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Colleagues, fans mourn Johnny Cash

Sept. 14, 2003 at 4:48 PM   |   Comments

The death of Johnny Cash at 71 in Nashville Friday has prompted an extraordinary outpouring of admiration and affection from colleagues and fans of the American music icon.

Known to fans the world over as "The Man in Black," Cash died of diabetese-related respiratory failure -- just four months after the death of June Carter Cash, his wife of 35 years. A public memorial is being planned for Cash, but the singer's manager, Lou Robin, said in a statement that Cash's visitation and funeral services will be private.

The Cash family also issued a statement.

"The family of Johnny Cash, in this sad hour, is greatly comforted by the outpouring of love and respect for his remarkable life," said the statement. "We also take solace in the knowledge that he is again reunited with his dearest companion, June. Our lives, and indeed the entire planet, will forever feel the emptiness of his loss, but his music and the greatness of his spirit will endure."

Cash had battled several serious health problems over the past few years, including a disorder of the nervous system, autonomic neuropathy, and pneumonia. He had been discharged from the hospital Wednesday, following a two-week stay for treatment of an unspecified stomach problem that had caused him to miss the recent MTV Video Music awards, where his video "Hurt" was honored.

Cash -- who recently added four more CMA Award nominations to his extensive list of honors -- has won six CMA Awards, including Entertainer of the Year in 1969. He was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He also was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an Academy of Country Music Pioneer Award, numerous American Music Awards and a Gospel Music Dove Award.

Cash won 10 Grammy Awards for such hits as "Give My Love to Rose," "Solitary Man," "If I Were a Carpenter," "A Boy Named Sue" and "Folsom Prison Blues." "I Walk the Line," "Ring of Fire" and "Folsom Prison Blues" are in the Recording Academy Hall of Fame, and the academy honored Cash with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. He was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1996.

George Jones -- a country music legend who, like Cash, battled through substance abuse throughout much of his career -- said it was a "very sad day for me as well as for millions of music fans" around the world.

"John was a very dear friend -- we had a long history together," said Jones. "We both went through a lot of messes in the old days but ended up realizing what was important in life and changed our ways."

Jones said he visited Cash just a few weeks ago, and thought he looked good.

"I know that the angels will sing today and heaven is a better place with the addition of Johnny Cash," said Jones. "I'm sure he is happier now that he is with his beloved June."

Kris Kristofferson -- who toured with Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson as "The Highwaymen" -- said Cash "always seemed larger than life to me." He called Cash "a true American hero" who was beloved as much for "championing of the underdog as for the power of his art."

The composer of one of Cash's biggest hits, "Sunday Morning Comin' Down," Kristofferson paid tribute to his old friend with a poem:

"I love you, John/In the cold and Holy darkness/You were always shining brighter than a star/God bless you, John/For the love and joy you've given/And the living inspiration that you are"

Country superstar Tim McGraw said Cash was "bigger then any musical genre." McGraw said Cash was "an American music icon that set the standard for how to make music on your own terms."

Singer Andy Williams recalled Cash's appearance on his Emmy-winning variety show.

"He took time to appear on my television show and it was the thrill of a lifetime to sit with him and sing some of his big hits," said Williams. "He was a superstar with magnetic charisma and he will be sorely missed by millions around the world."

Country singer Terri Clark said Cash's voice was "as close to the voice of God as any mortal man can get -- and it was a voice that was only lifted for the right things, righteous causes, the people no one wanted to recognize. Johnny Cash rocked hard."

Kix Brooks of the country duo Brooks & Dunn said it was "hard to put into words all the things I feel" about Cash.

"I learned to play guitar by learning about 100 songs by Johnny Cash, who was my hero as a songwriter," said Brooks. "As a man, he was the rock of our nation."

Brooks also credited Cash with always standing up "for the right things."

Lots of other musical performers have made something of a trademark of wearing all black, but Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry said "there will only ever be one Man In Black."

Gentry said, "I hate to see our outlaw heroes leave because they have influenced country music so much. I don't know that anyone can stand on the mountain like they have."

Brad Paisley called Cash the most powerful personality ever in country music, but said -- as many others have also observed -- that Cash's musical legacy extends well beyond country.

"Rock, country and Gospel will be fighting to claim his music as their own -- and, in the end, they all get to," said Paisley.

Part of Cash's recent newfound appeal among younger music fans -- including his MTV Award nominations -- was grounded in a recognition that, as a young man, he was something of a rebel. Country star Kenny Chesney said that was a major part of Cash's appeal.

"I don't know if I can say this, but it's how I feel," said Chesney. "To me, Johnny Cash was the original bad ass in music. Not just country music, but all music."

Country star Dwight Yoakam said he was shocked and saddened at the news of Cash's death, but "eternally grateful" to have known and been a friend of Cash.

"I will be forever honored that John allowed me the privilege of his company," said Yoakam.

Kenny Rogers -- who, like Cash, enjoyed crossover success in both country and pop -- said Cash will not be forgotten.

"He was, he is, and always will be the epitome of country music," said Rogers.

Jeff Hanna of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band counted himself among the untold numbers of musicians who were influenced at a young age by Johnny Cash.

"And like many kids, I marked my life with his songs: 'Ring of Fire' and 'I Walk The Line' as a youngster," said Hannah, "then 'Folsom Prison Blues' and 'Boy Named Sue' as someone a little older, just getting into music."

Hannah said that just last week, Cash's son John told him Cash was doing very well.

"I was even kind of looking forward to him being at the CMA Awards," said Hannah, "even if it was just sitting in the audience."

John McEuen, also of the Dirt Band, said Cash's inlfluence on music was unparalleled.

"It took four Beatles to even approach that influence," said McEuen. "There was only one of him -- and he kept diong it."

McEuen said when Cash and his wife joined the Dirt Band last year for their CMA-nominated recording of "Tears in the Holston River," it was as if "an old friend had come to play with the band."

Rodney Crowell -- who was married to Cash's daughter, singer Roseanne Cash, from 1979-92 -- called Cash "a musical hero to millions, a trailblazing artist, humanitarian, spiritual leader, social commentator and most importantly, patriarch to one of the most varied and colorful extended families imaginable."

Producer Dick Clark remembered Cash as an American original.

"Johnny Cash made an indelible mark on rock 'n' roll and country music," said Clark. " No one will ever forget his signature voice."

Sam Lovullo, the producer of the long-running country music TV show "Hee Haw," said Cash was irreplacable.

"We've lost a giant in the music business," said Lovullo, "and I have reason to believe that nobody's going to come along to fill his shoes."

In the statement issued Friday, Cash's family invited fans to send flowers to Hendersonville Funeral Home at 353 Johnny Cash Parkway, Hendersonville, Tenn. 37075. The family also said that donations could be made in Cash's memory to SOS Children Villages USA, 1317 F Street NW #550, Washington, DC 20004.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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