Johnny Cash Born: February 26,1932-Died: September 12,2003 Part Five
Cash’s original grave (top) and the Cash/Carter memorial
In 1997, Cash was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease Shy–Drager syndrome, a form of multiple system atrophy; according to biographer Robert Hilburn, the disease was originally misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, and Cash even announced to a concert audience that he had Parkinson’s during a show in Flint, Michigan, on October 25, 1997, after he nearly collapsed on stage; soon after his diagnosis was changed to Shy–Drager and Cash was told he had approximately 18 months to live. The diagnosis was later again altered to autonomic neuropathy associated with diabetes. The illness forced Cash to curtail his touring. He was hospitalized in 1998 with severe pneumonia, which damaged his lungs.
During the last stage of his career, Cash released the albums American III: Solitary Man (2000) and American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002). American IV included cover songs by several late 20th-century rock artists, notably “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails and “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails commented that he was initially skeptical about Cash’s plan to cover “Hurt”, but was later impressed and moved by the rendition. The video for “Hurt” received critical and popular acclaim.
June Carter Cash died on May 15, 2003, at the age of 73. June had told Cash to keep working, so he continued to record, completing 60 more songs in the last four months of his life, and even performed a couple of surprise shows at the Carter Family Fold outside Bristol, Virginia. At the July 5, 2003, concert (his last public performance), before singing “Ring of Fire”, Cash read a statement about his late wife that he had written shortly before taking the stage:
The spirit of June Carter overshadows me tonight with the love she had for me and the love I have for her. We connect somewhere between here and Heaven. She came down for a short visit, I guess, from Heaven to visit with me tonight to give me courage and inspiration like she always has.
Cash continued to record until shortly before his death. His final recordings were made on August 21, 2003, and consisted of “Like the 309”, which appeared on American V: A Hundred Highways in 2006, and the final song he completed, “Engine 143”, which was recorded for his son John Carter Cash for a planned Carter Family tribute album.
While hospitalized at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Cash died of complications from diabetes at approximately 2:00 a.m. CT on September 12, 2003, aged 71—less than four months after his wife. It was suggested that Johnny’s health worsened due to a broken heart over June’s death. He was buried next to his wife in Hendersonville Memory Gardens near his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
In June 2005, Cash’s lakeside home on Caudill Drive in Hendersonville was put up for sale by his estate. In January 2006, the house was sold to Bee Gees vocalist Barry Gibb and wife Linda, and titled to their Florida limited liability company for $2.3 million. The listing agent was Cash’s younger brother, Tommy. On April 10, 2007, during a major restoration of the property by the new owner, Cash’s home was accidentally destroyed in a spontaneous combustion-ignited fire caused by workers using linseed oil products.
One of Cash’s final collaborations with producer Rick Rubin, American V: A Hundred Highways, was released posthumously on July 4, 2006. The album debuted in the No.1 position on the Billboard Top 200 album chart for the week ending July 22, 2006. On February 23, 2010, three days before what would have been Cash’s 78th birthday, the Cash Family, Rick Rubin, and Lost Highway Records released his second posthumous record, titled American VI: Ain’t No Grave.
Cash was raised by his parents in the Southern Baptist denomination of Christianity. He was baptized in 1944 in the Tyronza River as a member of the Central Baptist Church of Dyess, Arkansas.
A troubled but devout Christian, Cash has been characterized as a “lens through which to view American contradictions and challenges.” A biblical scholar, he penned a Christian novel, Man in White, and in the introduction Cash writes about a reporter who, interested in Cash’s religious beliefs, questions whether the book is written from a Baptist, Catholic, or Jewish perspective. Cash denies an answer to the book’s view and his own, and replies, “I’m a Christian. Don’t put me in another box.” He made a spoken word recording of the entire New King James Version of the New Testament. Cash declared he was “the biggest sinner of them all”, and viewed himself overall as a complicated and contradictory man. Accordingly, Cash is said to have “contained multitudes,” and has been deemed “the philosopher-prince of American country music.”
Cash is credited with having converted actor and singer John Schneider to Christianity.
The clothes and guitar of Johnny Cash on exhibit in the Artist Gallery of the Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix
Cash’s daughter Rosanne (by first wife Vivian Liberto) and his son John Carter Cash (by June Carter Cash) are notable musicians in their own right.
Cash nurtured and defended artists (such as Bob Dylan) on the fringes of what was acceptable in country music even while serving as the country music establishment’s most visible symbol. At an all-star concert which aired in 1999 on TNT, a diverse group of artists paid him tribute, including Dylan, Chris Isaak, Wyclef Jean, Norah Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Dom DeLuise, and U2. Cash himself appeared at the end and performed for the first time in more than a year. Two tribute albums were released shortly before his death; Kindred Spirits contains works from established artists, while Dressed in Black contains works from many lesser-known musicians. In total, he wrote over 1,000 songs and released dozens of albums. A box set titled Unearthed was issued posthumously. It included four CDs of unreleased material recorded with Rubin as well as a Best of Cash on American retrospective CD. The set also includes a 104-page book that discusses each track and features one of Cash’s final interviews.
In recognition of his lifelong support of SOS Children’s Villages, his family invited friends and fans to donate to the Johnny Cash Memorial Fund in his memory. He had a personal link with the SOS village in Diessen, at the Ammersee Lake in Southern Germany, near where he was stationed as a GI, and with the SOS village in Barrett Town, by Montego Bay, near his holiday home in Jamaica.
In 1999, Cash received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Cash No. 31 on their “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” list and No. 21 on their “100 Greatest Singers” list in 2010. In 2012 Rolling Stone ranked Cash’s 1968 live album At Folsom Prison and 1994 studio album American Recordings at No. 88 and No. 366 in its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
The main street in Hendersonville, Tennessee, Highway 31E, is known as “Johnny Cash Parkway.”
The Johnny Cash Museum, located in one of Cash’s properties in Hendersonville until 2006, dubbed the House of Cash, was sold based on Cash’s will. Prior to this, having been closed for a number of years, the museum had been featured in Cash’s music video for “Hurt.” The house subsequently burned down during the renovation by the new owner. A new museum, founded by Shannon and Bill Miller, opened April 26, 2013, in downtown Nashville.
On November 2–4, 2007, the Johnny Cash Flower Pickin’ Festival was held in Starkville, Mississippi, where Cash had been arrested more than 40 years earlier and held overnight at the city jail on May 11, 1965. The incident inspired Cash to write the song “Starkville City Jail”. The festival, where he was offered a symbolic posthumous pardon, honored Cash’s life and music and was expected to become an annual event.
JC Unit One, Johnny Cash’s private tour bus from 1980 until 2003, was put on exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2007. The museum offers public tours of the bus on a seasonal basis (it is stored during the winter months and not exhibited during those times).
A limited-edition Forever stamp honoring Cash went on sale June 5, 2013. The stamp features a promotional picture of Cash taken around the 1963 release of “Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash. WWE Superstar The Undertaker used Cash’s version of “Ain’t No Grave” at WrestleMania XXVII as his entrance theme.
On October 14, 2014, The City of Folsom unveiled Phase 1 of the Johnny Cash Trail to the public with a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Roseanne Cash. Along the trail, eight larger-than-life public art pieces will tell the story of Johnny Cash, his connection to Folsom Prison, and his epic musical career. The Johnny Cash Trail features art selected by a committee that included Cindy Cash, a 2-acre (0.81 ha) Legacy Park, and over 3 miles (4.8 km) of multi-use Class-I bike trail. The artists responsible for the sculptures are Sacramento-based Romo Studios, LLC and the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt Amrany, from Illinois.
In 2015, a new species of black tarantula was identified near Folsom Prison and named Aphonopelma johnnycashi in his honor.
In 2016, the Nashville Sounds minor league baseball team added the “Country Legends Race” to its between-innings entertainment. At the middle of the fifth inning, people in oversized foam caricature costumes depicting Cash, as well as George Jones and Reba McEntire, race around the warning track at First Tennessee Park from center field to the home plate side of the first base dugout.