Johnny Cash's son pens heartfelt tribute to his "dedicated father" two decades after his death

28 February 2024, 10:15

Johnny Cash&squot;s son John Carter Cash has penned a heartfelt tribute to his "dedicated father" and mentor.
Johnny Cash's son John Carter Cash has penned a heartfelt tribute to his "dedicated father" and mentor. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Edward

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It's been over two decades since the 'Man In Black' left us.

Johnny Cash died at the age of 71 on 12th September 2003, a true American music legend that changed the face of country music.

With his black humour and penchant for the darker, dangerous facets of life, Cash made anthems for the overlooked and the outcasts of society seeking redemption.

His imprint on music is still felt today - he paved the way for artists to express sentiments outside of what was typical, exploring the human condition, societal issues, and our uncomfortable truths.

Renowned for classics like 'A Boy Named Sue', 'I Walk The Line' and 'Folsom Prison Blues', Cash carved a new era of 'outlaw country' music.

Following in his footsteps were his children, Rosanne Cash and John Carter Cash who became musicians themselves, ensuring the Cash musical legacy lives on.

John, the only son of Johnny and June Carter Cash - who sadly died six months before Johnny - has now penned a heartfelt tribute to his "dedicated father" and mentor in an essay for People magazine.

The essay - which you can read below - offers a rare and intriguing insight into the soul of Cash's son, who holds more admiration and reverence for his father than we could understand, not only as a musician and mentor, but also as a parent.

Johnny Cash and June Carter with their baby son John.
Johnny Cash and June Carter with their baby son John. Picture: Getty

"Dad, since you passed on, I see you every day. Modern times have bestowed a blessing. The internet has become a lifeline into history, media and society, and if I wonder how you felt about something, I only have to "log on."'

"The entire world is at my fingertips. I just "search". It's easy to find your interviews from radio, press, film and television. Johnny Cash is everywhere, but truthfully, you have moved on."

"Nashville has boomed in a way I don’t think you would have expected. Although your presence remains in the Country Music Hall of Fame — where, in its sacred rotunda, your plaque reminds visitors of your membership — much has changed."

"Now, newly manufactured skyscrapers overwhelm the once humbler skyline. "Nashvegas" is not the same town we knew years ago."

"Yearly, hundreds of thousands of tourists walk the downtown streets. There are billboards everywhere, many of which display advertisements for museums, restaurants, and honky tonks bearing the names of famous personalities."

"Perhaps the most dominant bears your likeness, leading fans to The Johnny Cash Museum. It opened in 2011, before the cranes went up."

"Yes, our hometown is alive in unfamiliar and astounding ways, but surely, your legacy began this boom. Yet, it's still a place where dreams can come true, and gratefully, Nashville's heart endures."

"Your music and soul are very much alive within that heart."

Johnny Cash - A Boy Named Sue (Live at San Quentin, 1969)

"Thirty minutes north of the metropolitan centre, I often walk the land that was once yours. Your presence is there. When I record music in the Cash Cabin Studio, your spirit continues to inspire the musicians, technicians, and my creativity."

"When I sit quietly and read a spiritual book, perhaps by Kahlil Gibran, Og Mandino or the Bible, I recall your voice."

"I read the words and remember them as your own teachings. Now, these writings give me faith in myself and remind me to strive to be kind to all, as you and Mom always were."

"You taught me if we are willing, we are all teachers and students. I am still your student and thank you. But I miss you, still."

"You lived several lives in your 71 years, but they can all be distilled down to two: first, John R, Cash, the dedicated father, husband and mentor to family; and second, Johnny Cash."

" I love and have always loved them both, and the second I never lose sight of, but how do I stay in touch with you, Dad - with who you really were? I have done this by studying your lyrics, poetry and other writings."

John Carter Cash has compiled his father's lyrics, unseen writings, and rare photographs for a new book.
John Carter Cash has compiled his father's lyrics, unseen writings, and rare photographs for a new book. Picture: Voracious

"You chose love and left behind your voice and your words, Now, they breathe beauty not only into the lives of your children and family, but to people who love and respect you worldwide."

"I am not the only person who feels it's important to know you better.  And so, with a great deal of help, I put together Johnny Cash: The Life in Lyrics."

"The book collects 60 years of your writings, from 'Hey Porter' and 'Big River' to 'The Man Comes Around' and 'Like the 309'. Studying your writings has helped me recall you more clearly, even better than before you left this world."

"Dad, although you are very much alive in many ways, I feel I get closest to you through your words, and I am still reading, still listening and still learning. And in doing so, I appreciate you more every day."

John Carter Cash is ensuring that his father's legacy remains as potent and influential as ever with his new book, Johnny Cash: The Life in Lyrics.

The book - which is out now - compiles over 125 of Cash's songs, unveiling the stories behind them alongside previously unseen writings and photographs.