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Despite Pain, He Played Legendary Songs One Last Time

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” was the iconic greeting that set the stage for Johnny Cash’s performances, including his final public appearance. Before we delve into footage of that last show, let’s explore the context. Johnny Cash was battling severe health issues leading up to his final performance on July 5, 2003. By then, Cash was significantly weakened, using a wheelchair, dealing with facial paralysis, and deeply grieving.

In 1997, Cash was diagnosed with Shy–Drager syndrome, a rare disorder later reclassified as autonomic neuropathy related to diabetes. Despite his declining health and pneumonia-compromised lungs, Cash continued working with producer Rick Rubin, creating critically acclaimed albums under Rubin’s American Recordings label. The loss of his beloved wife, June Carter Cash, on May 15, 2003, at the age of 73, cast a shadow over his final concert, just two months after her passing.

Johnny Cash’s last performance was at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, near Clinch Mountain, a venue that held special significance for Cash. June, his late wife, was the daughter of Maybelle Carter of The Carter Family, early country music pioneers. June had been part of this musical legacy since she was ten.

After the original Carter Family stopped recording in 1943, Maybelle and her daughters continued as The Carter Sisters & Mother Maybelle, joining The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 1950. It was here that June Carter and Johnny Cash first met, both already married to others. The Carter Family Fold, part museum and part concert hall, stands on the Carter family’s original estate.

Let’s reminisce about Johnny and June at their peak:

“Jackson,” written by Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber in 1963, was famously performed by Johnny Cash and June Carter in February 1967, leading to their marriage on March 1, 1968. The song reached No. 2 on the US Country charts and won them a Grammy in 1968 for Best Country & Western Performance Duet, Trio, or Group.

Johnny Cash’s final act at the Carter Family Fold, despite battling laryngitis, stands as a testament to his indomitable spirit, his vast musical contributions, and his enduring love for June Carter Cash. His performance, though marred by illness, showcases his unwavering commitment and legacy.

A notable moment in the opening scenes features John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny and June, assisting his father. John Carter Cash is a musician and producer in his own right. Johnny Cash passed away on September 12, 2003, a mere four months after June. Let’s pay tribute with one more song from the man in black:

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