Happy birthday Johnny Cash: a tribute to the Man in Black

Happy 78th birthday, Johnny Cash. Is there cake in Heaven?

The other day someone asked when I became a Johnny Cash fan. I guess it was in ’94, around the time his first American Recordings  project was released. It was given a 5-star rating in Rolling Stone, and my friend Jorin played it for me. Wow.

A few months later, I took Dad (who’d been a fan since forever) to see the Man in Black. It was a very cool show. Here’s one of my favorite photos, and some reasons why I’m a die hard Johnny Cash fan…


Sinners make the best saints  

In the God’s Gonna Cut You Down Video, Bono paints a phrase on the wall, “Sinners make the best saints.” That’s Johnny Cash. He loved being the rebel, but singing the hymn.  He loved pointing the underdog to the light, but abused alcohol and pain medication while getting in trouble with the law. He’d sing at Billy Graham crusades and (in other places) flip off “the man” for the cameras. He loved Jesus through it all. sinnerssaints

In Charles Conn’s book, The New Johnny Cash, the author says, “…even in the worst days of his wanderings, he was more of a miserable prodigal than a crusader for the evil life.”

The Wanderer finds Jesus

I love Johnny’s journey of faith. Dave Urbanski wrote The Man Comes Around: the Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash. There, he recounts a story from Cash’s words (from his autobiography, Cash) and other interviews…the story of Nickajack Cave.  In ’67 an enormously famous but broken Johnny crawled to the back of a Tennessee cave, figuring he’d get lost and die where no one could find him. While deep in the dark, he said, “I became conscious of a very clear, simple idea; I was not in charge of my destiny. I was not in charge of my own death. I was going to die at God’s time, not mine.” More on that later…

A few years ago, I interviewed his sister Joan, for On Course Magazine.  Joanne Cash invited her famous junebrother Johnny to church where her “messed up” life had just changed for the better.   Looking out from the choir loft a few weeks later, she joined the stares of the congregation, “It was John and June.”  That Sunday morning in 1971, Joanne Cash watched her brother and sister-in-law walk to the altar where they were then joined by the family.  Johnny said, “I think it’s about time I led my family back to Jesus.” 

He life was now not his own, he even said, “I don’t have a career anymore. What I have now is a ministry. everything I have and everything I do is given completely to Jesus. ” (Conn’s book)


Just before emerging from Nickaback Cave to find his wife and mother (who’d flown in knowing something was wrong), Johnny realized, “I was going to die at God’s time, not mine.” Johnny made music until God took him. I know of no other musician and very few artists who’ve stared down death in the midst of doing some of their life’s best work.

Within earshot of a respectful Rick Rubin, Johnny sat in a cabin at his Hendersonville, TN, property and recorded music. For years he and his guitar (in the end, others had to play for him as autonomic neuropathy kept his hands from being steady), made absolutely beautiful music. He recorded songs while leafing through his mother’s hymn book, he also recorded songs released this week on his project, Ain’t No Grave

He was tough, thoughtful, determined, and lived in reality until the end. I’ll share my thoughts on the project at another time, but the short version is…I love it.


I could write a book, but alas…

I could write about the various Cash eras, the great story of his career launch in Memphis, extended thoughts on his faith, and many other topics. I wrote here once about his boyhood home of Dyess, AR. I could write much more, but this is getting long…

So I’m a Johnny Cash fan. I’m not into country music at all, but Johnny was so much bigger than country…or gospel…or rock and roll.  I’m a fan of his music, his faith, his journey, and the fact that he’s one of the coolest guys to ever live.

About his friend, Bob Dylan says, “Johnny didn’t have a piercing yell, but ten thousand years of culture fell from him. He could have been a cave dweller. He sounds like he’s at the edge of the fire, or in the deep snow, or in a ghostly forest, the coolness of conscious obvious strength, full tilt and vibrant with danger.”

Happy birthday Johnny Cash. Thanks for making great music and living a life worthy of respect from people from all walks. Tell Jesus hello today and know your music lives on…


Here’s my official “Things I’m thankful for” post. 

Most nights as the day ends, I say to my wife, “Life is good.”  It is.  I’m a blessed man.  Here are some reasons why…

A God who sent His Son

A Son who gave His life and loves

A fabulous family…wife, little girl, parents, sibling, niece, nephews, grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, in-laws, and even my sister’s in-laws.  Wonderful people.

Some really, really good and faithful friends I get to see regularly, and fabulous friends I’ve made around the world.   I miss them!

An army of prayer and financial supporters who partner with this opportunity with Convoy of Hope.

A church I love with a pastor who leads well.

Opportunities to serve at Mt. Sinai, Park Crest, OneHope, and now Convoy of Hope

Coffee…my wife just gave me some from Alterra Coffee Roasters, my favorite.

Music.  Johnny Cash & more.



Nachos and other great food.

Slippers on a cool day.

The opportunity to mobilize people through the Convoy of Hope Internship.

Technology.  The internet is fun.


Billy Graham.

A sabbath day every now and then.

My life.


It’s not a complete list, but these are some things for which I’m thankful. 
Happy Thanksgiving!

Johnny Cash’s other house–in Dyess, Arkansas

I’m sure he’s had a few.  Did you hear his home in Hendersonville, TN (well, it was Barry Gibb’s since he bought Johnny old home) burned down?  Sadness.  http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070410/COUNTY08/304100005

On my way home from New Orleans, I went and saw another of his old homes.  It was one of those random journeys.  I saw on the map that it was only 5 miles off of the highway on my way home…and I was by myself (i.e. no one to annoy with my jaunt).  I called the mayor.  Here’s his honor…



He invited me for a tour of the town.  Great guy.


We saw Johnny’s senior picture on display with many others at City Hall…


We saw an old gas station which served as the mill where his big brother Jack was killed as they filmed the “Walk the Line” movie.  Here’s the outside…


…and the inside…with the sign from the “Walk the Line” movie.   Notice the sawdust…it’s the acutal movie sawdust, and yes I have some.



They’re hoping to build a Johnny Cash museum in this town of 500 where he grew up, and lived before entering the military.  It would be in the large home behind the mayor in the top shot.  You can see a photo of his house in the “Hurt” video as he looks in the back window.  The video is here. 


There’s a fund raising concert on May 19 if you’re in the area (about 1 hour from Memphis) and then again the first weekend of July. 

Here’s the house. 



The same man has lived in it for about 30 years…he was never in the Bee Gee’s.  He’ll sell it to you for $500,000 or you can just put $5 in the mailbox (I did) for a photo >(Outside)< of the house.  It’ll go to help the sagging roof.

May Johnny rest in peace.  Have you seen the new “Help Me” video?  Wow.



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