own, including "Wreck of the Old 97" (recorded by  Hank Williams III with legendary Cash drummer W.S. Holland on drums), "Jackson" (by Mandy Barnett and BR5-49's Chuck Mead) and "Pack Up Your Sorrows" (by Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis).  

From the country side, Robbie Fulks offers up a take on one of Cash's earliest songs, "Cry, Cry, Cry," and   Texas  honky-tonker Dale Watson tackles "I Walk the Line." The rockabilly side is represented by the Rev. Horton Heat (who place their psychobilly stamp on "Get Rhythm"), Los Straightjackets' Eddie Angel ("Straight A's in Love") and Rosie Flores ("Big River").  

Dressed in Black was co-produced by Mead and former Cash bassist Dave Roe, both of whom play guitar and bass, respectively, on every track.


In addition to Dressed in Black, Nashville musician and former Cash son-in-law Marty Stuart has been at work on his own tribute, which features only original Cash songs covered by Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow and others. The album is also due this summer.  

Track listing for Dressed in Black:  

"Wreck of the Old 97,"  Hank Williams III  

"Cry, Cry, Cry," Robbie Fulks  

"Ballad of a Teenage Queen," Rodney Crowell "I Guess Things Happen That Way," Raul Malo "There You Go," Chuck Mead of BR5-49 "Get Rhythm," Rev. Horton Heat "Pack Up Your Sorrows," Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis "Ring of Fire," Billy Burnette "Luther Played the Boogie," Redd Volkaert "Big River," Rosie Flores "Folsom Prison Blues," James Intveld "I Still Miss Someone," Earl Poole Ball "I'm Gonna Sit on the Porch and Pick on My Old Guitar," Damon Bramblett  

"I Walk the Line," Dale Watson "Train of Love," Kenny Vaughan  

"Straight A's in Love," Eddie Angel  

"  Jackson  ," Mandy Barnett and Chuck Mead  

"Flesh and Blood," Chris Knight ANDREW DANSBY   

( June 17, 2002 )  

                  Cash Comes Around This Fall 

                                             May 31, 9 p.m. ET

Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin are doing the final mixes on Cash's next album, American IV: When the Man Comes Around, their fourth recording together. Cash has recorded twenty-six songs for the album, which will be whittled down to nearly half by its release, tentatively set for September.  

The album will be Cash's first since the Grammy-winning American III: Solitary   Man.  His work with Rubin dates back to his 1994 comeback album, American Recordings, on which a solo Cash recorded a handful of his own songs, along with covers of tracks by Tom Waits, Nick Lowe and Glenn Danzig. Cash and Rubin have been taking on songs by an eclectic group of writers since. Beck's "Rowboat" and Tom Petty's "Southern Accents" were placed alongside more traditional songs by the likes of the Louvin Brothers on 1996's Unchained. And Neil Diamond provided the title track to Cash's last record, which also included his take on songs by Nick Cave ("The Mercy Seat"), U2 ("One") and Will Oldham ("I See a Darkness").   

Cash collaborator Marty Stuart told Rolling Stone that the title track of the new collection is "the most strangely marvelous, wonderful, gothic, mysterious, Christian thing that only God and Johnny Cash could create together." In addition to that track Stuart also played on a cover of Sting's "I Hung My Head," which is among the other songs being considered for inclusion." Takes on the Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt," Marty Robbins' "Big Iron" and Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" have also been recorded for American IV. "There's something for everyone on this one," says Cash's manager Lou Robbin.  

This year, Cash's seventieth, has been a busy one. In March, Columbia/Legacy began a reissue program of some classic Cash recordings: The Fabulous Johnny Cash (1958), Hymns by Johnny Cash (1959), Ride This Train (1960), Orange Blossom Special (1965) and Carryin' On (1967). Legacy will continue to roll out the reissues later this year, including a previously unreleased concert from 1972.  

In April, Cash was honored with the National Medal of the Arts in a ceremony in   Washington D.C.  He will also be the subject of a tribute album due this summer, featuring his compositions recorded by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Little Richard, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Steve Earle and others. "'I Walk the Line,' 'Folsom Prison,' they were all cut right the first time," project organizer/producer Stuart said. "The only reason I can think of for this project is that those of us who know him and love him, we just bring our best to his feet and honor him. It's a record of honor."  


( May 31, 2002 ) Rolling Stone Article

Johnny Cash Celebrates 70 Years

In 1955, a young man patiently waited on the steps of a studio called Memphis Recording Service. He was hoping to catch the owner, Sam Phillips, arriving for work. Upon seeing Phillips, the young man stood up. "Mr. Phillips" he boldly stated, "if you listen to me, you'll be glad you did." "Well I like to hear a boy with confidence in him," replied Phillips. "Come on in." The next day that young man recorded his first single, "Hey Porter" for Phillips Sun Records. And the rest, they say is history- Johnny Cash history. Over 15,00 songs later, Johnny is still making people glad they listened. On February 26, the world-renowned "Man In Black" turned 70. Having battled persistent health problems for years, it would be understandable if he simply put his guitar down. But Johnny shows no signs of stopping. Most recently he recorded a duet with rocker Dave Matthews called "For You" for the soundtrack of the upcoming film "We Where Soldiers." Columbia/Legacy Records has just released the "Essential Johnny Cash," a 36-song, 2-CD set of music from his Sun, Columbia and Mercury years. In March, Columbia will release "American Milestones," expanded editions of five vintage Johnny Cash Albums never before available on CD in the U.S. "It is hard to believe Johnny Cash and I have reached 70! Says George Jones, whose nickname for Johnny is "Big Buddy" (Johnny calls George "Little Pal") When I think of all the miles and roads we have traveled I would never have imagined 40 years ago we would still be around and doing what we love singing country music. Our friendship has weathered many storms and so have we.

Johnny's storms have included drug addiction and an ongoing fight with autonomic neuropathy initially misdiagnosed as Shy-Draggers syndrome a few years ago. But, through it all, Johnny has maintained a musical and personal integrity that places him in the stratosphere of legends. Johnny became a country chart-topper with 1965's "I Walk The Line" followed two years later by the No. 1 "Ballad Of A Teenaged Queen" That same year found him at the top again with "Guess Things Happen The Way" and a year later, "Don't Take Your Guns To Town" Hit No.1 Johnny added a signature song to his repertoire in 1963 with "Ring Of Fire" co-written by June Cater, whom he married in 1968. At the height of his career in the late 60's and early 70's, Johnny was topping the country charts with more songs, including "Folsom Prison Blues" "Daddy Sang Bass" "A Boy Named Sue" and "Sunday Morning Coming Down." As host of the ABC's "The Johnny Cash Show" from 1969 to 1971 he gained the respect and admiration of country musicians and beyond by featuring a mixture of artist from many genres. Johnny Cash transcends all musical boundaries, Says friend and fellow Highwayman Willie Nelson, and is one of the original outlaws. In fact, Johnny has purposely and successfully crossed and blended the boundaries of country, folk, gospel, and rock his entire career. He's a member of the Country Music and Rock and Roll Halls Of Fame. And he's won 10 Grammy's, including the Lifetime Achievement award in 1999. Throughout his career, Johnny has presented himself as both lion and lamb a performer just as comfortable singing the words "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die" as he is singing "How great Thou Art" It's a formidable combination, one that makes him revered and a little feared. Johnny's former son-in-law, Rodney Crowell, recalls foolish attempt to cross the "Man In Black" When Rosanne and I first meet started living together, we got an invitation to Jamaica where John has a house remembers Rodney. I had a few drinks on the plane to screw up my courage because I was nervous since Rosanne and I decided we were going to sleep together in his house. We got there late in the day, and, having shored up my bravado, I figured I better case out my territory from the startand told him of our intentions to stay together. He just looked at me, fixed me with a stare and said, Son I don't know you well enough to miss you if you were gone. It just sobered me right up. Cut right down, I asked, Where are you going to have me stay?

That encounter was vintage Cash, according to those who know him best. Yet after nearly five decades in country music, Johnny's music while still respected suddenly didn't fit country radio's format. But the pioneer pressed on, experiencing a rebirth with rock producer Rick Rubin who was at the helm of Johnny's 1994 American Recordings Johnny found himself suddenly "hip" again with a younger crowd and still appreciated by his older fans. American Recordings won a Grammy for Best Folk Album. Three years later Johnny again won a Grammy for Best Country Album, for "Unchained" on which he reinterpreted several rock songs by Tom Pett, Soundgarden and others. The year 2000 brought another Grammy Best Male Vocal Performance for "Solitary Man"

On the road it started feeling like 1955 again, wrote Johnny of his career resurgence in his 1997 book "Cash" The Autobiography. I began playing young peoples places like the Fillmore as well as the city auditoriums and arenas I'd been playing for the previous 20 years. I found acceptance in different places "He added" It felt great. At the Glastonbury Festival in England I sat on my stool and played my songs for the audience of a hundred thousand young people who really listened, and that night I realized I'd come full circle, back to the bare bones of my music, pre-stardom, pre-electric, pre-Memphis. Johnny currently planning his fouth album with producer Rubin, American Recordings #5 and, facing his sixth decade as a recording artist, he's finding that the "Essential Johnny Cash" is really only made of two things heart and soul. I'm happy in personal and spiritual life, "he says" and any commercial success at all is the icing on the cake.



Revised: September 03, 2007


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