I saw Walk The Line the other day – it’s a great movie, but more to the point, it’s the music that makes the movie special. And yes, Reese Witherspoon deserved the Golden Globe as June Carter Cash. Likewise for Joaquin Phoenix, who sang remarkably well and portrayed Johnny well himself.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as though I just discovered Johnny Cash. I love Cash’s music. Back at Queen’s, I remember a story in which I played an album of his late at night after our first issue of Diatribe was printed and my CFRC broadcast was done. I was pretty exhausted, feeling it in my mental state. Came home from the bar after a long, long week, around 1 a.m. I was in the “so tired I can’t even sleep” stage, so I put on Cash and listened to the whole record. It was illuminating. I couldn’t stop listening to the album. Folsom Prison it was, still one of my favourite records.
Since those heady days, I’ve loved Cash and all his music. Johnny’s been there a lot. He helped me through some really hard times back in early 2003, when I felt like my entire world was crashing down.
I was deeply saddened by his death in 2003, as were many people around the world who really loved him and his music. I mean, the guy had fans in everyone from Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails to country artists.
Which is particularly appropriate, given that Cash recorded the most heartbreaking song I’ve ever heard (and believe me, I grew up in a house with a blues music fan, I know all about heartache in music). Cash did a recording of “Hurt”, a track from Reznor’s Downward Spiral record back in 1994 (still the best NIN album ever) back in 2003, right before he died. June Carter Cash had died before Johnny, and the song and video make me cry everytime I see and hear it. It’s the face of a man who’s lived an entire lifetime, seen so much, lived so long, and now it’s coming to an end. You see a montage of photos and Cash himself. It’s almost too much to bear to see a man who’s lost the only person whom he ever shared everything with gone and out of his life. You see, June was Johnny’s soul mate – he loved her completely and she loved him with equal passion. She saved him, believed in him when everyone else who “cared” for Johnny – his parents and ex-wife – did nothing but make him feel worse. Hurt manages to be the most powerful song I’ve ever heard, and it’s one of the simplest.
But the most important thing about Cash, at least to me, was that he understood one all-important fact about people: you can’t buy into false ideas about life or love. You have to take it all in – the good times, the really bad times and those moments you wish you could forget. Life’s never clean or easy, and sometimes you’ll end up on the wrong path. However, one of the things God (or whatever God is) manages to do is give us chances to redeem ourselves. His music keeps reminding me of that.
God I miss you Johnny.