“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash…”

On this day in 2003, the world said goodbye to one of the most iconic musicians in American history, Mr. Johnny Cash. Over the course of the “outlaw country” pioneer’s nearly-50-year career, he cemented his legacy as one of the highest-selling recording artists in the world, with total record sales topping out close to 1 billion units worldwide.

Johnny Cash – “I Walk The Line”

While his music is “country” by name, its appeal has always crossed genre boundaries: he has been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His detailed and thematically rebellious songwriting, the mysteriously alluring charisma of his “Man in Black” persona, and stunts like his live performance for the inmates at at Folsom State Prison helped his legend transcend music and permeate American culture as a whole.

By the time Cash performed for the inmates at California’s Folsom State Prison on January 13th, 1968, he was a household name, having already released nearly twenty albums filled with an abundance of hit songs. But the pair of shows that Cash played at the namesake institution for one of his most famous songs, “Folsom Prison Blues,” and the subsequent live album that immortalized it, vaulted him to superstardom.

At Folsom Prison‘s popularity revitalized Cash’s career in the late 60’s, leading to the release of a second prison album, At San Quentin. The album was re-released with additional tracks in 1999 and as a three-disc set in 2008, and has been certified Platinum several times over by the RIAA. You can isten to At Folsom Prison in its entirety below:

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (1968)

Following the success of 1968’s At Folsom Prison and 1969’s At San QuentinABC tabbed legendary singer-songwriter Johnny Cash to star in his own television show as a summer replacement for their Saturday night variety show, The Hollwood Palace. Though short-lived, The Johnny Cash Show featured performances by some of the era’s most influential artists including Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton. You can check out The Johnny Cash Show collaborations with Bob DylanJoni Mitchell, and Louis Armstrong below:

Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash – “Girl From The North Country”

[Video: Kostas Palaiokostas]

Joni Mitchell & Johnny Cash – “The Long Black Veil”

[Video: John1948SevenC]

Louis Armstrong & Johnny Cash – “Blue Yodel #9”

[Video: PeterRabbit59]

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Cash linked up with fellow outlaw country icons Kris KristoffersonWaylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson to form a supergroup dubbed The Highwaymen. The band recorded three albums together and produced three charting singles, including 1985’s “Highwayman”. Below, you can remember the incredible star power of The Highwaymen via a full live TV performance special taped at The Mirage in Las Vegas in the early ’90s.

The Highwaymen – Live In Las Vegas

[Video: Sturla S]

Finally, check out this emotionally weighty video of Cash’s final live performance before his death, given at the Carter Ranch on July 7, 2003, just over 2 months before his death at age 71.

Johnny Cash’s Final Performance

[Video: MusicVids]

Thank you, Johnny cash.

[Originally published 9/12/17]