Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon (2022) Movie Script

We're rolling.
Today is Sunday morning.
Okay, I'm gonna have
to think about it,
see what I can think of to say
that hasn't been said before.
I sing because I'm happy.
I sing because I'm free.
His eye is on the sparrow
and I know He watches me.
I guess probably the lessons of
life is what brings humility,
and that's the lessons
of pain and suffering.
In that cave in Chattanooga,
I was as far away from God
that I had ever been,
could ever be.
One of the truly
great names in music,
a stylist, a legend
in his own time,
Mr. Johnny Cash.
Hello. Well, I'm Johnny Cash.
I don't know
what the Seven Deadly Sins are,
but I've been guilty
of all of 'em.
And I got so...
strung out on the amphetamines
that, uh...
that nothing
really mattered anymore.
There's no lonelier place
on Earth for a man to be
than separated from God.
I went into this cave,
and kept walkin', and crawlin', and
climbin' 'til my light had run out.
Every fiber of my being
totally exhausted.
And I lay there
in the darkness...
the end of the line.
I lay there to die...
Johnny Cash was my hero.
The world called him "Johnny."
June called him "John."
His mama and daddy
called him "J.R."
And that's who he was
to me, J.R.
Some viewed him as a rebel.
To others, he was a saint.
And that's the story here.
But to truly know the man,
we need to go back
to the beginning.
Arkansas was
the end of the world--
rural, untamed, empty.
This is where people came
at the end of the line.
This was their final ground.
My father was born in 1932,
down in south central Arkansas.
He came from a land
where people were tough
and life was hard.
Walking back in this home...
is so bittersweet for me.
There was such love
in this house,
and tears,
and hard work.
Remembering is, uh...
sweet and it's
very heartbreaking.
Very emotional for me.
They were given the house,
and the land, and a mule,
and 40 acres to farm.
Arkansas summers
were brutal.
There was not only
no air conditioning,
there was no electricity,
there was no running water.
And so this was the lot
that the Cash family was
in the middle of,
throughout the Depression,
and after.
Life on the cotton farm
was hard, hard work.
We would pick cotton
with long canvas cotton sacks,
day by day, exhaustion at night.
Every member
of the Cash family worked,
including Mother Carrie.
Old or young,
the family was often
out there ten hours a day
working the cotton fields,
day after day after day.
And we'd sing all day
to pass the time away.
Before we knew it,
the day'd be over.
And then
we'd come home at night,
and my mother would sing
gospel music around the piano.
Johnny would lead
and we'd all join in.
We went to bed, get up the next
day and do it all over again.
Through that all,
singing the songs
of his mother's hymnal
with his family in those fields,
my father fell in love
with music.
The Biblesays,
"Train up a child in the way
that they should go,
and when they're old,
they'll not depart from it."
That doesn't mean that we won't
veer off the path at times,
or make some bad decisions,
but it means, there's a spiritual
foundation in our life.
Carrie Cash laid that foundation
in the life of Johnny Cash.
And those were the seeds
his mother sowed into his life.
We'd lay on Mama's
linoleum floor.
Jack would read The Bible,
and Johnny would write
songs and sing.
The story goes that
he would lay in bed at night
and listen to the radio.
Music was
the young boy's escape.
J.R. was a dreamer.
And he was artful.
My father always told me
I was wasting my time
listening to them ol' records
on the radio.
I said, "But it sounds good.
I like it."
He said, "It's gonna keep you
from making a living.
You'll never do any good
so long as you got
that music on your mind."
Family patriarch
Ray Cash
was the portrait of a hard-hit,
struggling farming man.
As with so many artful kids,
the relationship that J.R. shared
with his father, Ray Cash,
was difficult,
to say the least.
He had to live up to what his
father's expectations were.
His father would
believe in him, sometimes,
and then he would fall short.
And I think
when you have a father
who is not communicative,
and is not embracing,
and is not affirming,
it affects you.
It's strange that my dad
never hit me a lick.
On the other hand,
he never hugged us.
He never, ever came close to
even telling us he loved us.
Ray would not give him
any affirmation or affection.
And so when Ray would sink
into the oblivion that he would,
it would be J.R.'s brother,
Jack, who stepped up.
Jack was my best friend,
and my big buddy,
my protector, my mentor.
I really admired him.
They were inseparable.
Went swimming together.
They'd fish together.
They'd work hard together.
Him and Johnny
would get into scuffles
and then they'd hug
each other. True brothers.
It was a friendship.
It was a kinship.
But my dad aspired
to be like him.
Jack was
the Golden Child of Dyess
that everyone aspired to be.
He would go to school.
After school he would stay
and pick up a few cents
working odd jobs
to help pay the bills.
He was kind. He was gentle.
He read his Bible every day
and was very godly.
He'd already told us that he'd
been "called to preach," you know?
It was that faith that Jack had
that my father looked up to.
Jack, he'd love
to hear me sing.
He told me that I was supposed
to do that with my life.
Johnny said, "I'm gonna sing.
I know I'm gonna sing."
And Jack said,
"I know I'm gonna be a pastor."
Okay, so let's talk
about Jack's accident.
It was a Saturday
morning in 1944.
Johnny and Jack woke up
in their shared bed,
like they did
every other morning,
not knowing that this
would be their last.
Jack worked part-time
after school and on weekends
at a local wood mill,
cutting fence posts.
He happily volunteered
to make a few cents
to help pay the family bills.
He said, "Mama, I have a feeling
I shouldn't go today."
And Mama said, "Well, don't go.
Go fishing with J.R."
My father was begging Jack to
stay with him and to go fishing.
"Please stay with me.
Go fishing."
And he said, "No, I'm gonna go make
$3. We need it for the groceries."
So he told Johnny,
"I'll meet you at the blue hold
and we'll fish
when I get through."
And so they both
went their separate ways
and Jack went to the sawmill.
And he was sawing
some fence posts...
and as he pushed the fence post,
it jerked him into the saw.
Here comes my father
in a car with a preacher.
Daddy took
a bloody brown sack,
he pulled Jack's clothes
out of that bag,
and showed me where the table
saw had cut him
from his ribs down
all through his stomach.
And that was the first time
I ever saw my dad cry.
He was cut
from his neck to his groin.
And survived,
even though it tore him open
very badly.
And Johnny was sitting at his
bedside, holding his hand,
and he looked at Daddy,
and he said,
"Daddy, will you meet me
in Heaven?"
Daddy dropped down on his knees
and gave his heart to the Lord,
and so did the doctor.
As Jack lay
in his hospital bed,
he had clear visions
of the other side.
He said, "Mama,
do you hear the angels?
Do you hear them singing?"
And Miss Carrie Cash said,
"No, son, I don't hear them."
He said,
"They are so beautiful.
Heaven is so beautiful."
Jack called me "Janna."
He said, "Janna, tell me bye."
And I was scared.
And I said, "No, I don't want you
to go anywhere."
I wish I had.
But I couldn't.
And that's when he left us.
He went to Heaven.
My father lost
his best friend that day.
Having experienced the loss of a son
in a tragic accident,
I can understand
the devastating grief
that comes at you
like a tidal wave.
When you lose someone
and they die unexpectedly,
it impacts your life
in such a significant way,
you can actually measure
your life from before and after
that traumatic event happened.
Jack was buried
on a Sunday.
The next day,
the entire family
was back out in the fields,
picking cotton.
We didn't take days off.
You just didn't have
time to grieve.
My mother would work behind us,
and I'd look back
and she'd be down on her knees,
weeping, saying, "Why? Why?"
On her worst day,
in the mud, on her knees,
after burying her son.
And we'd go help her up
and try to console her.
And Carrie said,
"I'll get up when God
tells me to get up."
That is what J.R.
took with him, as he grew up.
When Jack died,
there was an enormous void.
And J.R. seemed
more determined than ever
to do something important
with his life,
almost in tribute to his hero,
his brother, Jack.
When times were tough,
Johnny knew what his roots were.
He started out wanting to be
a gospel singer.
I was standing
here with Mama,
and Johnny was standing
right out there,
by that iron hand pump.
And all of a sudden,
his voice lowered.
And she said, "What is that?"
I said, "That's J.R."
And she called him in,
and she asked,
"Was that you singing?"
And he said, "Yes, Mama."
He said, "I'm gonna sing."
And I saw Mama put her hand
on Johnny and she said,
"You have a calling of God."
And so Mama took Johnny
to a voice teacher,
and she listened very intently.
And she said,
"Well, you can leave now."
And Johnny said,
"You mean I'm no good?"
And the voice teacher said,
"You have a gift from God
that I wouldn't dare touch."
The biggest goal of a dreamer
from Dyess, Arkansas
was to get out.
And so J.R. ended up doing
what many young men from the South
and elsewhere did.
I joined the Air Force.
College was another hope
that was almost unattainable
for a cotton farm boy.
He was
a Morse Code interceptor,
and would take in the Morse Code
from the enemy
and make it into English,
so our forces
could find out what to do.
I think
it's during that three years
that I really began
seriously thinking
about a career
in the music business,
'cause it's really
all I lived for.
was briefly stationed
in San Antonio, Texas.
And it's there he fell deeply
and totally in love
with a pretty girl
named Vivian Liberto.
They spent
a couple of weeks dating
and then the next three years, while
he's in Germany in the Air Force,
the two of them
exchanged countless letters.
Those letters show
a man so hopelessly in love.
Much of his poetry
and his gift with lyrics
is refined in these letters.
He poured his heart out
to Vivian, and she to him.
We got married right away.
Got a very cheap car,
and a old apartment
in a rundown part of Memphis.
To some, Memphis
was the Promised Land.
Memphis was just over
the Mississippi River bridge,
but it was another world.
There were
so many cultures
all colliding in that town.
It was wild. It was exciting.
It was a landscape filled
with creativity and diversity.
I started trying
to get on the radio,
but I had to go to work
and make a living,
trying to sell appliances
and home improvements.
And the next thing
you know, Elvis has recorded
for Mr. Sam Phillips
down at Sun Studios.
This little nondescript, squat building
at 706 Union Avenue
- was fast becoming the center
of a new style of music.
I started calling
Sam Phillips.
I never could get him.
Called once, I said,
"I'm John Cash,
I'm a gospel singer."
He couldn't see me.
Mr. Phillips puts him off.
He calls, leaves messages,
he sits on the curb.
So one morning, I found out what time
the man went to work.
I went down with my guitar and sat
on his steps until he got there.
Sam is walking into the office
and he accosts the man.
I said, "I'm John Cash.
I'm the one who's been calling.
And if you'd listen to me, I believe
you'll be glad you did."
And he said, "Come on in."
And he started singing some covers
of gospel songs.
Sam said, "I'm just as saved
as the rest of you boys are.
But I can't sell gospel music.
I wanna hear you in your voice."
He said, "Come back tomorrow
and bring some musicians."
So I went down to a garage
where my brother, Roy, worked.
He met Marshall Grant
and Luther Perkins,
two amateur musicians,
just as my dad was.
The next day
was our first session.
We went in, and he turned on the
recorder the whole time I was there.
The music that he made
with The Tennessee Two
was this brilliant,
beautiful racket.
The sound was unique,
and it was something that people had
just never heard before.
I developed a pretty
unusual style, I think.
If I'm anything,
I'm not a singer,
but I'm a song stylist.
My music had to be simple
and stay simple,
and uncomplicated and unadorned.
I thought it was fabulous.
Dad, he wanted
to have a drummer in the band,
but he didn't wanna hire
a drummer.
Johnny put a dollar bill
in the strings of the guitar
and made that
boom-chicka-boom sound.
You listen to what sounds
like a snare drum that's not.
That's my dad.
No, they were not over-schooled
or over-taught,
and so naturally it was gonna
come out raw and beautiful.
I think Sam Phillips
saw the originality
in my difference,
and he'd had a lot of success
recording people
that sounded different.
I never gave up my dream
to sing on the radio.
And that dream
came true in 1955.
My first introduction to Johnny Cash
was through my dad.
I was a little girl,
and this Johnny Cash comes along
and puts out the song,
"A Boy Named Sue".
And we laughed and laughed
and laughed over that song.
One of my friend's older brother
played me this song.
I think I was, like, 15, 16,
something like that.
And I heard it
for the first time,
I said, "Yo, this dude fire!"
I would listen to eight-tracks
all the time with my stepdad
of Merle Haggard and George Jones,
and Johnny Cash was one of the
eight-tracks that he had.
So I heard a lot of that music
growing up.
I remember specifically
having a CD stuck
in the CD player
of one of my work trucks
when I first got
out of high school.
And I couldn't switch
to radio or anything.
I just had to listen
to Johnny Cash
over and over and over again.
And that's where I really fell
in love with Johnny's music.
I'd listen to him
on the radio when I was a kid.
He was growing and developing
and he was just
a bigger-than-life character.
I listened to Johnny Cash,
and nobody would go, "Johnny Cash?"
They'd go, "Cool."
There was not one person
that didn't respect Johnny Cash.
My first experience,
1983, cassettes.
Imagine me trying to take
a drink from a fire hose.
That's listening to Johnny Cash.
This voice that I hear
is memorable.
I can't get it out of my head.
It's a raw voice.
It's almost like a rebel voice.
I remember "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash"
comin' out of the speakers of my
little record player in my bedroom,
and I was mesmerized
by that sound,
and I didn't know
what I was listening to.
I just knew it had me
and wouldn't let me go.
And I remember one day "Hey Porter"
and "Cry, Cry, Cry" came on.
And Mama said, "That's J.R.
J.R. singing on the radio.
Isn't that wonderful?"
And she had tears.
Along about three
months later,
Elvis Presley asked me to go
on tour with him.
And from that time on,
I was on my way.
And I knew it,
I felt it, and I loved it.
Immediately he was thrust
on the road,
his young wife Vivian at home.
They would travel
in a big, long, black Cadillac.
We did not let Johnny
drive the car.
Johnny was
the world's worst driver.
Even though he owns the car,
he rides, we drive.
That's the way that worked.
We were really
having fun with our music,
and every day was a gold mine.
It was real, it was raw.
And this was the Johnny Cash
that people were
falling in love with.
There's two kinds of people, those
that know and love Johnny Cash,
and those that will.
His style was, he would write
He would write
the way people talk.
He just spoke
of common, everyday life.
Real words for real people
in the real world.
I was kinda stunned when I
would see the record sales.
I thought at first it was all hype,
but then every record I released,
I knew I was gonna sell
a quarter of a million.
Poetry. It was poetry, man.
Let's welcome Johnny Cash
and the Tennessee Two!
When Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Two
were on tour,
working shows
with all the other bands,
musicians were talking
about their latest conquests,
their girlfriends on the side.
J.R. said, "Not me.
I walk the line."
"I Walk the Line"
is a song of steadfastness,
and fidelity,
of love to his wife, Vivian.
And he was telling her
that it didn't matter.
Those were just fans.
'Course it didn't turn out right,
but that's what he told her.
When Vivian saw
the effect John's singing had
on his audience
of adoring girls,
it was not
what she had signed up for.
He was embarking on this life where
the audiences were craving him.
In simple terms, he was
fast becoming a superstar.
She was a housewife.
She wanted her husband.
She wanted her family.
Vivian had seen
the rise of Elvis Presley
with all the girls
and all the accolades.
She didn't want that.
While she absolutely loved
Johnny Cash until the day she died,
she's got four children.
He's out on the road.
And Dad wanted
to be on the radio.
He said when he got into music,
it never occurred to him
that he was gonna have to be
traveling day after day for years,
that that was going to become
his life, was the road life.
Being "Johnny Cash"
was something that he really
never thought about or planned,
but it was inevitable.
As the song says,
"The road is crushing,
and it goes on forever.
It's endless."
The thing about it is, when you're
in a garage with your friends
and you're learning songs,
you never realize at some point
you're going to be on the road
for four years without a break.
Boredom had a lot to do with it.
It's very boring out there on the road.
That two hours on the stage
is all we live for.
The rest of the time
is really a drag.
Being on the road is
this separate reality.
You're so isolated, in a way.
It is not a normal life.
There's nothing normal
about being in show business.
You do two,
maybe three shows a night.
And then you drive yourself
hundreds and hundreds of miles
through the night
on dangerous roads.
And you've got to do it
again the next night.
You got 6,000 people
in the audience
waitin' on you to come out
and sing a song,
and it gets to the point
where you wanna shut it off.
You don't wanna feel
anything, so you drink,
or you get high,
or you find yourself
with multiple women or whatever.
Anything to kinda get rid of the feeling,
and once the feeling's gone,
it's anything to get
the feeling back.
Week after week,
hundreds of shows a year,
the white line always wins.
Johnny Cash!
Johnny Cash!
A fellow musician slipped him a pill,
saying, "This will keep you going."
So Johnny took it, thinking,
"This is God-sent."
We really did not think that
amphetamines were a problem.
Poor George.
He's having a long headache.
Is this the way
you feel in the morning?
What's the best way to reduce?
Eat plenty or starve yourself?
Doctors were prescribing
these pills by the billions.
They were prescribed to housewives.
They were marketed to college students.
They were marketed to people
to help them lose weight.
They were marketed to truck drivers
to help them on the road.
It was like taking a pill for your
heart or for your blood pressure.
It wasn't, like, a bad thing.
And nobody really thought
too much about it.
A lot of people in the South,
"If it's a prescription, it's okay."
He wasn't sniffin' cocaine.
He wasn't shooting heroin.
He was taking prescribed pills
because doctors told him
that they were medicine.
When you're on the road
that many dates a year,
there's all these things
pulling at him.
And after a while, you just--
you need a little help.
You know?
That's when all of a sudden,
"Well, I better take
a downer to go to sleep."
"Oh, now I better take
some speed to wake up."
And now you're on
a whole rollercoaster.
Well, if one works,
two must be even better.
But then after five, and ten,
you need to find a way
to slow it all down.
I was just
like everybody else.
I took drugs to get up,
and I took drugs to go down,
make me feel better.
And then
before you know it,
you're poppin' pills
left and right like candy.
You know, it's just
a vicious, vicious cycle.
I was taking
the pills for a while,
and then the pills
started taking me.
You know, so that's when it
starts spiraling out of control.
The pills give you a high,
and you feel
like you can do anything.
But when they wear off,
you feel worse than you did
before you took 'em.
When I started drinking beer
along with the amphetamines,
I'd drink about four
or five a night,
but I got up to 12, 14.
Sometime I'd misjudge
how high I was, you know?
And I'd get on stage
and I was a wreck.
All the drugs made him forget
that people were counting on him.
Thousands and thousands of dollars
of promoters' money
were at stake
if he didn't show up,
and he didn't show up
for a bunch of dates.
The Statler Brothers,
who were in his band,
he took them to California
and met Vivian and the girls,
and said he was going out
for cigarettes.
Four days later,
he wasn't back. He forgot.
At the Olympia Theater in Paris,
France, instead of playing the show,
he took off with Joan Baez and Bob
Dylan and just partied all over town,
while 2,000 people
are sitting in seats
for a Johnny Cash show
that never happened.
A lot of people lost money
and he was kind of lost himself.
He was a mere shell
of the man he once was.
Those aspirations to be
a gospel singer,
they're in the rearview mirror.
It was kind of a scatter-brained
period for me.
You know, it affects
everything in your life
when you're
on mood-altering drugs.
Everything in your life
is, uh,
is not right.
In the midst of all this,
his health is disintegrating.
He lost so much weight,
he looked like a cadaver.
And on the charts,
he's invisible.
Desperation kind of starts
setting in, here.
And so, next thing you know,
there you are,
going down the tubes
without realizing you are,
and so is your marriage,
and so is your family,
and so is everything else
in your life.
J.R. and Vivian
are in a difficult time.
I think the change
of Johnny's personality
was something else,
and then, of course,
the real change came
when he just fell madly in love
with June Carter.
She became a member
of the show cast,
and was working
all the show dates with us.
But it all started
with an automobile ride
from Oklahoma City to Dallas.
And June did not have a ride,
so Marshall Grant
had told her was,
"June, we've got six people
in that car already."
And Johnny said, "Well, she can sit
on my lap. It's only three hours."
So, that was the beginning.
June was married to someone else,
just as he was.
Both of them
later described it
as being something that they simply
could not stop.
It was not something
to be proud of,
and he wasn't proud of it.
Which only added fuel to the fire
for the amphetamine thing,
because it was tearing
Johnny apart.
J.R. was quoted saying
he would stop
taking the pills for a time,
and his conscience
would return.
He would go home,
and it became obvious the toll
that fame, fortune, and pills
were taking on his family.
And then the guilt
would overwhelm him.
And the only way
that he could ease that guilt
was to take another pill.
J.R. genuinely
loved Vivian, and June,
and his heart was torn
in two directions.
He couldn't seem
to find his way.
It was a volatile situation,
to say the least.
That is
something that is
so difficult to reconcile.
And he couldn't do it.
As a result of this situation,
June sits down and writes,
" Ring of Fire".
Cash hears it and he says,
"That's about me."
And Dad wanted
to record it himself.
Now, in addition to the stability
of "I Walk the Line",
J.R. has got the fire, the passion,
the raw power of "Ring of Fire."
And this man is not
just singing about it,
he was living it every single day.
The conflict in his head just
fueled that despair he felt.
Less than two months later,
"Ring of Fire" is
the biggest song in the world.
And it cements his place
in country music.
It also tied him for eternity
to June Carter.
She and he continued careening
through the mid-60s,
while he desperately tried
to hold on to the stability
that Vivian gave him.
In the 1960s,
the insanity of his addiction put
great strains on his relationship
and kept him away
from his children.
Johnny's family situation
was struggling,
to say the least.
And so, an extremely
difficult time
to come home to that house
in California.
And one day in 1965,
Johnny did not come home.
In 1965, at the end
of a long tour,
J.R. was supposed to go home.
Instead, he got off
at the airport
in El Paso, Texas.
Vivian called and said,
"Where's Johnny?
He was supposed
to be home yesterday."
He decided that he was gonna go
across the border into Mexico.
He went and found a drug dealer,
and bought over 1,100 Benzedrine
and Dexedrine pills.
Unbeknownst to him at the time,
the police were keeping an eye
on this drug dealer.
But when they saw Johnny Cash
in the crosshairs,
they tracked him very carefully
until he got to the airport,
opened the guitar case,
and found the pills.
The guard said,
"You can get the pills out
or we'll tear your guitar apart."
So Johnny got the pills out,
and he was arrested, and it hurt.
It hurt, not because it bothered us,
as much as we hurt for him,
because we knew that he was right
in the midst of his downward spiral.
And we were praying daily
that God wouldn't take him.
The drugs, the immorality,
the bad decisions
were all catching up.
Johnny Cash was very self-destructive.
Self-destructive behavior
will either get you through it,
see the light, or kill ya.
We were all young
and wild and crazy.
- How crazy were you?
- I was crazy as you can get.
I mean crazy-crazy.
There were quite a few times in
his life that he nearly died,
and would have been
possibly by his own folly.
Car wrecks. He caught
a vehicle on fire in California
and burned down many acres
of a forest there.
He did a lot of bad things
during those drug years.
The Grand Ole Opry
banned you at one time.
Well, I don't know how bad they
wanted me in the first place,
but the night I broke
all the lights on the stage...
...they said they couldn't
use me anymore, so.
Really tough on all of us to
stand there and watch it happen,
because you can't help
somebody like that
unless they want the help.
And at that particular time,
he didn't want any help.
If that was gonna be a subject
of conversation, just forget it.
There's one thing
about, uh...
someone addicted to pills, alcoholics,
you know,
they're very selfish.
You know, they don't care
about anybody but themselves
and the way they happen
to feel right now.
And that's all I cared about,
all I talked about,
how I feel,
what I want for me, you know?
We saw him at his worst.
We saw him when we didn't know
if he was gonna be able to--
to make the show the next day,
or rather he was gonna
continue his career.
Well, it must've been
just overwhelming for the man.
All these wonderful accolades
comin' at him,
but all this terrible stuff
comin' this way.
I mean, if there's ever a devil
and a god on each shoulder,
there had to be.
The light and darkness thing
is something that we all have.
There's a mean dog
and a good dog in all of us.
And what you try to do, and
you're always trying to do is,
feed the good one
as much as you possibly can.
The one that's gonna win is the
one that gets fed the most, right?
So I think the thing about Johnny
that made that even more obvious,
he was always trying
to feed the light.
But he wore the darkness
and the light on his sleeve.
He was two people. And he'd be
the first to tell you that.
He said, "Johnny is a nice guy.
But sometime Cash
gets into trouble."
John R. Cash
came to the end of himself
in October of 1967.
His addiction
had really wore him down.
My mother had told him
that she wouldn't talk to him,
she wouldn't spend
time with him.
He was at a point
where she had no choice,
and she had shut him off.
He is in Chattanooga, Tennessee
when his lawyer calls
and tells him that his divorce
was finalized.
She remarried just a week later.
He was full of despair.
His life was seemingly in shambles.
His addictions had taken
their toll on his career,
his body, and his family.
And he was estranged from his kids.
He had some land down there,
and on that land there was a cave
called "Nickajack Cave".
But my dad kept sinking deeper
and deeper into a depression.
There were these great conflicts
that seared his soul.
He was really down
at his lowest point,
and he took a flashlight,
and he said he was gonna
crawl back in there
as long as his flashlight would burn.
And in the darkness, laid down,
and basically, gave up his life,
gave up everything.
I kept walkin' and crawlin' and climbin'
'til my light run out,
every fiber of my being
totally exhausted.
And I lay there in the darkness,
the end of the line.
I lay there to die.
But he woke up
in the darkness of that cave
and felt that loneliness
and the emptiness
and realized where he'd put himself.
And it was like this feeling
came over me that, uh...
that He wanted
to speak to my heart.
"You do not control your destiny,"
that "It's My will
that you do not die now."
God said, "I'm not through with you,
by any means."
He said, "I'll show you
the way out. Come on."
Then the urging came over me
to get up and start crawling.
I don't have any idea
how long I crawled.
Johnny said
there was some sort of light
that guided him
to the entrance of the cave.
For hours he crawled on the ground.
He didn't have a flashlight.
He didn't have anything.
But then finally
I felt the wind.
Before long I saw light,
the entrance to the cave.
The hand of God had led me.
He faced himself,
he faced his temptations,
he faced his worldliness.
And God's love
brought him back.
He crawled out
of Nickajack Cave alive.
He saw the light.
He was given God's grace.
He came out wanting
to be right with God.
Doesn't mean he was
perfect with God,
but he wanted to be
right with God.
I was losing my voice.
I had stopped composing.
I didn't have any heart
for what I was doing.
And I realized that, uh,
that God didn't want me
to live that kind of life.
He had to put himself
into that darkness
before he would
appreciate the light.
And that's what happened, is that
he came out a different man.
And when he finally did give up those
things that were weighting him down,
the thing that helped him do that
was his faith in God Almighty.
And in that cave,
he hears the Lord say,
"What are you doing here?"
This reminds me of a story
from The Bible,
a similar experience that involved
the prophet Elijah.
Here is this prophet of the Lord,
who's depressed and discouraged
and he goes into a cave
and while he's in that cave,
God said,
"What are you doing here?"
Johnny came out of that cave
a different man.
Now he was a man on a mission.
All that success,
all the partying,
all the money, all the fame,
it's not real anymore.
And you start realizing
what is real.
We saw him at his lowest.
But, that is where he remembered
that God was on his side.
You know,
Jesus doesn't say,
"Clean up your life
and come to me."
He effectively says,
"Come to me and I
will clean your life up."
At that moment of despair,
he chose to get back up.
There is a light.
And if you'll hang in there
long enough,
you will get through the tunnel.
And that's exactly
what Johnny Cash did.
I came back
from Nickajack Cave
and June, she said,
"You're dying, you know?
You'll die if you don't get off of the
amphetamines and the sleeping pills."
And I said,
"I know it. I will."
And she said,
"I'll tell ya what I'll do.
I... I wanna save your life.
And I'll be here at this house
every afternoon.
And that way you can stay straight
and look forward to seeing me.
And we'll get this thing whipped."
When he reached out
to people that could help him,
my mother was there.
I was on self-destruct
and she saw
what I was doing to myself
and she helped bring me
back up out of it.
I thought
he was gonna die.
He was just skin and bones.
I worked with him.
There was something that just
wouldn't let me give up.
He's detoxing and there's June.
I can just see her, like,
"You'll have to come
through me."
Call it old-fashioned.
Call it tough love.
That's what you do.
Without question, June Carter saved
the life of Johnny Cash.
She helped him to get off the pills,
and she stood by his side.
And June, her mother and daddy,
and all my family and friends
were downstairs,
sleeping in sleeping bags,
and it kept me going.
They were praying together.
And the Lord brought him
through that.
It was the spirit
of the love of God
that made a survivor
out of me.
And not only a survivor,
but a sustainer.
My father had a moment
where he went back to the cross.
The Lord
was drawing him back to himself.
He was on his road back
to the Lord.
So Joanne invited
her brother, Johnny, to church.
Joanne's life had been changed
by Christ in this church.
She wanted it to happen
for her brother.
I could see him
just drinking in
the pastor preaching.
When I finished my message
that morning,
I gave an altar call
and I said, you know,
"If you want to find Christ,
if you want to do the right
thing with the Lord,
put up your hand."
So his hand went up.
Johnny stood up
and made a public profession,
and walked forward and said,
"I'm gonna follow Jesus Christ."
A public profession means
you're saying,
"I believe,
and I don't care who knows.
In fact, I want others to know."
And then a person coming
to Christ may pray
what we sometimes call
"a sinner's prayer",
and it goes along these lines.
"Lord Jesus,
I know that I'm a sinner,
but I know
that you're the Savior
Who died on the cross for my sin
and rose again from the dead.
I'm sorry for my sin.
I turn from that sin,
and I choose to follow You
from this moment forward."
Johnny prayed
a prayer like that,
and his life was changed
for time and eternity.
And the good news is,
anybody can pray that prayer,
and they too can have the hope
that Johnny Cash had.
Johnny and June and all the girls
were down at the altar.
Johnny told me,
"I think it's about time
I led my family back to Jesus."
I watched the man cry his heart
out down there in that altar,
and all of 'em together,
every one of 'em.
And when they opened up
their hearts to the Lord,
it changed everything.
He came to us
and he said,
"Guys, I know this has been
rough out here."
He said, "I just wanna tell you all,
I'm gonna clean up."
And from that point on, he rededicated
his life in many different ways,
and redoubled his efforts into
spreading the word of Christianity.
It's a scary sight.
It's towering above ya.
And we all walk
in there that morning,
and hear the clang
of the metal doors
closing behind you.
Through the pain,
throbbing melody
draws compassion
and care and concern
for myself
and for my fellow man.
Johnny Cash had found
a new purpose and focus.
He wanted to say and do
something with his music,
and more importantly, his life.
His pastor, Floyd Gressett,
came to him
and asked if he'd be interested
in a prison outreach program.
He preached up there every
fourth Sunday of the month,
and he knew all those people,
the officials and--
And he set up
this prison concert.
He didn't wanna just get up and
do a regular Johnny Cash show
at Folsom Prison.
He wanted to touch men's hearts
and to capture it on tape.
I knew if I could ever get a
live recording at a prison,
it was gonna be a great album.
He took June Carter,
The Statler Brothers,
and Carl Perkins,
and they went
into Folsom Prison.
And we would like to continue
with the Johnny Cash Show
and bring to you the man that
you've actually come to see.
He seems to have a lot of things
in common with you.
Mr. Johnny Cash!
J.R. was very sensitive
to those who were down
on their luck.
He knew that he had faced the same
kinds of troubles and situations
that had led many of them there.
He wanted to get the feelings
of the men on tape
and let them know
that somebody cared.
There was a hopelessness,
a nobleness,
and there was a dark side.
And you could feel all of those
things, and you could feel
all those emotions toward the
character that he was singing about.
A lot of people
throw money at the forgotten.
They feel good from their safe,
gated-off world.
What made Johnny special was, he actually
spent time kickin' it with these people.
Johnny didn't discriminate.
That's Johnny Cash in a prison
singing to the inmates,
and I think that's probably
where he felt most comfortable.
The reaction I got,
it was far and above anything
I had ever had in my life.
The complete explosion
of noise and reaction
that they gave me
with every song.
But they felt like they could
identify with me, I suppose.
Those guys in prison went,
"It's Johnny Cash.
We can trust him."
You see these people
hanging on every word,
and you can see the hope
in their eyes
and the vulnerability
in their eyes.
I think they felt
he was one of them.
And in many ways, he was.
He had had his struggles
with a lot of the same issues
those prisoners struggled with.
They saw his humanity.
They saw his authenticity.
And really,
they were seeing his faith.
He could relate to them
by who he had been
and how he had struggled,
and how he always kept
coming back to Christ,
and how there was hope
in that for him.
And he found, I think,
almost like his own ministry
in that.
There's no filter.
There's just Johnny,
giving you his guts
and his glory.
Folsomis recorded in January and again,
you know, a little... some ambivalence--
Is this gonna be commercial?
Is it gonna-- is it gonna sell?
Well, in March, he marries June.
The love that they developed
for each other
was one of the greatest saving graces
for each of them in their lives.
My mother saw my father's kindness.
She saw who he was on the inside.
She knew him, I think,
better than he did
'cause she saw him
through it all.
They finished up
some dates on the road,
and then, in May,
they went on a honeymoon
to the Holy Land.
And he tells the people
at Columbia Records
that he wants to make an album
in the Holy Land.
"We're not doing that,"
they said. He said, "Fine."
He took a little handheld
and he and June went
and they visited the sites.
And he comes back home,
and Folsom Prisonis the number
one album in the country.
And he's king.
Johnny Cash sold more than six
million records in 1969 alone,
besting The Beatles,
Elvis Presley,
The Rolling Stones,
Jimi Hendrix,
Janice Joplin, Led Zeppelin,
and every other musical act
in the world.
It wasn't even close.
He said, "I'm gonna be the
biggest thing in the business."
And with that statement, he was.
The album of the year,
Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison.
After he got back, you can bet your
butt that they put out his next record,
whatever it was that he wanted.
And that was The Holy Land.
And he got a Top-10 record,
and a number one single
from a gospel album.
That had never happened!
Johnny's gotten
his priorities back in order.
He's returned to the faith
of his brother, Jack.
And Johnny is putting
Jesus Christ
first in his life again.
AfterFolsom Prison,
ABC came calling to do
a summer television show.
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.
And I'm glad to see ya, David.
Just as he did with everything
else in his career,
Johnny Cash turned the concept
of variety shows upside-down.
Glad to have ya.
He wanted the show
to be filmed at the Ryman,
the mother church of country music,
and the home
of The Grand Ole Opry,
the same stage
he first met June Carter.
The impact of the show itself,
it was a catapult,
not only for John and his show,
but for a lot of other artists.
Joni Mitchell,
and Bob Dylan, and Eric Clapton,
as well as luminaries
from country music
and the gospel world.
In fact,
there are over 70 people
who were on The Johnny Cash Show
who are currently in either
the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame,
or the Country Music
Hall of Fame.
But one of the things that
really drove ABC executives crazy
was the fact that John R. Cash
against the tightly-scripted
corporate TV show concept.
At the beginning of the show,
you see a more tentative
Johnny Cash.
They told him how
and where to stand,
what to sing and say.
So they were always
on his back,
and sometimes he was told,
"Don't do this"
or "Don't sing that song"
or "Don't say that word."
You knew he was gonna
do it, then.
All you had to do
was tell him not to do it.
I was 17 years old.
I came in the back door
of the house singing,
Well, you see, I'd been
a real high tenor up to then.
And I didn't know
that my voice had dropped.
And my mother turned around.
She said, "Who was that singing?"
I said, "That was me."
And she said, "Keep it up."
So I did.
John's faith showed up
on the television show
because that was his roots.
He even did a gospel special!
He wanted to do and say something
more with his life.
He had messages
that he wanted to share.
And that was when his faith
stepped out into the light.
So as Johnny is performing this song,
right here on this stage
at the Ryman Auditorium,
he has Billy Graham
read a scripture.
Who does that?
And Johnny made a statement
one time to the network,
that if you don't want
God, country, faith, and family,
you don't want me,
because that's not what I do,
it's who I am.
The people at ABC were aghast.
"What in the-- is he doing?
People don't watch these shows."
For him to say, "Hey,
I wanna close the show
with a gospel song."
And that was kind of, "Well,
are you sure you wanna do that?"
And he held out,
"Yeah, I'm gonna do that."
Now he would do that.
Boy, he'd put his foot down.
The one show
that I remember specifically is,
I wanted to sing
"I'd Rather Have Jesus."
And they said,
"We don't want that."
But Johnny says, "Then if you
don't want Jessi singing that song,
that we won't do the show."
You know, he didn't like
somebody to tell him
he couldn't do something,
or "this is not gonna work."
Then he would prove,
"Yes, it will work. Watch this."
And he would do it.
Well, here lately,
I think we probably made
the devil pretty mad
because on our show we've been
mentioning God's name,
we've been talking about Jesus.
But, I'll be ready for him.
In the meantime,
while he's coming,
I'd like to get in one more
good lick for Number One.
The TV show is where we see him
introduce "Man In Black."
A journalist once asked,
"Tell me about your closet."
J.R. replied,
"It's dark in there."
Black was so much more than
the clothing that he wore.
It represented something
for him. It told a story.
I remember the first time
I heard it, I went,
"He sealed the deal right there,
for he will forever be
'The Man in Black'."
This was Johnny Cash speaking to
college students from Tennessee.
"This is what I want people
to know of me."
I wear all black because of him.
Because I just was enamored,
he has a presence.
Some people just have
that "it" thing, and he has it.
When you mention Johnny Cash,
people will immediately think of a guy
that helped people who had no voice.
He stood for things that nobody
else seemed to care about
or had the authority
to stand on and talk about.
When Johnny Cash wrote
"Man In Black"
and made the decision
to put that suit on
and wear it
for the rest of his career,
he looked darkness
in the eye and said,
"Not only will I take you on,
but I will wear you.
And I will win."
That was the image
that people remembered.
They remembered him standing up
on stage with his manifesto,
speaking of the Lord, and
speaking of the downtrodden.
Johnny wanted people to know
what he believed,
and why he believed it.
He had no embarrassment whatsoever
about his faith in Jesus Christ
and wanted others
to share it, as well.
Television series probably
would've lasted longer
if he hadn't a fought ABC so hard.
The Johnny Cash Show was on fire.
He had big plans to take
his show to the Holy Land,
but ABC had other plans,
and cancelled his show
before he had that opportunity.
When I professed
my faith in Jesus Christ
on network television,
and in my concerts,
it turned a lot of people off.
You see, the whole thing
about being a Christian
is being willing
to give up the world.
And that's what I was doing.
So he said, "All right.
I'm gonna put my money
where my soul is."
And he went and did it himself.
He put a half a million dollars
of his own money
to create his film,
The Gospel Road.
Now come along with me
in the footsteps of Jesus.
Johnny was no stranger
to the silver screen.
In fact, throughout his career,
he was in dozens of shows and movies,
but Johnny wanted to make
a film about Jesus Christ.
Jesus was to suffer
much criticism
for his association with people
of questionable character.
"He dines with publicans
and sinners," they said.
And to that Jesus replied,
"It's the sick
that need a physician,
not the healthy."
John walked up to me
one morning, early,
'cause we always had to be
out there for sunrises,
and he said,
"I wanna get baptized."
And I baptized Johnny Cash and June
Carter Cash in the Jordan River.
That was one of the highlights
of my life.
The Bible likens baptism
to a burial service.
Think of a happy funeral.
The old you is going
into the water.
The new you is coming out.
Baptism is an outward showing
of an inward doing.
The old Johnny Cash
was immersed,
a new Johnny Cash was emerging,
one committed to his faith,
one committed to scripture study,
one committed to telling others
about Jesus.
He made a great effort
to show his faith to the world.
And that was his dedication,
that was his reaching out with his
faith and doing what he believed in.
J.R. was quoted as saying,
"My record company would rather
I be in prison than in church"
In many ways, that's true.
His rebel persona
was easier to sell.
People found his constant struggles
and his willingness to bare
his humanity intoxicating,
but Johnny Cash was always a rebel.
In his early years,
his rebellion took him on a journey
away from his family and faith.
But now, his rebellious spirit
was bringing him back to his faith.
The Gospel Road
was not well-received.
In fact, it was a financial disaster,
and almost bankrupted Johnny Cash.
But his good friend,
Billy Graham, stepped in
and used his platform
to take it to the world.
The Gospel Roadwas made
by my friend Johnny Cash
and his lovely wife June
as a labor of love,
so that they, too,
could share with the world
the Gospel.
Without your prayers
and without your support,
we could not continue. their lives.
We need your...
...importantly, to remind the church
that the old-time Gospel
is relevant to this generation!
Billy Graham, though he was
the most famous evangelist
in all of the world,
had his own prodigal son, Franklin.
And Franklin was rough
around the edges.
And Billy was not
connecting to his son.
And then one day,
Billy noticed that Franklin was
listening to Johnny Cash music.
I think my father was trying
to find a way
to connect with me
in a different way,
and he thought, "Well, if I
could meet Johnny Cash,
that would impress Franklin."
And so, I think
it was '69 they met,
and had a dinner
at Johnny Cash's home.
And I was impressed.
So what started as an attempt
by Billy to help reach his son,
ended up in a deep and lasting
friendship between Billy and Johnny.
Johnny was at a place where he
needed a person in his life
that would be like
a mentor to him, spiritually.
My father felt very comfortable
in Johnny's presence,
and Johnny felt very comfortable
in my father's presence,
because both grew up on farms,
they both grew up poor.
And so, there was
a lot in common.
They were both southern boys who grew
up with respect for their elders
and listening to the same music.
They called each other often,
they vacationed together,
studied scripture together.
They were very, very clo--
I mean, absolutely best friends,
because they found
that they could really be real,
you know, where John
didn't have to sing
and Billy didn't have to preach.
Does he ever preach to you?
To me? No.
We talk about life.
We talk about everything,
whatever's happening.
He's always anxious to give me
any spiritual advice
when I ask him.
But, no, he's not
that kind of person.
A very human person, very humble.
Billy has been
a great inspiration to me.
And his friendship has been
something I've leaned on
from time to time
over the years.
And in some ways,
Billy Graham was that brother
that Johnny had lost.
Johnny could bare
his heart to Billy,
he could ask questions of Billy.
Billy loved Johnny,
was not judgmental of him,
and helped give him
the spiritual guidance
that, had he lived, Jack
might've given him.
Their friendship was very precious,
and it brought Johnny
closer to the Lord.
Johnny once said to Billy,
"If there's anything I can ever
do for you, just let me know."
Billy said, "Well, as a matter of
fact, I have a Crusade coming up
and I was wondering
if you would come and sing."
Johnny quickly agreed.
That's just the way John was.
If he's your friend,
he's your friend at all times.
He doesn't think about
his career or anything else.
He just, "Oh, that's my friend.
He wants me to do this.
I'm gonna do it."
It didn't matter to him
what the music industry
thought about him
being with Billy Graham,
because that was where Johnny's
heart was, with the Gospel.
And I'm proud and honored
and thrilled and flattered
to present tonight
my very good
and warm friend in Christ,
Johnny Cash.
I spend a lot of my time
working with drug addicts
and alcoholics.
And only someone
who has had such a problem
can have complete love
and compassion
and understanding
for such people.
I love drug addicts.
And I love alcoholics.
If some lost, lonely person
somewhere out there
in a dirty bed and a dark room
can see the light
of Jesus Christ in me,
then that is my reward.
Johnny was there
to help my father evangelize.
People came to hear my father,
but when they heard
Johnny Cash was coming,
it gave them an opportunity
to bring certain friends
that probably wouldn't come.
And it's the kind of people
that my father wanted
to preach to.
It was almost eight years ago
that we renewed our total
commitment to Jesus Christ.
And I just wanted to say,
in case anybody had any doubt,
that I'm a Christian,
and I'm awfully proud to say so.
Johnny came to 30
of my father's Crusades.
I went to Billy,
and I wanted to know more
about his friendship with Dad,
what made it so special.
And he just said,
"We were brothers in Christ.
We found something
we believed in together."
And I will never forget that.
It was such a simple summation.
But it really told the truth
of their relationship.
J.R. didn't say, "I'm forsaking
everything in the secular world."
The great evangelist Billy Graham
told him not to do that.
Billy Graham said, "No. This
is exactly where you need to be.
You need to speak to the world."
He was just on fire for Jesus.
He wanted to do something
for God that would last.
And you have to understand John,
he wanted to do it right now.
That's just the way he was.
In 1977, John was ordained a minister.
And privileges appertaining thereto.
Thank you, Dr. Hamon.
Thank you very much.
Think about this.
The Reverend Johnny Cash.
That's what he was now.
He was an ordained minister
of the Gospel.
That doesn't go with the image
many people have of Cash.
And it's my privilege, as a
Christian, to study the Word of God.
But I accept the degree
as recognition of the fact
that I am in the Word of God
and trying to grow in it.
You know,
it's an interesting thing.
Johnny's brother, Jack,
wanted to be a pastor,
and Johnny wanted to be a singer.
But now, Johnny Cash was
realizing Jack's dream,
and he was both a preacher
and a singer.
It was not a renunciation
of his career,
but certainly, the focus distracted
him from his commercial career.
It was a price that
he was willing to pay.
I am a professional entertainer.
That's what I am.
If I have a calling,
that's what it is.
But I'm called to be
a Christian entertainer,
to be a Christian before the world.
You see, entertaining is communicating,
just like a preacher's job
is to communicate.
But I communicate through
the spirit of the song,
the meaning of the songs, the words.
In the late '70s and the '80s,
you would think John R. Cash
is at the top of the world.
He should've been.
He gets inducted into
the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Ladies and gentlemen,
the Country Music Hall of Fame
welcomes Mr. Johnny Cash.
I'd like to say to
all the new entertainers
that are coming on the scene, to
the young artists, the singers,
do it your way.
Don't let yourself
get caught in a bag.
And I'd like to also say this
to all the new artists,
that, if you're concerned
about competition,
don't write me off yet,
because my dad, Ray Cash,
is sitting here tonight.
He's 83 years old, and if God
lets me live that long,
that's 35 more years that I'm gonna
be out there singing country songs.
During that time,
Ray is getting sick.
He is having to come to terms
with that relationship.
Johnny always wanted the approval
of his father, Ray.
So when Johnny began
to be successful,
he took his mom and his dad.
He took them to the White House
when he was invited by President Nixon.
Johnny was always trying
to impress his father.
And he said, "My father never
told me he loved me."
There. You gonna find--
During the time that Ray was dying,
that was a very difficult time.
And you listen to Rainbow,
the last Columbia Record,
he sounds tired.
There's no other word to say
that he was tired.
He's gone from constant
chart-topping hits
to nothing on the charts
in just a few short years.
That's a strange place
for one of the biggest-selling
artists in the world to be.
Johnny was on top
for such a long time.
And then, one day,
Columbia Records dropped him.
It was devastating.
He felt betrayed and lost.
You're like a train
going forward, you know,
and now you have no track?
The label he had been with for 28 years,
and whose doors
he kept open, was saying,
"We don't want you anymore.
You're not needed."
He suffered for his faith.
He didn't have to.
He could've kept that to himself.
He did it because he thought
that that's what people needed,
to hear from somebody who had
lived a life like he had,
a life of confusion,
a life of trouble.
He was very disappointed
and lost for a while there.
The critics had
kind of turned away from him.
He was not happy with that position.
The crowds at his shows
are shrinking.
Radio air play is
virtually non-existent.
It was a humiliating experience
auditioning for 25 year olds
when he had already been
in the Country Music
Hall of Fame for six years.
And that left John kind of back to
where he was with those producers
who didn't know him and didn't
get him and didn't want to.
And just wanted product
and "let's just get the next
Johnny Cash record out."
And he stopped caring
and going into the studio,
and he had nothing to say anymore.
They didn't wanna listen to him, and
he didn't wanna tell them anything.
He thought his career was over.
While he was doing one of his
regular shows in Southern California,
this character with a
big beard came backstage,
and the man's name was Rick Rubin.
And that was the beginning.
I got hungry to be back in the studio,
to be creative, to put something
down for the fans to hear.
And about that time that I
got to feeling that way,
my manager came to me and talked
to me about a man called Rick Rubin.
Rick came back after the show
and said basically to my father,
"I wanna make the music with you
that you've always dreamed of making.
Let's focus on you.
Let's make this album the most
beautiful music you've ever made."
When I said,
"What're you gonna do with me
that nobody else has been able
to do to sell records with me?"
And he said, "Well, I don't know
that we will sell records."
He said,
"I would like you to go with me
and sit in my living room with
a guitar and two microphones,
and just sing to your heart's content
everything you ever wanted to record."
I said,
"That sounds good to me."
The next ten years,
from 1993 to 2003,
by some, was claimed the
Second Coming, some, the Third Coming,
some said it was the Fourth Coming
with Johnny Cash.
He went into the studio
with Rick Rubin
and the first American Recording salbum
was just my father with his guitar.
Johnny Cash was that good.
He could just sit down
with a guitar and sing,
and it was powerful.
You can hear
the intimate story of the song.
You can hear the beauty
of my father's voice.
And if I didn't like
the performance on that song,
I would keep trying it
until it felt...
that it was coming out of me
and my guitar and my voice as one,
that it was right for my soul.
Under the guidance of Rick Rubin,
Johnny Cash took it all the way back to
the sound that he had in the beginning.
Just the man and song
and guitar. Authentic.
That authenticity spoke to an
entirely different generation of people
who had never heard
of Johnny Cash before.
It also spoke to a generation
of Johnny Cash followers
who longed to see him ride the top
of the sunrise one more time.
But while everyone was looking at John,
June slipped away.
June went through a heart valve
replacement surgery,
but the next night,
it, uh, it fails.
It was hard.
It was real hard for John.
As you get older,
you lose so many friends.
And every time
you lose a friend,
you feel a little piece
of your own life has been lost.
And when my mother passed away,
Dad came to me and he said,
"You know, I was more in love with
your mom than I ever had been."
When people would come in to try
to comfort him,
he was comforting them even more.
He understood the race
had been run well,
and that she was
in a better place.
He was still teaching us about life
up until the very last day
he was on this Earth.
- Are you bitter?
- Bitter?
- Yeah. Angry?
- No.
You know, you're a young guy.
You're only 70.
No, I'm not bitter.
Why should I be bitter?
I'm thrilled to death with life.
- So you have no regrets?
- No regrets.
And no anger at,
"Why did God do this to me?"
Oh, no. No.
I'm the last one
that would be angry at God.
He was steadfast in that.
He did not waver in that.
He took what God wanted him
to bear, and he did.
I have unshakable faith.
I've never been angry with God.
I've never turned my back
on God, so to speak.
I never thought
that God wasn't there.
See, He's my counselor.
He's my wisdom.
Only good things in my life
come from Him.
- Looking back at all that you've done...
- Ahem. you have any regrets
about what you've done?
I used to, but I forgave myself.
When God forgave me,
I figured I'd better do it, too.
Where do you think we go, afterwards?
Where do we go?
- When we die, you mean?
- Yeah.
Well, we all hope to go to Heaven.
I ask him, I said,
"You mad at anybody?"
He said,
"I'm not mad at anybody."
And I said,
"Do you got any forgiveness
you've not yet been able
to do with anybody?"
He says,
"No. I've forgiven everybody
and I hope everybody's forgiven me
that thought that I should."
Everything inside me felt peaceful
after that conversation,
that he settled up.
He was in good standing.
The final triumph for him was
the masterpiece called "Hurt".
That was a big moment.
I think what was shocking for a lot
of people was how frail Johnny was,
but at the same time,
how he still maintained
that strength that we knew him for.
But more than that, what struck me
was the bravery that he was willing
to let it all hang out.
When he was recording, I say,
"You sure you wanna do this?"
I said, "It's heavy. It's dark."
You know? He said, "It's real."
It just was true. It was true.
He was wearing his humanity
on his sleeve
for everyone to see.
That's where art is
at its most impactful,
is when it strikes someone
and they have to ingest it,
digest it enough to understand
"how does this make me feel?"
and "where am I in this"?
Dad was excited.
He was just like a kid.
He was just like, "Man, this is great!
It's gonna be a big hit!
Everybody's gonna love it!"
The guy was as willing
to show up real as it gets.
To expose himself that way,
at the age that he was, and
after the career that he's had,
it was just all things at once.
This is so honest that it's
devastatingly beautiful.
I mean, it makes you emotional
just thinking about it.
Every artist wish they could have
sort of a swan song like that.
But we have to realize something.
He didn't necessarily
see it as a swan song.
He saw it as just an accurate
statement about his life
and who he was
and where he'd been.
He was always the realist.
He was always the artist.
He always wanted truth,
all the way until the end.
Johnny asked me
what I thought about the song.
I said, "I think it's the greatest
song in your whole career,
because you poured out your life.
The good, the bad, and the ugly."
In an unusual way,
"Hurt" was a gospel song, too,
because it set up
what he wanted to say,
the way he looked at things.
I think there was something
in Johnny's mind that said,
"I have to leave people
with a thought."
It makes perfect sense
that that was the last song
we remember Johnny for.
He grew old full of grace and
full of strength, spiritually,
which kept him as long
as it did physically.
But "Hurt" was kind of, I suppose,
the beginning of the end.
Didn't wanna admit it,
but I saw that light fading
in his eyes a little bit.
He was getting tired.
Family would come and visit
and those visits, they had an air
of finality to them.
He does not expect
that he's going to live.
He called me over to his house
one day, just close to the end.
And he said, "Baby, sit down.
I gotta talk to you."
And when he said that,
I knew it was serious.
He said,
"I wanna ask you a question."
He said, "If you walked
on the shores of Galilee
and you looked up and you saw
Jesus walking toward you,
and you knew He was gonna say
just one thing to you,
what do you think He'd say?"
Well, chills went all over me.
I didn't know how to answer it.
I said,
"Well, I would hope He'd say
I'm doing what He called me to do,
and that He's pleased with that."
And Johnny looked at me and he said,
"He would say to you,
'Feed my sheep.'"
I said, "Yeah, He would.
What do you think
He would say to you?"
And he said, "Oh baby,
that's easy."
He had tears rolling down
his face and he said,
"Come unto me all you that labor
and are heavy-laden
and I'll give you rest,
for my yoke is easy
and my burden is light."
Johnny had many burdens that he
carried throughout his life.
There's the burden of losing his
brother Jack in a tragic accident,
the burden of the failure
of his first marriage,
the burden of the bad decisions he had
made throughout his life and his career,
and the people that he had hurt.
But here's Jesus saying,
"Come to me,"
and as another translation puts it,
"I will refresh you with rest."
Johnny was telling me,
"I'm going home.
You do what God calls you to do.
I'm going home. It's okay."
I went over to his house
and I was about to go on the road,
and I just wanted to go check in on him,
hug his neck, tell him I love him.
And I had recorded a song of his
called "The Walls of a Prison"
that I wanted to play for him.
And so, I played it for him
and I sat at his feet.
He put his hand on me and said,
"Excellent, son."
He said, "You got it."
I knew he didn't wanna
hang out too long,
so we talked a minute,
and before I left the room,
he said, "Is there anything
in this room you want?"
I said, "Just your love."
He said, "You got that."
And as I was about to leave,
he was sitting in his wheelchair
with his back to the window
and the late afternoon light
was coming in.
And I had my camera
all in my bag.
And I said,
"J.R., let me take your picture."
And there was, like, four frames,
and the first three he just kinda
looked like this. I said, "J.R."
He reared up and he looked
like an old president.
And when I got the negatives back,
I went, "There's the picture."
Before I left the room,
I said, "How's your spirit?"
He said, "Good." I said,
"You got plenty of rope left?"
He said, "I got plenty of rope."
I said, "All right.
I'll be home in 10 days,"
whatever it was.
I didn't think it would come while I
was gone on that trip. But it did.
It's the death of a legend,
our top story this half hour.
Johnny Cash is gone.
The country music world
is saying goodbye
to the legendary Man in Black.
I was on the way home from
a concert on the East Coast.
And at three in the morning,
somebody pulled the curtain
back in the bus and said,
"Johnny Cash died."
I cried and cried and cried,
I felt the cutting of the pain,
and then I quietly said goodbye,
"so long, in Jesus' name.
Dark bird, watch you fly
Dark bird, to another sky
And I'll bet you were a sight,
when you hit that cloud of love
And flew out the other side
In the form of a dove
Dark bird."
I know we'll see him again.
I know we'll see him again.
And that's my blessed hope.
That was a hard time. It's hard.
I can live in a world
without "Johnny Cash,"
but I miss my brother.
I sure do miss him.
On his tombstone, Johnny Cash had
Psalm 19:14 written down,
which says,
"Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable
in your sight, O Lord."
You know, David, in his Psalms,
would write about his doubts,
his struggles,
the challenges that he faced,
and he would cry out to God.
Well, Johnny wrote
about those things, too.
He sang about trains
and murder and betrayal.
But he also sang about faith,
hope, and redemption.
To me, Johnny Cash is
the face of Redemption.
All of us who are believers,
have sinned,
we've all needed
that redemption. I know I have.
He showed us the way to go.
He gave us an example.
Even though my father
didn't necessarily
always live every step
correctly and true,
he knew the truth,
he believed the truth,
and he could speak the truth.
And just because you have faith
doesn't mean you always make
the right decision.
But what it does guarantee is,
you'll have that foundation,
something that, when you do fall,
something that will catch you.
And it's easy to point
to someone like a Johnny Cash,
and say,
"Oh, that guy took drugs."
Well, we all screw up,
every last one of us.
But God gave him the strength,
God gave him the grace,
and good people around him
to encourage him.
He tried, to his last breath
to live right
and do the right thing.
But he was a human being
along the way.
Johnny's story is-- If that's
not proof that there is hope,
then I don't know
where else we can find it.
The strength to get up and
keep going, it took more than energy.
He didn't have any energy.
It was faith.
I have had
many people come to me saying,
"I'm born-again
because of Johnny Cash,
because of his life
and his stand for Christ."
He gave them
something to believe in,
hope that there's a better way.
I don't think that you can find
a musician over the last 50 years
that hasn't been influenced
in some way by Johnny Cash.
The Bible tells us that the
Christian life is like a race.
There were some stumbles and falls,
but the key is,
he ran his race to the end,
and he finished well.
That's what I love
about Johnny Cash,
is the fact
that he's willing to say,
"You know, I'm just a guy."
I think a lot of people are realizing
what a great man he was
and what a good man he was,
and that he was a Christian
throughout it all.
He would want people
to see his story
and find a way to strengthen
their own life,
to show love.
He was a man after God's heart,
and that's who John R. Cash
from Arkansas was.