Country Music

In Pain, Physically Spent, He Played Legendary Songs One Last Time

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” is how the legendary Johnny Cash would start his performances, often with his classic “Folsom Prison Blues” from 1955. This tradition held firm in his final public appearance. Before we delve into that last show, let’s set the scene. Johnny Cash faced severe health challenges leading up to his final performance on July 5, 2003. Weakened, using a wheelchair, and coping with facial paralysis, Cash was also deeply grieving.

In 1997, Cash was diagnosed with Shy–Drager syndrome, later reclassified as autonomic neuropathy related to diabetes. Despite his declining health and pneumonia-compromised lungs, Cash continued working with producer Rick Rubin, creating acclaimed albums under Rubin’s American Recordings label. Adding to his burdens, the loss of his wife, June Carter Cash, on May 15, 2003, at 73, loomed over his final concert, held just two months after her death.

Johnny Cash’s last performance took place at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, near Clinch Mountain. This venue was particularly meaningful to Cash, serving as a tribute to his wife June, daughter of Maybelle Carter of The Carter Family, pioneers of country music. June had been part of this musical dynasty since she was ten.

After the original Carter Family stopped recording in 1943, Maybelle and her daughters continued as The Carter Sisters & Mother Maybelle, joining The Grand Ole Opry in 1950. It was here that June Carter and Johnny Cash first met, though both were married to others at the time. The Carter Family Fold, part museum and part concert hall, stands on the Carter family’s original estate.

Let’s reminisce about Johnny and June at their peak:

“Jackson,” written by Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber in 1963, was famously performed by Johnny Cash and June Carter in February 1967, leading to their marriage on March 1, 1968. The song reached No. 2 on the US Country charts and won them a Grammy in 1968 for Best Country & Western Performance Duet, Trio, or Group.

Johnny Cash’s final performance at the Carter Family Fold, despite suffering from laryngitis, is a powerful testament to his indomitable spirit, vast musical legacy, and enduring love for June Carter Cash. His performance, though impacted by illness, highlights his unwavering dedication and lasting influence.

A poignant moment in the opening scenes features John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny and June, helping his father. John Carter Cash is a musician and producer in his own right. Johnny Cash passed away on September 12, 2003, just four months after June. Let’s honor him with one more song from the man in black:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *