If you have seen the film Walk the Line, you’ll know a bit about the life of Johnny Cash. A contradictory, committed Christian who described himself as a great sinner, a horrible husband at times, a heavy drinker, drug addict and sometime lawbreaker, a remarkably talented cross-over country singer, a descendant of Malcolm IV of Scotland. He had a near-death experience and was later born-again at an altar call in an Evangelical church. He claimed later to have had another near-death experience whilst undergoing surgery. His experience of being desperate, poor and on the wrong side of the law inspired him to give performances to inmates at Folsom and San Quentin prisons, among others. Here he is performing I Walk the Line at San Quentin.
He wore black on behalf of the poor and hungry, on behalf of “the prisoner who has long paid for his crime”, and on behalf of those who have been betrayed by age or drugs … and in mourning for the lives that were not to be – of young men killed in Vietnam.
“Apart from the Vietnam War being over, I don’t see much reason to change my position… The old are still neglected, the poor are still poor, the young are still dying before their time, and we’re not making many moves to make things right. There’s still plenty of darkness to carry off.”
Here is Johnny Cash singing Hurt , not long before he died in 2003, at the age of 71, four months after the death of his beloved second wife of thirty-five years, June Carter. He had suffered from chronic health problems for some years and his death was caused by complications of diabetes. It is an extraordinary video – please watch it if you wish. The song is seen as Cash’s epitaph. There he is, like Lear.
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