21 Reasons Why Johnny Cash Was Cool

Ultimate Guitar

Johnny Cash, "The Man in Black" who became a towering figure in American music with such hits as "Folsom Prison Blues," "I Walk the Line" and "A Boy Named Sue," died Friday, 12th September. He was 71.

After a lengthy battle with autonomic neuropathy (a disease of the nervous system) and pneumonia, Johnny Cash passed away early this morning from respiratory failure stemming from complications due to diabetes. Although that is a relatively young age, he packed more into a life than most do with 20 extra years.

With one of the most distinctive voices around, his music spans numerous genres and generations. Recording right up until the end, he had a long, rich and rewarding life. Although the ChartAttack staff, like music fans everywhere, are deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Cash, we want to celebrate his life, rather than mourn. What follows is a far too short list of why Johnny Cash was cool. There aren't words enough to pay true tribute to this great man. Johnny, you'll be missed.

1. "Ring Of Fire." Co-written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore, "Ring Of Fire" ranks among the greatest love songs of all time. It's romantic, yet it oozes with passion rarely seen then or now. When Johnny sang that it burns, you can feel the heat searing your heart.

2. He married June Carter in 1968, after proposing to her earlier in the year during a concert. They remained married and obviously in love until her death this past May. Their duet "Jackson" features June calling Johnny "you sweet talkin' man." He may have looked like a tough guy, but you know she meant it when she said it.

3. He began his recording career in 1955 with the single "Cry Cry Cry"/"Hey Porter" on Sam Phillips' Sun label. Phillips was also instrumental in the careers of (among many others) Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison.

4. He was The Man In Black, pretty much single-handedly defining cool rock 'n' roll style.

5. He began writing songs when he was 12 years old and though he went to college, joined the Air Force and worked at a radio station, music was always where his heart was.

6. "Folsom Prison Blues." Go to a karaoke bar and sing it. Trust me.

7. He befriended some of the finest singers, producers and songwriters in country and rock 'n' roll. Among them, Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Elvis Costello, Nick Cave, Rick Rubin and Merle Haggard. He often blurred the boundaries between country, rock and folk music in his personal and professional lives, including recording Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe" in 1965.

8. In recent years he produced a series known as American Recordings with Rick Rubin. Most of these albums were comprised of songs by younger musicians, including Beck, Soundgarden (Cash's version of "Rusty Cage" is even more intense than the original), Tom Petty, Glenn Danzig and U2.

9. The video for his last hit, a cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt," featured an older Cash sitting at a huge feast while footage of him as a younger man played. Seeing Johnny and June throughout the decades was so moving, it was difficult to watch with dry eyes. Johnny knew he was dying and this was a dignified and gutsy way to say goodbye.

10. "Sunday Morning Coming Down." It was written by Kris Kristofferson, who spent a long time trying to get the song to Johnny before succeeding when he took a helicopter and landed it on Johnny's front lawn. It became a hit despite the word "stoned" figuring prominently.

11. In 1998, an ad in Billboard magazine featured a picture of Cash giving the finger. The ad read "American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to acknowledge the Nashville music establishment and country radio for your support." Producer Rick Rubin said it was meant as an eye-opener for the Nashville music industry. Fellow country great Willie Nelson came out in support of the ad, saying that it radio insulted older artists by not playing their records. He truly was a badass who fought the good fight.

12. He battled and overcame addictions to drugs and alcohol.

13. Cash won Grammy awards right up to the end. The last one was for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for "Give My Love To Rose."

14. He wrote two autobiographies, "The Man In Black" and "Cash." Both showed both the good and bad in Cash's life. That he was unafraid to show his darker side drew his already rabid fans even closer to this solid citizen.

15. The man recorded enough albums that it can be said that 45 remain in print. We'd like to see any band today try to top that. God, we'd like to see any band today even record 45 albums worth of material. 25? 10?

16. In 1969, Cash's Folsom Prison and San Quentin albums were the biggest selling records of the time. That includes The Beatles.

17. From 1969-1971, he hosted The Johnny Cash Show, a prime-time variety show on which guests as awesome as Neil Diamond, Stevie Wonder, Gordon Lightfoot, Dennis Hopper and Neil Young performed.

18. As immersed in the secular world as he was, Cash was a Christian who was unafraid to spread word of his beliefs. In 1971, he travelled to Israel to film Gospel Road, a film about the life of Jesus and modern-day life in Israel.

19. He made a funny little song about an unfortunately named kid written by children's author/Playboy humourist Shel Silverstein into a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic. "A Boy Named Sue," about a man that gives his son a girl's name so that he'll grow up to be strong, remains one of Cash's best-loved songs.

20. In January 1960, Cash performed his first though far from his last free performance in a prison. The venue was San Quentin and an incarcerated Merle Haggard was in the audience.

21. To conclude, let's look at one of Cash's biggest hits, "I Walk The Line." It's lyrics are fairly simple, but speak volumes. Let's look at them and bid a fond farewell:

I Walk The Line I keep a close watch on this heart of mine I keep my eyes wide open all the time. I keep the ends out for the tie that binds Because you're mine, I walk the line

I find it very, very easy to be true I find myself alone when each day is through Yes, I'll admit I'm a fool for you Because you're mine, I walk the line

As sure as night is dark and day is light I keep you on my mind both day and night And happiness I've known proves that it's right Because you're mine, I walk the line

You've got a way to keep me on your side You give me cause for love that I can't hide For you I know I'd even try to turn the tide Because you're mine, I walk the line

Joanne Huffa from ChartAttack [with files from other Johnny Cash fans]

44 comments sorted by best / new / date

    first off i challenge you, second he was always awesome, he just never got this much publicity. thirdly, he was the man, the original badass. and lastly, cash would disown you if he say what u said
    To the UG Stanger who is dissing The Man in Black: You're a stupid mutha***a. Why don't you give us some GOOD reasons as to why you despise Johnny Cash? I don't think you even know how to play a guitar, let alone sing. -JD
    Why don't you all shut the hell up and try to become legends like Johnny Cash, or Layne Staley, or Elliott Smith. Yes, i'm asking you to become great musicians and then DIE. : ) Music is music, and you should all listen to anything you can get your ass scratching hands on. If you stick to only one genre of music, then you are not understanding of music at all. Cash was a great musician, a good man, and i'm sure he will be missed and tributed and remembered by those who really care to. Deftones are good, but Chino couldn't hold a real note if it was chained to his dick. And obviously if you are coming to this site just to *** with individuals who are trying to pay respects, you are a low-class imbecilic waste of oxygen. Shut the *** up and shred. Oh, and when you're done bagging my groceries, go take some manner lessons, 'cuz if that is any indication of your guitar playing capabilities, you shouldn't even be challenging a paraplegic. Okay, bring it on.....
    I was thinking, "If Johnny were still here, what would he have done next?" The Bald Scot also asked this question...and so I thought about what songs would sound great if he covered them. Then I realized...anything would be great if he sang it. I wonder what a CASH cover of Nothing Else Matters or The Unforgiven would sound like?...I bet that's what he would've done next. (actually it 99% isn't what he would've done, but I would love to hear him sing those songs)
    UG strangers, get registered. this article rules. johnny cahs was not the man in black, he was THE MAN! RIP JC
    " a girl named sue" is the funniest song in the whole world.....
    RIP Johnny..... Jam up there with Lennon, Jimi, Rhandy, Kurt, erika, shuddup you @$$hat, comment like that on some other forum. \m/ (>_
    its not that he was the man. Johnny Cash IS cool. I'm spending more and more of my time listening to his music, watching his movies. I saw the video for Hurt today, and it did bring a tear to my eye. God Rest Your Soul MR. Cash
    Johnny Cash, The Man in Black, was the best "country artist" ever. So many of my friends listen to punk, but have no idea who Johnny Cash is. "It sounds crazy, but without Johnny Cash, we wouldn't have punk music." I can't remember where I heard that, but it's true. "May the Man In Black live forever. Rest in Peace Johhny Cash."
    Johnny Cash was the one person that my grandma and I had similar interests in, I've always thought he was the coolest guy in the world. \m/ Rest in peace johnny \m/
    all those people that ignore the older artists really don't realize that they were the ones that defined the way music is today. johnny cash was no acception to this... one of the most defining in all that is rock... he shall be missed by those that really understand where music comes from... rest in peace my friend...
    It's a real bummer to lose such a great artist who accomplished so much in his lifetime.
    johnny, the man in black, the legend no matter what you call him, the man will always be a legend.
    johnny, the man in black, cash, the legend, no matter what you call him, the man will always be a legend.
    like fatlilryan said, its a real bummer, he was an awesome artist... but then again it's disapointing that im the only one who knew who he was when they announced in the news in my history cl*** (we watch cnn for the first fifteen minutes of cl***)
    one of the first songs i learned was i walk the lineits really not cool that he's gone now
    Johnny ROCKED:] even up here where it truely is middle of nowhere. HE walked the line and that is pretty hard to do. It hurt the day he died, I think he was really cool.
    johnny cash is was and forever will be a legend. such a tragic ending. keep jammin in heaven... you are missed!
    I was talking to my friends the other day and johnny came up and only me and Josh were the only ones who even knew of him! Yea, they arent my friends anymore.
    The Bald Scot
    His cover of NIN's "Hurt" is perfect, but his cover of Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage" kicks copeous quantities of big hairy peach! "THE" Man In Black RIP , I wonder what you would have done next.
    It was a black day when we lost Johnny Cash, but he knew he was going to die, and he stood on deaths door, still recording "when the man comes around". it was like he said "*** you, im not finished yet" to the idea of death. and thats the mentality behind why he is The Man in Black. i'll miss him, and so will you.
    Why do you say we'll all forget about him?? I sure as hell know I won't. Believe it or not, I liked him and listened to him, AND I listen to rock! Crazy, huh? Johnny Cash was the original badass. There's no argument to that. He dressed his own way (the man in black), did things his own way, said things his own way, and lived his own way. He never gave a shit what anyone thought, and he had a damn good time doin it. He is one of the largest contributors to music in history, and if you've never heard of him, I pity you, as you've missed out. Johnny's the man, and will always be a legend. He'll be greatly missed. RIP, Johnnny.
    I was a newly found cash fan recently... about a month before his death and then he dies and im like "what!" but anyway i just think it's awesome that people like that can be on the verge of death and still pulling new fans... new metal fans i might add. rip
    My dad used to put his stuff on in the car and ive heard it around a bit, dont really know what the actual guy was like but great music. He can get to go on my list of "Americans that i dont totally despise". rest in peace