Published Jan 01, 2006We knew it had to happen, but something told me the first time I listened to American IV: The Man Comes Around, that this would be Johnny Cash's final statement. While far from the best of the American series, the song choices told the whole story "In My Life," "Danny Boy," "Streets Of Laredo," and of course "Hurt" the Man (this time, death) was indeed about to come around. Yet, for all the things he can be admired for, the greatest could be that Johnny Cash did not go gentle into that good night.
Neither did his wife, June Carter, whose death preceded his by only three months. Few realised that she too had released an album this year, the beautifully touching Wildwood Flower, which revisited many of the songs that comprised her rich family heritage. The loss brings an end to an era of American song that dates back to its very beginnings. It was the Carter Family that famously wrote much of that songbook, and Johnny Cash who kept it alive it when pop culture took over.
He was a force of nature, but only with June there could that force be kept in check. Of course, he had his failings, but he never covered them up. Cash's honesty was all part of his immense talent that skill everyone now knows of taking any song and making it his own and will not be replicated in our lifetime. It was an honour to breathe the same air he did, and I can only look upon that chiselled face now and think of how Americans of the late 19th century found inspiration in the eyes of Abraham Lincoln. For that's what Johnny Cash represented: freedom, honesty, and above all, truth.