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Physically Spent And In Pain, He Played Legendary Songs One Last Time

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” is how the legendary Johnny Cash would start his performances, and his final public appearance was no different. As we look back at the footage of that last show, it’s important to understand the context. On July 5, 2003, despite severe health challenges, Cash took the stage for the last time. By then, he was navigating life in a wheelchair, suffering from facial paralysis, and grieving deeply. In 1997, he had been diagnosed with Shy–Drager syndrome, later identified as autonomic neuropathy related to diabetes. Even with his declining health and lungs compromised by pneumonia, Cash continued working with producer Rick Rubin, releasing acclaimed albums under Rubin’s American Recordings label. His beloved wife, June Carter Cash, had passed away on May 15, 2003, just two months before his final concert.

Johnny Cash’s last performance took place at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, near Clinch Mountain. This venue was special to Cash as a tribute to his wife June Carter Cash’s heritage. June was the daughter of Maybelle Carter, a member of The Carter Family, who were pioneers of country music. June had been part of this legacy since childhood.

The Carter Family Fold is part museum and part concert hall, located on the Carter family’s original estate. After the original Carter Family stopped recording in 1943, Maybelle and her daughters continued as The Carter Sisters & Mother Maybelle, and joined The Grand Ole Opry in 1950, where June met Johnny Cash.

Remembering Johnny and June at their best:

“Jackson,” written by Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber in 1963, was famously performed by Johnny Cash and June Carter in 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 performance at the Carter Family Fold, despite struggling with laryngitis, was a testament to his enduring spirit, his significant musical contributions, and his lasting love for June Carter Cash. Though marred by illness, his performance showcased his unwavering commitment and legacy.

A touching moment in the opening scenes features John Carter Cash, Johnny and June’s son, assisting his father. John Carter Cash is also a musician and producer. Johnny Cash passed away on September 12, 2003, just four months after June. Let’s honor him with one more song from the Man in Black:

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