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Johnny Cash’s Final Show: A Triumph of Spirit

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” That iconic introduction marked the beginning of Johnny Cash’s concerts, including his timeless classic “Folsom Prison Blues” from 1955. His last public appearance followed this tradition. But before we delve into the footage of that momentous event, let’s set the scene. By the time of his final show on July 5, 2003, Cash was battling severe health issues. He was extremely weak, relied on a wheelchair, suffered from partial facial paralysis, and was grieving deeply.Q

Cash’s health struggles began in earnest in 1997 with a diagnosis of Shy–Drager syndrome, a condition later reclassified as autonomic neuropathy related to diabetes. Despite deteriorating health and respiratory challenges due to pneumonia, Cash kept creating music with producer Rick Rubin, earning critical acclaim for their work on the American Recordings label. Adding to his challenges, June Carter Cash, Johnny’s beloved wife, passed away on May 15, 2003, at the age of 73, leaving him heartbroken just two months before his last performance.

This final show took place at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, near Clinch Mountain, a site of profound personal significance to Cash. It was a heartfelt homage to his late wife June, the daughter of Maybelle Carter of The Carter Family, pioneers of country music. The Carter Family Fold, part museum and part concert hall, stands on the original Carter family property and was a fitting venue for Cash’s last tribute.

The song “Jackson,” penned by Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber, became a hit for Johnny Cash and June Carter in February 1967, leading up to their marriage in 1968. It climbed to the second spot on the US Country charts and won them a Grammy in 1968. Cash’s performance at the Carter Family Fold, despite suffering from laryngitis, was more than just a concert. It was a powerful expression of his enduring spirit, his rich musical legacy, and his deep love for June Carter Cash.

John Carter Cash, Johnny and June’s son, makes an appearance in the early scenes of the video, assisting with the microphone and guitar. A musician and producer himself, his presence adds a familial touch to the event. Johnny Cash’s legacy came to a close on September 12, 2003, just months after this poignant farewell performance. Let’s celebrate his enduring influence with one more song from the legendary Man in Black.

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