Op 8 maart 2003 kon je in het Amerikaanse vakblad Billboard lezen over ‘Hurt’, de nieuwste single van Johnny Cash, op 26 februari 1932 geboren in Kingsland (Arkansas). De opname was tot stand gekomen onder leiding van Rick Rubin. De song was geschreven door Trent Reznor van Nine Inch Nails.
 
“For Cash fans, this is a heavy listen – and it has little to do with Trent Reznor’s pained lyric. It’s striking in itself to hear Nine Inch Nails’ greatest moment flipped over and done acoustically – but this is one of the songs on ‘American IV: The Man Comes Around’ that reveals just how big a toll Cash’s age and worsening health have taken.
    Hearing his once-strong voice weak and a tad raspy – and with between-line breaths audible – against the building, piano-key pounding and steady acoustic strums makes for a heartbreaking listen. 
    Cash’s rendition of the song, done at this point in his life, speaks to the hurt that we all feel in coping with aging and in seeing our heroes do the same.
    Even though the song is a somewhat uncomfortable listen, it’s still pretty cool to know that Cash, despite his changing voice, remains our hero by refusing to give his age an inch in his life – even when the results are mixed”.
 
Het nummer verscheen op een bijzonder moment in het leven van de artiest. Cash had een zeer zwakke gezondheid. Het was onduidelijk hoe lang hij nog te leven had. 
 
 
459 1 Hurt

 
De video van ‘Hurt’
 
 
Mark Romanek slaagde er anno 2002 in een video van ‘Hurt’ te maken. In Mojo, mei 2003, schreef popjournalist Martin Aston: “The video for ‘Hurt’ might be the most powerful music video ever made. Romanek juxtaposes scenes of the frail 71-year-old at home in Hendersonville, Tennessee with archive shots of a younger, hearty Cash, jumping trains and prowling around with characteristic man-in-black swagger”.
    Naar eigen zeggen had Romanek de producer voortdurend benaderd om een clip met Cash te mogen maken. Na het beluisteren van ‘Hurt’, zette hij alles op alles. “I told Rubin I’d kill him if he didn’t let me make a video for it!”
    Romanek, die eerder gewerkt had met David Bowie, Michael en Janet Jackson, Madonna en Nine Inch Nails, kreeg eindelijk zijn zin. “He flew to Nashville, perused Cash and wife June Carter’s house for locations, then the nearby House Of Cash museum, which, closed to the public for years, had recently been affected by flood damage. ‘That’s when I got the idea that maybe we could be extremely candid about the state of John’s health. As candid as John has always been in his songs’”.
 
 
459 2 House of Cash

 
Romanek legde uit hoe de clip tot stand gekomen was: “We were shooting John sing and play guitar, and June came down from upstairs, to watch him perform. I glanced over, and saw her expression of sadness, pride and love. I was so moved, I suggested she appear in the video, and she agreed”.
    Producer Rick Rubin over het eindresultaat: “When Johnny Cash saw it, he was shocked, and concerned, at such a heavy piece. Then he saw it again with all his family, and they all said it was the most beautiful video they’d ever seen. They were all in tears, but in a good way. The support of his family made him feel good”.
 
 
Terugblik
 
 
Begin 2003 werd al teruggekeken op het leven de man die grote hits had gehad met zijn vertolkingen van ‘A Boy Named Sue’, ‘Ring of Fire’, ‘I walk the Line’ en niet te vergeten ‘Folsom Prison Blues’. Op 11 maart meldde NRC Handelsblad: “In september beginnen de opnamen van een film over het leven van Johnny Cash, ‘I walk the line’. Regisseur is James Mangold, Joaquin Phoenix speelt Johnny Cash, Reese Witherspoon zijn vrouw June Carter”.
 
 
Merle Haggard over Johnny Cash
 
 
459 3 Sylvie SimmonsSylvie Simmons
 
 
Eerder, in januari, publiceerde de vooraanstaande popjournaliste Sylvie Simmons een artikel over de vele ervaringen van Cash met hetgeen zich achter de tralies afspeelde. Vanaf 1957 trad Johnny regelmatig op in gevangenissen.
    Country-zanger Merle Haggard (1937-2016) zat zelf vast tijdens zo’n concert van de artiest. Sylvie liet Merle aan het woord. “What stood out about him when I saw him in 1958, more even than his music, was his demeanour. He was a bit cocky and a bit arrogant – his voice was shot because he’d been up too long the night before. He was supposed to be there to sing songs, but it seemed like it didn’t matter whether he was able to sing or not.
    He was just mesmerizing. It didn’t even matter that he was free because there was a connection there, an identification. This was somebody who was singing a song about your personal life”.
 
 
459 4 Merle Haggard en Johnny CashMerle Haggard en Johnny Cash
 
 
Volgens Haggard was de artiest dominant en overtuigend aanwezig. “Even the people there who weren’t fans of Johnny Cash – it was a mixture of people, all races – were fans by the end of that show. It was a variety show, with acts from blues bands to opera singers to these semi-strippers from San Francisco, but after all these years I look back and I don’t remember anything but Johnny Cash. Not even the strippers.
    I was watching Luther Perkins and Johnny Cash very, very closely. There was just this excitement”.
 
 
Drugs en Johnny Cash
 
 
Johnny had ook zelf regelmatig vastgezeten. Hij was een ervaringsdeskundige.
    Simmons: “From the end of the ’50s until ‘At Folsom Prison’ [1968], Cash was jailed seven times for some substance-related incident or other: redecorating hotels, smuggling drugs, trashing cars, arson, or conduct unbecoming to a man who had played the Grand Ole Opry”.
    Johnny Cash kon maar moeilijk van de ‘middelen’ afblijven. 
    “When he was 11 and broke a rib, wrestling, his father hitched the mules to the wagon and took him to hospital where they gave him morphine.
    ‘Boy’, thought Cash, ‘this is really something. I’ll have to have some more of that sometime’.
    Fourteen years later, while touring with Ferlin Husky and Faron Young, he also discovered amphetamines. ‘It increased my energy, sharpened my wit, banished my shyness, improved my timing, turned me on like electricity flowing into a light bulb’.
    Dexedrine helped with the road, the long distances, the gruelling schedule. Cash learned to wash them down with alcohol to take off the edge and throw in barbiturates to add valleys to the peaks”.
 
Het ging van kwaad tot erger.
    “By the mid-’60s, taking ‘up to 100 pills a day’, scrawny from speed, his voice sometimes shot, Cash epitomised, in Kris Kristofferson’s words, the ‘driven, self-destructive artist’.
    ‘I guess I was’, says Cash. ‘I don’t know what it was. It was just something burning inside of me that I couldn’t quench’.
    He crashed more cars than you can count on one hand, broke 20 bones – including fingers and jaw; not smart moves for a singer-guitar player.
    In 1965 alone Cash was arrested on the American side of the Mexican border with amphetamines hidden in his guitar, trashed June Carter’s Cadillac after a performance at the Opry which ended with him kicking out every one of its footlights, was arrested for accidentally starting a forest fire, and tried to drive a tractor over a cliff.
    He didn’t manage to kill himself, but he was very nearly murdered”.
 
 
Live-album in de gevangenis
 
 
Toen Johnny de kans kreeg om een album in de gevangenis op te nemen, liet hij die niet liggen. Dat gebeurde toen platenmaatschappij Columbia hem liet samenwerken met producer Bob Johnston, die eerder in de weer was geweest met Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel en Leonard Cohen.
    Johnston kreeg van hem te horen: “I’ve always wanted to record an album at a prison and nobody would let me for eight years, and I don’t guess you will either”.
    Zijn producer reageerde echter positief. Johnston: “I picked up the phone and called Folsom and San Quentin. I got through to Folsom first. I got the warden, Duffy, and I handed Johnny the telephone and left”.
 
Nog geen twee maanden later vond de opname plaats in een ontspanningsruimte van de gevangenis. Cash was niet alleen. Hij had de familie Carter, de Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, Marshall Grant en W.S. Holland meegenomen. Het was 13 januari 1968.
    Producer Bob Johnston: “The concert was down on a makeshift stage and we were recording up in the cafeteria. There were guards walking around up on the balcony with those dark glasses on, so you couldn’t see anything, and the guns were loaded. It was a maximum security prison”.
    De ter dood veroordeelden moesten in hun cel blijven. Die kregen geen toestemming om bij het concert aanwezig te zijn. Misschien wel voor hen zong Cash ‘25 Minutes To Go’, een song van Shel Silverstein. De anderen mochten niet te dichtbij komen.
    Als je op de getuigen afging moet het er spannend aan toegegaan zijn. Het begon al met met de aankondiging. De vaste presentator wilde het woord voeren en netjes beginnen met ‘Gentlemen, we’ve got Mr Johnny Cash and all’.
    Daar was geen sprake van. Johnny vond het ‘bullshit’. Na een stevige woordenwisseling won hij het pleit. Afgesproken werd dat hij zonder introductie in stilte het ‘podium’ op zou stappen en zijn optreden zou beginnen met ‘Hello, I’m Johnny Cash’.
    Maybelle Carter, zijn schoonmoeder, werd het allemaal te veel. Na het zingen van haar liedjes wilde ze zo snel mogelijk weer weg.
 
 
459 5 Folsom Prisonaankondiging
 
 
Ook voor de producer was het een prestige-project geweest kon je in 2003 lezen. Clive Davis, directeur van de platenmaatschappij, was het er niet mee eens geweest om zo’n album te maken. Volgens hem zou het slecht geweest zijn voor het imago van de artiest. Davis dreigde Johnston zelfs met ontslag.
     Maar ‘Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison’ werd juist een van de hoogtepunten uit de loopbaan van de zanger. Een jaar later maakte hij dan ook nog een live-album in San Quentin, met Bob Johnston opnieuw als producer.
    Als je in 2003 terugkeek op de carrière van Johnny Cash kwam je automatisch uit bij die platen.
 
 
June Carter
 
 
June Carter, dochter van Maybelle en in maart 1968 in het huwelijk getreden met Cash, was eveneens van de partij in Folsom Prison. Samen met haar echtgenoot was ze op het album te horen in ‘Jackson’ en ‘Give My Love to Rose’.
    June was in 2002 nog te zien in de video van ‘Hurt’. Maar het jaar erop kon die zelfde Sylvie Simmons op haar leven terugkijken. In Mojo publiceerde ze een artikel met als titel ‘June Carter Cash, 1929-2003. A country matriarch says goodbye’.
    Simmons begon met naar haar echtgenoot te verwijzen. “‘Life is rich when I can come home – and curl up to June Carter’, wrote Johnny Cash in his last album’s liner notes. Four decades after joining his roadshow, June still performed with Cash, whenever his failing health allowed, and nursed him when it didn’t.
    On May 7, she was the one in hospital, for a heart operation. May 15, a month before her 74th birthday and with Cash beside her, she died”.
 
 
459 6 June Carter en Johnny CashJune Carter en Johnny Cash in de video van ‘Hurt’
 
 
Simmons over het leven van June Carter: “I saw her last year in Virginia, where she was born, playing autoharp and singing in that strong, fine voice. On-stage with her at the Carter Fold were her daughter Carlene and granddaughter Tiffany [beiden uit een eerder huwelijk]. The dynasty was founded by June’s mother Maybelle in 1927 when she played guitar and sang with A.P. and Sara on the first Carter Family record in Bristol, Tennessee. June was born two years later, then Anita.
    The girls joined the Family in 1939 for their second radio residency, and continued as the Carter Sisters in the ’40s. An acting talent too – Elia Kazan encouraged her to join the Actors Workshop in New York. James Dean was her friend. So was Elvis Presley and Hank Williams, whom she tried to wean off addiction.
    She had more success in this area with Cash. When they met at the Opry in 1956, they ‘fell madly in love’. Although already married. June wrote ‘Ring Of Fire’ for him and they wed in ’68, a year after their first duo hit, ‘Jackson’”.
 
 
VMA Awards
 
 
Johnny Cash was dat jaar niet aanwezig bij de bekendmaking van de beste video’s. Zijn gezondheid liet het niet toe, meldde Billboard op 28 augustus. “Johnny Cash’s plans to attend the MTV Video Music Awards in New York were scuttled by his hospitalization in Nashville for an unspecified stomach ailment. He was in stable condition today. ‘He’s being held for observation and treatment. We expect to release him within a few days’, said a Baptist Hospital spokesperson”.
    Volgens zijn manager, Lou Robin, was de artiest echter nog aan het werk. “He said the artist plans to go to Los Angeles next week to record a new album, which, as previously reported, will be produced by Rick Rubin”. 
    De video van ‘Hurt’ was genomineerd voor maar liefst zes VMA Awards, inclusief die voor de beste video van het jaar. Volgens Robin zou Johnny de tv-uitzending vanuit zijn ziekbed volgen. Wellicht tot zijn teleurstelling won Cash slechts in één categorie, ‘best cinematography’.  
    Het eindresultaat voor ‘Hurt’ viel tegen. de clip van ‘Work It’ (Missy Elliott) werd als beste uitgeroepen. Johnny Cash hoorde niet bij de grote winnaars. Dat waren Beyoncé (Crazy In Love), Justin Timberlake (Cry Me A River) en Coldplay (The Scientist). 
 
 
12 september 2003
 
 
Van de plannen die Johnny Cash mogelijk nog had, kwam weinig terecht. Op 12 september 2003 stierf de artiest. In NRC Handelsblad schreef Hester Carvalho die zelfde dag. “Vier maanden na zijn vrouw June Carter is country-zanger Johnny Cash overleden, in een ziekenhuis in Nashville, Tennessee. Volgens zijn dochter Roseanna was hij tot enkele weken geleden nog iedere dag in de studio. Daar deed hij datgene waarmee hij al enkele jaren de dood op afstand hield: liedjes maken en spelen”.
  Carvalho keek terug op het leven van de artiest:
  “ Met zijn beperkte register van bas-bariton wist Cash een groot effect te bereiken, net als met de muziek, die ook altijd simpel was en zonder vertoon. Weinig popmuzikanten hebben zo’n groot en gevarieerd publiek bereikt als Johnny Cash. Hij speelde country & western. Hij was van invloed op de carrières van andere artiesten, van Bob Dylan tot Nick Cave.
   Iedereen heeft wel een eigen favoriet Cash-liedje, van ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ tot ‘I Walk The Line’, ‘Ring of Fire’ of ‘Boy named Sue’. Cash heeft altijd geweigerd zich tot één genre te beperken. Daarom brak hij eind jaren vijftig met zijn ‘ontdekker’ Sam Phillips: voor zijn Sun Records mocht hij geen gospel-plaat opnemen. Hij stapte over naar Columbia, nadat hij bij Sun zijn eerste hits had, als ‘Cry Cry Cry’ en ‘I Walk The Line’.
   Cash had toen al een historische bijdrage geleverd aan de rock ’n’ roll: het was een van Cash’ verhalen dat Carl Perkins inspireerde tot het liedje ‘Blue Suede Shoes’. Toen Cash begin jaren vijftig in Duitsland diende, mochten de militairen op zaterdagavond uit dansen. Een maat had een keer zijn nieuwe suède schoenen aan. Hij waarschuwde zijn vrienden met de woorden: ‘You can do anything, but lay off of my blue suede shoes’. Het werd een van de meest gecoverde liedjes ooit”.
 
 
459 7 Rick Rubin Johnny CashRick Rubin en Johnny Cash
 
 
Over die laatste periode schreef Carvalho: “Begin jaren negentig begon hij te werken aan de serie American Recordings, met producer Rick Rubin, die hem ingetogen versies van andermans liedjes en eigen nummers liet spelen. Het werd ‘grote stads country’ waarin ook de liefhebber van Nirvana of Nick Cave zich kon herkennen. Zo bereikte Cash een nieuw jong publiek. Inmiddels zijn er vier delen verschenen van de serie American Recordings, afgelopen jaar nog ‘The man comes around’.
   Op die laatste cd was het naderende einde te beluisteren. Niet alleen door de ironische titels van de liedjes (‘The man comes around’‘We’ll meet again’), maar ook in zijn stem die soms klonk als het geritsel van dode bladeren. Hij werkte nog tot vorige week in een blokhut achter zijn huis, alleen of met anderen, aan steeds nieuwe liedjes.
   In zijn opnamen tekende zich steeds sterker zijn grootste kwaliteit af: zijn eerlijkheid. Over zichzelf en zijn tekortkomingen, over zijn vertrouwen in God en tegelijk ook de behoefte aan drugs. Daarom kon hij in al die liedjes met zo weinig instrumenten toe; zijn kracht lag in de waarheid die je achter zijn woorden vermoedde. Neem bijvoorbeeld het oude ‘I walk the line’, over de lijn tussen goed en kwaad. Bij Cash had je geen twijfel dat hij niet alleen óp de lijn, maar ook naast de lijn liep. En wel aan beide kanten”.
   Die zelfde maand, september 2003, werd Johnny Cash postuum in Nashville geëerd, kon je in het NRC lezen. “Cash kreeg de awards voor ‘artiest van het jaar’, voor de song van het jaar [nu wel voor ‘Hurt’] en voor het album van het jaar (‘American IV: The Man Comes Around’)”. 
 
 
Rick Rubin over Johnny Cash
 
 
Voor het einde van het jaar legde elke zichzelf respecterend popjournalist wel vast hoe bijzonder Johnny Cash was geweest. David Fricke van het blad Rolling Stone liet op 23 september Rick Rubin aan het woord, de man die ‘Hurt’ had aangedragen.
   Op 11 september, de dag vóór zijn overlijden, had Rubin nog met hem gesproken. “‘He was real excited’, recalls producer Rick Rubin, describing his last phone conversation with Johnny Cash. They talked, Rubin says, about the imminent completion of ‘Unearthed’, a boxed set of previously unissued recordings from the sessions for the four, acclaimed albums they had made together since 1994: ‘American Recordings’, ‘Unchained’, ‘American III: Solitary Man’, and last year’s ‘American IV: The Man Comes Around’.
   I said, ‘We finished all the mixes, and we’re sending them to you this weekend, so you can hear them all’”.
 
De redacteur wilde weten hoe die unieke samenwerking tot stand gekomen was. “When did you first meet him?”, vroeg hij.
    “In 1992. I went to see him perform, got to meet him after the show backstage. And we talked. I can’t really remember anything about it. But I felt like there was a strong connection. The connection we made didn’t seem to come from the words we spoke. It felt like we could have sat together silently for the same amount of time, and the exchange would have been the same – or maybe better”.
    Was Rubin onder de indruk van zijn persoonlijkheid en zijn stem?
    Rubin: “It’s odd: With some people, I’ve had that. For some reason, I didn’t feel that with him. It was an immediate feeling of safety. There was no sense of intimidation, right from the time we met”.
 
Wat kon hij als producer nog toevoegen aan alles wat Johnny Cash bij Sun Records, later Columbia, allemaal gedaan had? “What do you feel he needed from you?”, die vraag kreeg hij voorgelegd.
    Het antwoord was niet eenvoudig. “I don’t know the answer to that. But I will tell you something that someone told me at the funeral. A friend of his – someone I didn’t know but who came up and talked to me – said that he just wanted to let me know how much Johnny cared about me.
    Johnny told him, ‘Rick saw something in me that I didn’t know was there anymore. Because of that, when he saw that in me, when the work we did was accepted, it made me trust him.
    He was not an ego-driven person. He did not come from a place of confidence. For all of his success, he was somewhat insecure. When we were working on the first album, we tried a lot of experiments, before we found out we were going to do the acoustic thing. We recorded with bands, did all kinds of thing, to find out what this new sound was going to be. Eventually, we went back to the acoustic recordings that he did in my living room. That’s where the songs got over in the best way”.
 
 
459 8 Viper Room 3 december 1993 Johnny Cash June Carter Johnny DeppJohnny Cash, June Carter, Johnny Depp (eigenaar Viper Room), 3 december 1993
 
 
Rubin had Johnny Cash gevraagd om voor publiek uit te proberen hoe dat klonk. “After a lot of experimentation, I asked him if he would get up at a club and do a set of acoustic material. I felt it would have impact on the acoustic recording we were doing. We set up a show at the Viper Room [in Los Angeles]. It was an incredible show. And I remember, he was terrified before going on. This was a guy who did 200 shows a year for forty years. He’d played prisons. And the idea of going up by himself, with a guitar and singing songs, absolutely terrified him. I remember watching him, how nervous he was through the first song.
    Then everyone accepted him, and he calmed down a bit. By the end of the second song, he was fine”.
    Cash was toch onzeker gebleven. “He was not overly confident. I think that is part of why people connect with him. He was humble, someone who fought to be ego-less. I’m sure he wasn’t always. But it was something he always worked on”.
 
Het tweetal haalde in Rolling Stone herinneringen op aan Johnny Cash. Bijvoorbeeld over het album waar ze mee bezig waren, het vijfde in de serie American Recordings.
   Rubin: “It was a new kind of gospel album for him to do. It was heavy, old blues-type things – ‘No Grave’s Gonna Hold My Body Down’, ‘John the Revelator’ - but also some gospel songs that he’d grown up singing but had never recorded”.
   Wellicht zou er zelfs een zesde deel komen. “There may be a sixth disc, because I just found a whole other batch of tapes. It came as a surprise at the last minute - songs we had worked on four, five months ago, when we started the new project. We recorded about fifty songs, working towards the next album. But along the way, we recorded a lot of other stuff. In my last conversations with Johnny, the songs that we continued picking and working on were not gospel songs”.
 
De redacteur vroeg zich af hoe de opnamen van de American Recordings tot stand gekomen waren. Johnny Cash was immers niet zo maar iemand.
   Fricke: “Were you surprised by the fearlessness with which he made these records with you? This was a man who had been at the birth of everything, at Sun Records in the 1950s, and had made some of the best and most important country albums of the 1960s and 1970s. He had nothing left to prove to anyone”.
   Volgens Rubin was Cash op de kwaliteit van de liedjes gevallen. “There were loads of songs that I would suggest that he would not want to do. I would send him a CD of fifteen or twenty songs, and he would say, ‘Well, I like these three or four’. Or, in some cases, ‘I like none of them’. But he would really listen to the lyrics. Some songs were a harder sell than others, based on the way they were originally recorded”.
   Rubin gaf een voorbeeld: “When I first played him the Soundgarden version of ‘Rusty Cage’, he looked at me like I was crazy: ‘You don’t think I’m going to do that?’
    I said, ‘Listen to the song’”.
    Het kostte hem soms moeite om Johnny Cash te overtuigen, ook in het geval van ‘Rusty Cage’. “It was a hard one to get past him. It’s a heavy metal record; Chris Cornell is screaming. He didn’t know what to make of it. I did a demo of how I imagined it would be if we did it together, how his version would go. When I played him that and showed him the lyrics, he loved it: ‘I’ll do this one’”.
 
Fricke vroeg zich af waarom Johnny Cash in de laatste periode van zijn aardse bestaan überhaupt dat soort liedjes wilde zingen. “It’s fascinating to look at the songs he covered on the American albums, and the people who wrote them: Reznor, Soundgarden, Beck, Nick Cave. With his intense life experiences with drugs, poverty, despair and ultimately resurrection, Johnny Cash had every right to look at these younger songwriters and say, ‘What the hell do these kids know about life?’”
    Rubin had een andere visie dan de popjournalist. “He wasn’t like that. He looked at everyone and everything equally. He liked what he liked, and he didn’t like what he didn’t like. It didn’t have anything to do with who you were or what experience you had or what your track record was. He looked at these songs as art, judged them as art. And he decided, ‘This is good art, and it’s good art that fits me’. He was like that in every way in his life. It’s not unique to his music. He didn’t see barriers or classifications between people. He just loved people”.
 
Natuurlijk keken ze terug op ‘The Man Comes Around’, deel vier in de serie, het album dat enkele maanden eerder verschenen was. Op dat album, met behalve ‘Hurt’ onder meer ‘Desperado’ (Eagles), ‘I’m so lonesome I could cry’ (Hank Williams), ‘In My Life’ (Lennon, McCartney), ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ (Roberta Flack), ‘Bridge Over Trouble Water’ (Paul Simon), ‘Danny Boy’, ‘Streets of Laredo’ en ‘Big Iron (Marty Robbins). Het album eindigde met ‘We’ll Meet Again’.
    Rubin vergeleek het met ‘Unchained’, deel twee in de serie. “There is a poignant fragility to his singing, compared to the deep strength in his voice a few years earlier, on ‘Unchained’. It was difficult. But I’ll tell you the difference between those two records. ‘Unchained’ was hard to make, because that was right when he got sick. He was struggling – he didn’t know why, and it was new. He’d have to lay down. He wasn’t his normal self. His body was stronger, but his psyche was more confused, because he didn’t know what was hitting him.
    On the last album, his body was weaker, but his psyche was stronger. He knew what was going on; he was more in control”.
 
Fricke vroeg zich af in hoeverre Cash besefte dat het wel eens zijn laatste plaat zou kunnen zijn. En hij legde uit: “The record is drenched in death, references to reckoning and mortality: the opening reading from the Book of Revelation; songs like ‘Streets of Laredo’ and ‘We’ll Meet Again’”.
    Over dat onderwerp werd niet gepraat, volgens de producer. “It's not the kind of thing we would talk about. He wrote something interesting for the liner notes of the third album: that while he was working on it, ‘I thought it would be my last’. Then the fact that we made the fourth album – something shifted. He realized, ‘We’re just going to keep going’.
    We talked about that all the time. I can remember, not long ago, telling him, ‘There should be ten volumes in this American series, and then we’ll figure out what we want to do after that’.
    On the other hand, he wanted ‘We’ll Meet Again’ to be the last song on the record. He had all of the people around - his staff in Nashville, the people who worked on the record and in his home – sing along on ‘We’ll Meet Again’.
    When we came to L.A. to finish the record, he said to me, ‘You have to sing on it’. All of the guitar players in L.A. who were on the album: ‘You guys have to sing on it too. I want everybody on this’. He was adamant about it”.
 
 
495 9 Trent Reznor 1994Trent Reznor, componist van ‘Hurt’ (1994)
 
 
Maar ‘Hurt’ zong Johnny Cash in zijn eentje. Hoe was dat gegaan? “How did you sell him on the Nine Inch Nails song ‘Hurt’? Trent Reznor, as a singer and songwriter, is so wrapped up in himself, in his own agony. Yet Johnny hijacked the song for himself, made it truly his own”.
    Rick Rubin legde het uit: “He just heard the words. They resonated with him. I remember when I sent it to him. I said, ‘I really feel like this one has the potential to be special’. So he may have given it a stronger chance, than if it was one of twenty songs on a CD. I don’t know if he would have picked it, but I asked him to listen closely and pay attention to the words. I imagined him singing it and knew how powerful it could be”.
 
En zo was ‘Hurt’ tot stand gekomen. Zijn vertolking van die song bezorgde Johnny Cash roem tot tenminste in onze dagen. In de meest recente top 2000 vinden we de artiest met maar liefst acht titels: ‘One’ (1726), ‘A Thing Called Love’ (1358), ‘San Quentin’ (1335), ‘A Boy Named Sue’ (620), ‘Folsome Prison Blues’ (485), ‘I Walk The Line’ (424), ‘Ring Of Fire’ (267). 
    ‘Hurt’ staat sinds 2009 genoteerd, afgelopen jaar op 41.
 
 
Harry Knipschild
1 april 2022   
 
Clips
 
* Johnny Cash, San Quentin, 1969
* Nine Inch Nails, Hurt, 1995
* Johnny Cash, Viper Room
* Johnny Cash, Hurt, 2003
* Over de video 'Hurt', 2005
 
Literatuur
Sylvie Simmons, ‘Johnny Cash – Outta My Way’, Mojo, januari 2003
‘Johnny Cash, Hurt’, Billboard, 8 maart 2003
‘Johnny Cash’, NRC, 11 maart 2003
Martin Aston, ‘Johnny Cash’s Video Adieu’, Mojo, mei 2003
Sylvie Simmons, ‘June Carter Cash, 1929-2003. A country matriarch says goodbye’, Mojo, juli 2003
‘Cash Hospitalized, Can’t Attend VMAs’, Billboard, 28 augustus 2003
Hester Carvalho, ‘Johnny Cash – simpel en eerlijk’, NRC, 12 september 2003
‘Johnny Cash veelvuldig geëerd in Nashville’, NRC, 22 september 2022
David Fricke, ‘Rick Rubin on Cash’s Legacy – ‘American’ producer looks inside the Man in Black’s new work’, Rolling Stone, 23 september 2003