Country music icon Johnny Cash, one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 90 million records worldwide, is back on music store shelves.
And even though he died 15 years ago, a new CD, released in Australia on April 6, is virtually all his own work.
The words are from a cache of more than 2,000 pieces of paper with handwritten poems and lyrics found by his son, John Carter Cash, after the singer’s death.
And so began the series of musical collaborations that has resulted in the new 16-track album, Johnny Cash: Forever Words.
John tasked other great artists including Chris Cornell who died last year, songwriter Ruston Kelly and his wife Kacey Musgraves, John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello, Brad Paisley, Jamey Johnson, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson as well Cash family members Rosanne Cash and Carlene Carter, to form songs around Johnny Cash’s newly discovered material.
Trawling through a dead parent’s personal papers can never be an easy experience, but for John it was difficult in more ways than one.
When Johnny Cash died in 2003, the music legend left behind an office brimming with notebooks and folders full of his often handwritten work.
“Well, my father never really threw anything away it seems, and like many great writers he never stopped writing,” John said.
“There were some 2,000 pieces of paper, and within those there were biblical study notes, there were poems, there were lyrics to songs — handwritten — that had already been published.”
Tantalisingly, there were also hundreds of unpublished poems and lyrics that Cash says provided a window into his late father’s soul.
“He was a good man and there’s a lot of beauty in those writings,” he was reported as saying in Rolling Stones magazine said.
“I reached out to different artists and they put together the music,”he said.
Much of Johnny Cash’s music (his signature song was “Folsom Prison Blues” contained themes of sorrow, moral tribulation, and redemption, especially in the later stages of his career.
His other signature songs include “I Walk the Line”, “Ring of Fire”, “Get Rhythm”, and “Man in Black”.