It was ten years ago today, 12th September, that Johnny Cash died.
Anyone who has got to know me in the last few years would have thought this must have been one of the worst days ever for me, but it wasn't. Weirdly it was news that made me wonder why there was so much fuss being made over a musician that I assumed had not recorded anything for years, and was of all things something to do with Country and Western. Like Neil Young who I wrote about last month, not at all sure why or how I decided to just not pay any attention to Johnny Cash, but there was one thing that changed my mind, and pretty much also my musical life.
One of the most powerful videos and songs I think I have ever seen, and often winning Best Ever awards still.
I can remember sitting in my lounge when I saw this on the TV, I had heard it on the radio, but it just seemed not to hit me. Seeing a very old man playing a piano, and the images of him as a younger man, suddenly my brain was pulling information from the depths of memory. The Man In Black, played gigs in prisons, Ring of Fire, drug addiction, all sorts of half remembered articles flooding back.
So I bought American IV, the "new" album including this track, and put it in the car at the start of a drive to Devon with the long suffering wife. As my collection started to grow one album at a time she referred to them as "the dead cowboy songs" and I think was assuming this was one of my passing fads.
The collection grew and grew. For a single artist I think he crossed into the person I had more music by than anyone else came last year, and is now well and truly the case as I have recently bought a box set of 63 albums!
The very odd thing is that I still don't get or enjoy a lot of other C&W music, and the other strange part is he is not actually a Country singer - he is a Gospel singer. The vast majority of his music and lyrics are hymns, gospel and prayers. The more I read about him, the constant seems to be his faith. All the bad and usually self inflicted issues in his life he always seemed to be completely at peace with regardless of when the interview was, 'Gods Will' a constant theme.
As I type this I am listening to an album called The Holy Land - Johnny and June in Israel, talking about where they are visiting in key moments of the gospels and songs linked to it. Had anyone told me 20 years ago I would be singing along to a song about Moses climbing a mountain I would have laughed for weeks I think.
There is nothing in anything he sings that makes me believe in any god, but there is something completely addictive about him, his voice, his story, his songs. I find it hard to explain to people how I can sit at home and listen to ten albums back to back and actually still want to listen to more - much as I guess anyone would have struggled with explaining that to me for most of my life.
Back to the Hurt video, his wife died after making it, he carried on recording for a short time and then joined her in death, and to close off their house where it was filmed burned down some years after. Something about that makes me smile for reasons I don't understand.
If you think Country and Gospel music is dull, get some Johnny Cash in your life, and tell me he wasn't the first punk underneath it all.