I never met him. Never shared a cup of coffee or swapped a tale or two. Never got the chance to tell him that I thought he was great. I was a fan at times over the many years of his career. And now he’s gone. Why do I miss him so much now? His last album told it all if you could read in between the lines. American V: A Hundred Highways.
My wife and I took our first trip to Tennessee several weeks ago. We saw the Grande Ole Opry and Dollywood. The Smokey Mountains were something to behold. The people were all very friendly. I missed Tennessee even before we left the state. I had a feeling that I could find some real old fashioned country music CDs to purchase in Nashville. I was right. We went to the Earnest Tubb’s record shop and the Old Mill Mall had a huge music store.
I had planned on buying a lot of CDs but just got two. I purchased Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, and Johnny Cash’s last CD. I didn’t know John had a CD out. But I don’t keep up with all the new songs unless I hear them on the radio. And I hadn’t heard any of these songs by him. The last Johnny Cash album I had was Everybody Loves A Nut from back in the 60’s when I was about 15 years old. Since then I’ve just heard him on the radio or at a friend’s house.
I didn’t play John’s CD until we were leaving Nashville and heading for Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. And when he came on you could tell he was near the end of the line. It was like I was kicked in the chest by a mule when he sang of dieing, and you knew he was. As he sang his songs I thought of him and his wife and family.
I had to hold back a few tears and I ‘m not ashamed to say it. Every song was a moving experience. I have to say I think it was his best album. His every song held me captive as he sang of death and love and moving on to the other side. You could tell how much love he had for June and his family. His voice was strained and he seemed out of breath but kept going.
Of the 12 songs on the CD, two were written by Johnny Cash. The other ten were written by some of the great writers of our time. Johnny’s rendition of their songs on this CD made them new again. He turned them into a thing of beauty that I haven’t grown tired of hearing. There’s a pamphlet in the CD case that tells of John’s last days.
How he worked daily to record music until the end. Driven by something to record everything he could. I guess he never heard the finished CD. But then he lived it. If you’re a country music fan and you liked Johnny Cash at some time in the past, you should buy this CD. I believe you will love it or hate it. This may not be for everyone. If you love it, have a box of tissues close by. It is a tear jerker. Here is a list of the songs:
Help Me: Larry Gatlin
God’s Gonna Cut You Down: Traditional
Like The 309: Johnny Cash
If You Could Read My Mind: Gordon Lightfoot
Further Up The Road: Bruce Springsteen
On The Evening Train: Hank Williams
I Came To Believe: Johnny Cash
Love’s Been Good To Me: Rod McKuen
A Legend In My Time: Don Gibson
Rose Of My Heart: Hugh Moffatt
Four Strong Winds: Ian Tyson
I’m Free From The Chain Gang Now: Lou Herscher and Saul Klein