I got Johnny Cash’s posthumous recording release (produced by Rick Rubin) entitled “American VI: Ain’t No Grave” (only $3.99 at Amazon.com). The only ‘original’ release is the song “I Corinthians 15:55.” The rest of the recording consists remastered, “pared-back” covers.
The purportedly final Cash composition (“1 Corinthians 15:55”) is a beautiful musical rendition of the famous verse: “Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory.” Cash has his theology firmly planted in the Christian hope of a future, bodily resurrection (of which Christ’s resurrection is the first).
Relevant Magazine has profiled the “complicated faith” of Johnny Cash. The article is full of memorable quotes and a fair look at Cash as famous sinner (e.g., drug abuse, spousal abuse, poor fatherhood, etc.) and famous saint. The article quotes Cash as describing the spiritual toll that drug abuse took on him:
[The drugs] put me in such a low state that I couldn’t communicate with God. There’s no lonelier place to be. I was separated from God, and I wasn’t even trying to call on Him. I knew that there was no line of communication. But He came back. And I cam back.
Here are some of the lyrics to Cash’s song “Redemption Day”
I’ve wept for those who suffer long / But how I weep for those who’ve gone / Into rooms of grief and question wrong / But keep on killing / It’s in the soul to feel such things / But weak to watch without speaking / Oh what mercy sadness brings / If God be willing
There is a train that’s heading straight / To heaven’s gate, to heaven’s gate / And on the way, child and man / And woman wait, watch and wait / For redemption day
In this recording (only months before his death) you can hear the sincerity and wisdom of Cash’s age. His voice has a gentle tremble that comes with age, yet the lyrics and music display the perfect blend of insight, art, and simplicity.