I grew up watching Johnny Cash on TV. His various television appearances and his own show weren’t often missed in our household.
My mother loved country music, including Cash–but she also watched his show for the various country music artists that were frequent guests there.
I neither liked nor appreciated him.
In fact, it wasn’t until I started listening to his amazing daughter Rosanne Cash that I came to realize just how talented he was. She’s given much praise to her famous father along the way by talking about his music and even performing a lot of it.
Then, with the release of producer Rick Rubin’s Grammy-winning The American series, like most who listened to those recordings I was in awe of what I heard. Hearing Johnny Cash perform other people’s music, and some of it in ways I could not have imagined…the true depth of his talent was revealed to me.
Trent Reznor of the band Nine Inch Nails wrote the song “Hurt,” and was reportedly very concerned when he learned that Cash was going to record it for the American IV: The Man Comes Around album. His concerns were lessened after he saw the video:
“I’d been friends with Rick Rubin for several years. He called me to ask how I’d feel if Johnny Cash covered Hurt. I said I’d be very flattered but was given no indication it would actually be recorded.
“Two weeks went by. Then I got a CD in the post. I listened to it and it was very strange. It was this other person inhabiting my most personal song.
“I’d known where I was when I wrote it. I know what I was thinking about. I know how I felt. Hearing it was like someone kissing your girlfriend. It felt invasive”.
It was the moving video, though, that made it all fall into place for the Nine Inch Nails star: “It really, really made sense and I thought what a powerful piece of art.
“I never got to meet Johnny but I’m happy I contributed the way I did. It felt like a warm hug. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I highly recommend checking it out. I have goose bumps right now thinking about it.
“Having Johnny Cash, one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time, want to cover your song, that’s something that matters to me. It’s not so much what other people think but the fact that this guy felt that it was worthy of interpreting.
“He said afterwards it was a song that sounds like one he would have written in the ’60s and that’s wonderful”.
(Here is a live version of the song by Nine Inch Nails, with its original video playing on a screen behind the band.)