If someone would have told me that Johnny Cash listened to a 'Nine Inch Nail' song let alone cover one, I would have thought this person was one fry short of a happy meal.
Johnny Cash, the living legend and icon of country music for almost 50 years worked absolute magic on the Trent Reznor song 'Hurt'. I for one was completely blown away, and I'm not really all that much a country music buff. There is something about the delivery that was as unnerving as it was powerful coming from this man. Probably the most moving video I've ever seen, bar none. It's one thing hearing this song and it's anguished lyrics coming from a young rock star and quite another coming from Cash who walked the line of hard knocks.. ol skool. There was an honesty in the visual and Johnny's deep soulful voice that made you feel he was living each and every word. It was as if Trent Reznor unconsciously wrote it for Mr. Cash.
Back in April, Trent made an appearance on CMT's Flameworthy 2003 Video Music Awards Tribute to Johnny Cash where he was honored as the" "Greatest Man in Country Music" He also offered this comment on the first time he witnessed the remaking of his song.
"We were in the studio, getting ready to work -- and I popped it in," Reznor says. "By the end I was really on the verge of tears. I'm working with Zach de la Rocha, and I told him to take a look. At the end of it, there was just dead silence. There was, like, this moist clearing of our throats and then, 'Uh, OK, let's get some coffee.''
The video director, Mark Romanek who practically begged for the job proved he was the right person to capture the essence of Johnny both in his youth and in his frail older years. In a montage of shots of Johnny's early years as an icon , twisted imagery of fruit and flowers in various states of decay, seem to capture both his past and the stark reality of the present. Unpretentious in every way, it was a marvelous coming together of the lamenting rock star, an old country legend and a visual genius.
Romanek had this to say about his decision to focus on the House of Cash museum in Nashville.
"It had been closed for a long time," says Romanek. "The place was in such a state of dereliction. That's when I got the idea that maybe we could be extremely candid about the state of Johnny's health, as candid as Johnny has always been in his songs."
Johnny's been having his health problems and at 77 years of age you never know when his last curtain call may be. His latest album AMERICAN IV: THE MAN COMES AROUND went gold back in May. If this turns out to be the last song he ever does, and remembered for, it will be fitting coda indeed for the 'man in black'
Johnny once again, you gave us the unexpected and proved no 'label' can truly describe your legacy to music. Thank you Mr. Cash for what you gave the world these past 46 years.