Johnny Cash, 1932-2003

12 Sep 2003
Bono spoke today about the legendary American singer Johnny Cash, who has died aged 71.

'I considered myself a friend, he considered me a fan - he indulged me. He showed me around his house, his ranch, his zoo (seriously, he had a zoo in Nashville), his faith, his musicianship - it was a lot to take in.'

'He was more than wise. In a garden full of weeds - the oak tree.'

Johnny Cash had known U2 for many years, notably performing with the band on The Wanderer, a track Bono wrote for him, which he recorded with U2 for 1993's Zooropa album. ('I was thrilled to death, because I love that song,' said Cash)

In 2000, Bono, joined Quentin Tarantino and Cash's wife June Carter Cash in writing the liner notes for the Johnny Cash box set, "Love, God, & Murder". Bono introduced the "God" disc featuring Cash classics and gospel standards like "Why Me, Lord", "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", and "The Kneeling Drunkard's Plea".

'Gospel music has a joy that in most hands comes off as sentimental; a sweetness so easily saccharine,' wrote Bono. 'Why is it that in these songs the angels feel like they're round the corner from devils? We feel he has made a choice to 'pitch his tent at the gates of Sheol.' 'Johnny Cash doesn't sing to the damned, he sings with the damned, and sometimes you feel he might prefer their company.'

Cash returned the compliment in 2002, recording a cover version of U2's "One" for his acclaimed album "American III: Solitary Man".

To mark his 70th birthday last year, Edge described his pride at having worked with the 'Man in Black'.

'He has a soul as big as a continent, full of righteous anger mixed with human compassion.' said Edge. 'A true individual in a land founded on individuality. There will never be another like him, and he could have come from nowhere else.'

You can read what Edge - and Bono - said in full, along with other tributes, at

Former Rolling Stone editor Kurt Loder recently interviewed Cash about his life and you can read the transcript here

And there's a fine obituary here

And if you want to see why Johnny Cash was so special, you could do worse than check the video for his recent cover of 'Hurt' by Nine Inch Nails. It's here


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